Turned down by the village this year when he proposed a traditional tree lighting with a Nativity scene for a public plaza, Butler quickly shot back.
He found an empty, privately owned lot across the street, where he is staging 38 days of celebration, beginning Saturday and continuing into early January, that includes prayer, caroling and a fireworks-laden Christmas tree lighting.
"We are bringing Christmas back to Long Island," said Butler, 67, a longtime director of the Grucci fireworks company who formed the Christmas 'n' Patchogue Committee to fight what he described as the secularization of Christmas.
It's a question officials have struggled with for years -- how the religous underpinning of Christmas should, or should not, be woven into public events. In December 2005, North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman told a crowd, "This is in no way a religious ceremony," after a Roman Catholic priest invoked the name of Jesus Christ during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Manhasset.
In this case, Butler found an ally in the local Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization that agreed to co-sponsor the tree lighting. Together, they custom-ordered 800 old-fashioned bulbs and a 12-piece, near-life-size Nativity scene, all hand-carved wood, at a cost of nearly $8,000. They custom-built a manger and enlisted congregants of several churches to sing religious carols.
Willie Marciano, grand knight of the Knights of Columbus, said he hopes the tree lighting will inspire others to rediscover the religious ceremony of Christmas.
"I want the kids to enjoy what I was brought up with from very young," said Marciano, 73.
But what about Santa Claus?
"We are not having Santa Claus," Butler said. "We feel that is commercial. (WooHoo! Finally, Christians put Santa in his place! - 1rt) Sorry, kids."
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