Many have no doubt heard the story about a syncretistic Christmas display in a Japanese department store that featured a prominent figure of a jolly Santa Claus hanging from a cross. This is likely to be an urban legend but, like many such urban legends, it has wide currency.
Even if the story is true, in a country where fewer than one percent of the people are Christian and, therefore, unfamiliar with Western religious customs and traditions, the odd -- even ghoulish -- pairing of St. Nick and a crucifix can be forgiven as the result of a good-natured desire to be welcoming of foreigners and their beliefs despite ignorance of what we might call "the true meaning of Christmas."
It's a bit harder to be so lenient with residents of a majority-Christian country like the United States, where even non-believers are familiar enough with Christmas customs that they are unlikely to commit religious faux pas.
So I was shocked, to say the least, when I found this item in the clearance aisle of K-mart two days after Easter Sunday: a "Happy Easter Candy Cross" from the R.M. Palmer Company.
Now, I come from a family where Easter breakfast included meticulously-sculpted "butter lambs" made by my grandmother, but they were (to mix a metaphor) cut from the same cloth as dyed-and-labeled-by-name eggs and a basketful of breads, ham, Polish sausage, and horseradish blessed by the priests at St. Hyacinth's, an ethnic Polish parish on the south side of Milwaukee.
Yet when I see a decorated chocolate cross, ready to crunch and mouth-meltable, only one word comes to mind: sacrilege.
Is my reaction a Catholic thing? Do I misconstrue the intentions of something that claims to be "America's Favorite Holiday Candy"? Is my comparison to the crucified Santa out of place?
Next thing you know, they'll be selling lighter-than-air cotton candy to celebrate Ascension Thursday.