The holiday decorations in front of Moore Square in downtown Raleigh looked as if a child had drawn them.
But there were serious undertones to the playful images. Christian groups both locally and nationally have been questioning what they see as attempts to remove religious overtones -- take the Christ-- from Christmas.
The displays of painted wood cutouts were erected this past weekend by a local conservative Christian group Called2Action, who asked to allow an inclusive religious display. Last week, the city council gave its unanimous approval to the effort.
A smiling Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus, wearing what appeared to be a yellow Osh Kosh jumper, stood in front of a brown barn. Signs near the nativity scene read, "Merry Christmas" and "Unto You a Savior Is Born."
A menorah painted a warm, golden brown with the words "Happy Hanukkah" written underneath stood next to the nativity scene. Joining the display are two Christmas trees, a red-nosed reindeer and a couple of snowmen.
The display drew mixed reviews from passersby.
Wilbur Davis, 56, sleeps in the shadows of a downtown church at night. But during the day he spends a lot of time at Moore Square passing out neatly handwritten religious tracts.
"I think it's good," Davis said of the display. "There are people out here who are homeless and not with their families. It gets them kind of in the spirit."
Others were not so impressed.
S. Todd Culpepper said such well-publicized displays of faith nowadays, though well-meaning, are shallow.
"They ought to go to the churches and synagogues where they can show their faith in much more depth," said Culpepper, executive director of the International Affairs Council on Person Street. "It seems so overplayed for some painted wood."
Staff writer Thomasi McDonald can be reached at 829-4533 or email@example.com.