VATICAN CITY. In a move Vatican observers say is the next step in his liberalization of church dogma, Pope Francis I yesterday approved the use of all-white strings of lights on Christmas trees in Catholic homes, ending a ban that began in 1563 with the Council of Trent.
“Itsa okay with me, I donta really care,” the Pope said in the comic opera Italian accent he is required to use under canon law. “Whenna da Protestants do it, itsa really tasteful unna like those crazy screwball colored lights you see inna lotta Irish homes.”
The move was announced in the Papal encyclical Class aptent taciti luminaria in quaestionem (On the question of Christmas tree lights), which the Pope read from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. “Yes, Protestant decorations are uptight, just like they are,” the Pope said, “but in the ecumenical spirit of the season, a little good taste isn’t going to kill us.”
Sociologists have used colored vs. white Christmas tree lights as a reliable indicator of religion since the end of World War II, when mainline Protestant denominations sought to insulate themselves from a rising tide of ethnic tackiness fueled by the nation’s post-war economic surge. “When America’s industrial might was diverted from military production to consumer goods, suddenly everyone could afford electric lights on their Christmas tree,” says Nathan Balser of the New School for Social Research. “I particularly like the ones that look like exploding thermometers.”
The news was greeted with relief in many “mixed marriage” households where one spouse is Catholic and the other Protestant. “This issue has threatened to tear our family apart,” said Suzanne van de Leur, whose husband concealed his Catholic upbringing from her when they met at a “sock hop” in an Episcopalian church basement. “Now he won’t be able to inflict his bad taste on me in the name of religion.”