Try not to call it Christmas
November 14, 2002 8:14 PM   Subscribe

School district memo says seasonal festivities should not be labelled Christmas Merry annual winter celebration of the birth of a gender non-specific child who may or may not have existed in fact, whose mother was reputedly a virgin at the time of his or her birth and whose presumed father was widely regarded as one of many possible deities. And Happy New Year.
posted by islander (46 comments total)
Makes sense to me, since they apparently don't refer to summer vacation as "stay-puft marshmallow man break".
posted by anildash at 8:17 PM on November 14, 2002

So. . .schools are trying to be more inclusive. That's good.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 8:17 PM on November 14, 2002

Is it really that big of a deal to call them "Holiday" services instead of "Christmas" services? I know some will claim it's political correctness run amok, but calling a school assembly "the christmas pageant" does exclude a lot of students, and a "holiday pageant" means the same thing, without favoring any single religion.
posted by mathowie at 8:19 PM on November 14, 2002

I remember at church camp they parodied the Spike Lee Mars Blackman Nike Ads: Do you know, do you know, do you know.....JESUS and the power of his resurrection!!
posted by letterneversent at 8:25 PM on November 14, 2002

I don't see the big deal in a Christmas program or any other. I spent a few years in a mainly Jewish area as a child and we always had a Hanukkah program. I always thought it was fun.
posted by Plunge at 8:25 PM on November 14, 2002

This is something new? Where I grew up, we had Winter break instead of Christmas break, Harvest parties instead of Halloween parties, Holiday parties instead of Christmas parties, etc. etc. We all called them by the less inclusive names, and the teacher corrected us every time. "We are having a Holiday party, not a Christmas party." Not that we really cared. We were just in it for the cookies and juice.
posted by emmling at 8:53 PM on November 14, 2002

*shrug* I guess one one hand it's sort of reasonable, but on the other hand it's kind of irritating because it makes everything seem so sterilized and general. "Winter Holiday"/whatever just sounds so politically correct and unnatural. After all, you're not off because it's winter, you're off because a very large majority of the student and teacher population will be celebrating Christmas and/or Hanukah.

And, after all (sadly, in my opinion), Christmas is considered a completely secular holiday by a lot of people.
posted by silvermask at 8:54 PM on November 14, 2002

The only thing non-secular about Christmas is the name. It has "Christ" in it. Apparently Christ is a major figure in a small sect called Christianity. The trees, carolling, all that stuff is pagan anyway. So why not just do everything else (sans Nativity) and abandon the name? People who actually cling to the notion that the holiday has some connection to Christ can go to Church. The rest of us can have Festivus, drink egg nog and xerox our asses. This sort of half-assed pantheism is probably more befitting an Empire anyway.
posted by condour75 at 9:22 PM on November 14, 2002

Seems fitting since the solstices and equinox's were celebrated long before organized religions usurped them as their own, adopting many of their symbols. It's about time.
posted by HTuttle at 9:27 PM on November 14, 2002

And Happy New Year.

Hey now now, you're excluding those that do not celebrate the new year on the first of January. That's very exclusive of you.

I don't understand this though. First it states:
all public schools must be conducted on strictly secular and nonsectarian principles and no religious dogma or creed should be taught.

and then:
religious elements, such as a nativity scenes, should only be included if the event is celebrating a variety of winter religious observances.

so which is it? All or none?
posted by mkn at 9:42 PM on November 14, 2002

At my daughter's school they have a holiday in which several religious holidays are all addressed. Most of the month of December is populated by parents of many different religions coming in and explaining to the classes why they do what they do. It's seems like a no-brainer.

Get over it, I say to the Christians. You may have Rapturists in the Whitehouse but not every last one of us is a Christian who thinks Christmas is the only holiday. Course I'm sure sometime soon all of us non-Christians will be shipped out and then well I guess schools will go back to Christmas holidays! Yea!
posted by filchyboy at 9:47 PM on November 14, 2002

HTuttle: The religions that celebrated solstices and equinox were organised, they just weren't organized as well as the state versions of Christianity were, as it turned out. There's nothing inherently better or worse about 'organized' religion as opposed to 'disorganized' religion. Both are capable of inspiring great good and great evil. I find it disturbing that many otherwise well-educated people wil give a smug nod of approval to anything that appears to be mud in the eye of Christianity, no matter what kind of self-indulgent wankery it might be. Replacing one pile of rubbish with another is not an improvement. All religions are sources of error and prejudice, and also sources of morality and a sense of identity.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:55 PM on November 14, 2002

While I'm an agnostic fundamentalist (I dont' know and I'm sure of it), I believe that schools should encourage respect for and tolerance of other cultures and beliefs. Christmas deserves to be celebrated as do Ramadan, Hanukah, Songkran, Potlatch and Ground Hog Day.
And Gung Hay Fat Choy.
posted by islander at 10:19 PM on November 14, 2002

Egads, what's next, no posting of the 10 Commandments in public schools?
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:33 PM on November 14, 2002

aeschenkarnos, well, perhaps 'widespread' organized religion would have been better. It wasn't meant to antagonize anyone. I do get put off when religions lay claim to aspects of celebration which they have obviously adopted from other, less successfully widespread groups. Yes, every group's past is part full of shiat, but perpetuating the farce today doesn't seem the best thing.
posted by HTuttle at 10:33 PM on November 14, 2002

you're off because a very large majority of the student and teacher population will be celebrating Christmas and/or Hanukah.

