Wauwatosa’s Unconventional Holiday Decorating Guidelines Spark Controversy

City workers in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, receive unusual instructions on how to decorate for the holidays without causing offense.

In a small town in Wisconsin, the holiday season is stirring up controversy as city workers in Wauwatosa are issued guidelines on how to decorate public spaces. The instructions, outlined in an email by Deputy City Administrator Melissa Cantarero Weiss and approved by City Administrator James Archambo, advocate for “inclusive decorating practices” and discourage the use of traditional red and green decorations. The guidelines have sparked a heated debate, with some questioning the town's priorities and others applauding the effort to create a more inclusive environment.

A Shift Away from Traditional Colors

The email sent by Deputy City Administrator Weiss encourages city workers to embrace a more “neutral and inclusive” approach to holiday decorations. The guidelines specifically discourage the use of red and green decorations, which are traditionally associated with Christmas. Instead, employees are urged to opt for “winter-themed” decorations such as snowflakes or “snow people.” The aim is to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for the town's diverse population of 48,000 residents.

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Fostering Inclusivity and Respect

Weiss and Archambo's directive stems from a desire to foster a sense of inclusivity and respect within the community. The email acknowledges that red and green decorations are already prevalent in public spaces, such as City Hall, but suggests that changing the color of holiday lights can contribute to a more equitable atmosphere. The emphasis is on being considerate and mindful when decorating public spaces during the holiday season.

Controversy and Criticism

The guidelines have not been without controversy. Some residents and critics argue that the city's priorities are misplaced, especially when there are more pressing matters to address. Comparisons have been drawn to the White House, which has more relaxed guidelines but still embraces the National Christmas Tree as a symbol of holiday traditions across various religions. The email has sparked a debate about the balance between inclusivity and preserving longstanding traditions.

Embracing Alternative Decorations

To promote inclusivity and respect, city workers are encouraged to create displays featuring the northern lights, incorporating colors like blue, green, and purple. These colors are seen as more inclusive and representative of a diverse range of traditions and cultures. The guidelines also discourage the use of religious decorations associated solely with Christmas, suggesting instead the use of non-religious symbols associated with winter, such as snowflakes, lights, and greenery.


The holiday decorating guidelines issued to city workers in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, have ignited a passionate debate about inclusivity, tradition, and the role of public spaces during the holiday season. While some applaud the effort to create a more welcoming environment, others argue that the guidelines are unnecessary and detract from more pressing matters. As the town grapples with this controversy, it serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between respecting diverse traditions and preserving longstanding cultural practices. Only time will tell how Wauwatosa's approach to holiday decorations will shape the future of the town's festive spirit.

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