Area Shopping Centers Bring Back Christmas Trees After Glacier Santa Displays Lead to Criticism

Three shopping centers have brought back Christmas trees after their "anti-Christmas" Santa displays caused a stir.

Riverside Square Mall in Hackensack, New Jersey, The Westchester in White Plains, New York, and Roosevelt Field in Garden City, Long Island, faced a backlash this month after they rolled out what their owner called a "uniquely modern and interactive Santa experience featuring cutting edge artistic design."

The futuristic displays placed Santa in an "enchanted glacier," where children could play games within an artificial snow bank before hopping on the bearded fellow's lap for the traditional holiday photo op.

But the displays featured no Christmas tree, to the dismay of many.

Some shoppers said that Simon Property Group, the owner and operator of Garden City Mall, was being "too politically correct" and they threatened to shop elsewhere.

All three glacier displays have since been taken down and replaced with traditional sets, Simon Property Group said. The company installed the displays in six of its 120 malls nationwide.

In just six hours on Saturday, an online petition started by a West Babylon resident had amassed 1,000 signatures, according to Newsday. It demanded that Roosevelt Field "bring back Christmas."

Courtney Younghans, a mother of three from Bethpage, told Newsday that she usually heads to the mall with her children during the holiday season to take photos at the Santa display. But the lack of a Christmas tree had her reconsidering.

"I want to see a Christmas tree instead of a snow cave," her 10-year-old son said.

Simon Properties said its intention had been to deliver a "modern interactive experience for the family." 

"After listening to customer feedback, we immediately decided to remove and replace them with traditional décor, including Christmas trees, and hope our customers will join us in celebrating the Christmas season," Davis Contis, president of Simon Malls, said.

Adrian Baldeo, 35, told Newsday that he would have preferred something more traditional than a glacier but that protesting over the display was a bit much.

"If you don't like the pictures here, I'm sure you can find another place you like better," he said.

The mall display protests comes as Starbucks faces criticism over its plain red holiday cups, which now lack the word "Christmas," unlike previous years.

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