Actually the population that celebrates Hanukkah will not be celebrating in the last week of December, because this year, Chanukah is the day after Thanksgiving.
posted by wolfgangnorton at 10:58 PM on November 14, 2002

Actually, the traditions from which we get the tree and whatnot were all masscred off by the pagan Romans, who did so with great relish for quite some time before Christianity was worth a tinker's damn on the religious scene. What latter ended up happening was that the people who managed to win control of the Empire happened to be, or convert to, Christianity, and made it state religion in place of the old imperial cult.

To talk about one religion 'stealing' from another in that time was somewhat silly though. The major religions of the day were all syncretist to some extent because the Roman Empire was cosmopolitan - the same thing going on now, where you've got Rabbis talking to Buddhist Monks and Catholic Priests to try and find some common ground. Not that they were good 21st century post-modern relativists, but the Romans, as far as I know, never quite had the strong notion of a religious 'identity' that we do. Faith in the gods wasn't some fundamental aspect of one's personality, and 'converting' someone wasn't a case of inspiring a deep and abiding sense of religious surety in them so much as just getting them to go through the forms. If you waved the Western Wand of Rebus at the six appropriate times of the year (or paid someone to do it on your behalf), you were a good Rebian. Actual belief in the High Holy Rebus and His Many Beneficient Incarnations wasn't really an issue, and in fact, it was Judaism's innovation (whether for worse or better) to make religious belief a portion of one's identity. Christianity spread that concept throughout the Roman empire (through Augustine, though not solely through him) - you were now a Rebian or Arian or Christian or Jew, but not all of the above as the situation demanded.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 12:15 AM on November 15, 2002

Speaking of Thanksgiving, wtf is THAT all about? ;-P
posted by mischief at 12:30 AM on November 15, 2002

Of course it was originally the winter solstice. Which is a real event, the shortest day of the year (for the northern hemisphere).

Personally, I'd rather we just wished everyone a happy soltice and left it at that.

It's hard to object to a real event that happens without malice or calculation and regardless of your beliefs.
posted by krisjohn at 12:38 AM on November 15, 2002

OFFICIALLY, I was born into a catholic family. But we were, and still are, far from religious in any way catholics are expected to be. That's pretty much why my mother (the religious member of said family) got fed up with it one day and joined an Episcopal church. She's quite happy there. The rest of us hardly ever see a church, etc.

The point is, despite the lack of my religious-ish-ness , I recognize the fact that Christmas is a religious holiday that not everyone can rightfully participate in. But for many people like me, Christmas is about more than Jesus. It's about a celebration of home and family, good food, good memories... all things good for that matter.

When I wish someone a "Merry Christmas", that's what I'm wishing upon them... all things good. "Happy Holidays" is horseshit... it means nothing. It replaces "have a nice day" for about six weeks. The fourth of July is a holiday, but I don't abstain from wishing someone a "happy 4th" just because they might be a citizen of another country.

The schools are just fucked. They're already so wound up in all the PC BS, there's no turning back.

I remember being asked to decorate my office one year for "the holidays". I was told not to use anything that was associated with religion or Christmas "as we know it". No Christmas trees for instance. But snowmen were ok? For me, a snowman is Frosty the Snowman... which is a character in a CHRISTMAS CAROL. Needless to say, there wasn't much more than some dead pine branches, holly and crap like that littering the place for a month or so. Absurd.

Rahid in accounting thought the snowman (which I had pinned to the bulletin board) represented the "white devil" and found it to be quite threatening. I was suspended for a week and reprimanded heavily.

not really.

All I know is, as the stubborn bastard that I am, I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas this year and I'm sticking to it.
posted by Witty at 1:32 AM on November 15, 2002

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas this year and I'm sticking to it.

I don't blame you.

How about voting on what to call the damn thing? How about voting on things like the helmet law, and the seat belt law, and what to call holidays, and whether to have the pledge of allegiance with "God" in it or not, or the drinking age (if any), and the age of consent?

Maybe it's just me, but I'd much rather vote for things than people.
posted by hama7 at 2:20 AM on November 15, 2002


I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas this year and I'm sticking to it.

I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with wishing people a Merry Christmas, but what would be the problem with actually asking someone what they celebrate, and wishing them whatever salutation is appropriate?

The schools are just fucked. They're already so wound up in all the PC BS, there's no turning back.

Thanks for the sweeping generalization. If you'd like a different perspective, feel free to come visit my classroom next month. Kids actually ask one another what holiday they celebrate, and then wish one another "Merry Christmas", "Happy Hannukah", "Happy Solstice", "Happy Kwanzaa" or just "Have a good break" as appropriate. (We've also had kids wished a "Blessed Eid", but this is the first year in a long time that I'm teaching no Muslim children, and by next year Ramadan will be nowhere near the winter holidays).

