UPDATE Hallmark also pulls swastika wrapping paper as holiday furor grows


Hallmark is the latest retailer to pull the controversial swastika wrapping paper from its shelves, doing so just hours after Walgreens first responded.

Hallmark spokewoman Julie Elliott said “We apologize for the oversight and apologize to anyone who was offended. That obviously was not our intent. It was an oversight on our part to not notice the intersecting lines that could be seen as a swastika pattern.”

The company licensed the design in many different colors, said Elliott, and it appeared that the Walgreens in California whence the story emerged had put the paper in with the Hanukkah items because of its silver-and-blue color.

Hallmark is responsible for making the wrapping paper, and sells it in its stores, as does Walgreens. It was not immediately evident whether other stores stocked it.

Rabbi Steve Silberman of Mobile, AL, said he appreciated the company’s sensitivity, but added


I personally did not see anything offensive in the design until it was pointed out to me…The more important element to remember is that people of different religious traditions can celebrate their faith in freedom here in America. There are many communities abroad where people cannot openly observe their traditions.


According to Elliott, the design on the wrapping paper is based on an image the company had of a “vessel” dating from the 1870s.

The earliest roots of what would grow into the Nazi Party took hold in Germany in 1918. Around the same time, the swastika was generally understood worldwide to be a symbol of good luck, and was favored by, among others, aviators of the time.

And the design has a deep history in Asia, where its earliest origins can be traced back to around 3000 BC, though some potential uses go back even farther than that.

So, if nothing else, we can chalk the swastika up to yet another good thing the Nazis tried to ruin for everybody.

And what of Cheryl Shapiro, the Los Angeles woman who first spotted swastikas in Walgreens and touched off the furor heard ’round the Christmas world?


Cheryl 1

To her, it’s “very comforting” that both companies have taken the items out of circulation entirely.

“I’m a small person,” she said, “with a small voice, and I really didn’t think I would get anywhere.”

Speaking of getting somewhere: What of all this holiday hubbub? Does Shapiro’s point still stand? Or has the whole thing gotten blown way out of proportion? Are we, as a culture, capable of re-appropriating symbols we once found offensive, and breathing new life into them? Or are we better off leaving the past where it is, and forging on, finding all-new signs along the way?


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