There's no sense of us and them, only a genuine desire that everyone be given best wishes for the holidays in whatever way is most appropriate for them. The world needs more of this, I think, not less.
posted by Chanther at 3:25 AM on November 15, 2002

Have a Happy Hannukah, a Merry Christmas, a Kwazy Kwanzaa, and a Solem and Dignified Ramadan. And now, a word from my god, our sponsors.
posted by benjh at 4:43 AM on November 15, 2002

I see the typo, please don't point them out.
posted by benjh at 4:43 AM on November 15, 2002

michief: Turkey. Duh.
posted by Fabulon7 at 9:23 AM on November 15, 2002

but what would be the problem with actually asking someone what they celebrate, and wishing them whatever salutation is appropriate?

What would be the problem with just leaving people alone and not pushing any holidays in their face? For me, holidays are about family, and since I don't work with any family members, I would appreciate being left out of the phony sentiments.
posted by archimago at 9:37 AM on November 15, 2002

posted by quonsar at 10:10 AM on November 15, 2002

I really really need a poster of that.
posted by konolia at 10:37 AM on November 15, 2002

Seriously, I have been giving this whole holiday thing some thought. Supposedly Christmas is Christ's birthday, right? Well, aside from the fact they got the date wrong, I have noticed that almost NONE of the holiday accoutrements have squat to do with Christianity.

I suppose you could stretch it re Santa Claus (supposedly modeled after some bishop or something) but what in heaven's name do elves, reindeer, decorated trees (tacky or otherwise) candy canes, eggnog, decorated front yards (tacky or otherwise), snowmen, or for that matter SNOW-what does any of that have to do with religion?

The real truth is Christmas, as it is presently celebrated, is a totally secular holiday and there is no reason anyone-Jew, Buddhist, animist, agnostic, atheist, or Scientologist-can't celebrate it in its present form.

Ahhhh...I feel so much better now. But not as good as I am going to feel on January 1.
posted by konolia at 10:44 AM on November 15, 2002

I fail to see the modern day relevance of Christ in Christmas. Maybe we should just call it '-mas', where anyone of religious persuasion can insert their icon of choice - Allahmas, Buddhamas, Satanmas - all looks good to me.
posted by Orange Goblin at 11:02 AM on November 15, 2002

In that vein I recommend "Dollarmas."
posted by konolia at 12:32 PM on November 15, 2002

Just because a lot of people don't celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday doesn't take away from the fact that it IS one to many. It may have many secular elements nowadays, but that's because of our economy (retail would have a fit if everyone stopped the gift giving), not because it's a secular holiday.

And there is something called separation of church and state. That's why we don't vote about if we want "God" somewhere or if we want Christmas to be included in public schools. And that's what this really comes down to. We not only separate church from the government but government from the church. It's a two way street and Christmas is a Christian holiday (how many non-christians (or who didn't grow up Christian) celebrate it? Almost none!). Therefore it has no place in gov't. Including public schools.

And maybe a lot of you live in an area where everyone is pretty much the same, but for those of us who live in larger cities a large portion of the population is NOT Christian. You would want to force them to celebrate with you? That's American! (not, for those that didn't recognize that sarcasm)
posted by evening at 1:19 PM on November 15, 2002

Wow. I am floored. Where do I begin. First of all, Christmas is not a secular holiday. It is a holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ, believed by Christians to be the Messiah. Perhaps less and less people attend church and more and more people celebrate by spending exorbitant amounts of money on gifts, but as a Jewish person why does that mean that I now have to have a holiday that I still recognize as a celebration of the birth of someone who I do not worship as my savior forced upon me or my children? Secondly, I do not know the laws of Canada but in the U.S. there is a principle that our country was founding on known as "separation of church and state". Not to be a killjoy, but this should ensure that anything having to do with religion, other than a class that teaches about religions, should stay out of the public schools. I truly hope that every Christian, and anyone of any other religion who chooses to celebrate it, have a wonderful, joyous Christmas. But please don't tell me that it is a secular holiday or that it belongs in our schools.
posted by amro at 1:28 PM on November 15, 2002

Amro, perhaps I should clarify that I am a Christian. From my perspective what is celebrated in America as Christmas is so doggone secular...I wind up sounding like a curmudgeon, I know...I am not advocating that Frosty the Snowman should go in a dumpster, I am simply saying that I am tired of the whole sham of this yearly celebration being called "Christian" when the bald truth is in most aspects it is nothing of the sort. In my mind it is really two holidays that are being celebrated at the same time. I have absolutely no problem with Frosty the Snowman, reindeer, and other such stuff-I am just weary of it all getting tied up with Jesus-who was most likely born in the spring anyway.

So now I figure everyone here is mad at me, which means I have Done My Job. ;-)
posted by konolia at 4:29 PM on November 15, 2002

hama7 suggests:
How about voting on what to call the damn thing? How about voting on things like the helmet law, and the seat belt law, and what to call holidays, and whether to have the pledge of allegiance with "God" in it or not, or the drinking age (if any), and the age of consent?

Maybe it's just me, but I'd much rather vote for things than people.

I would respond to this, in the immortal words of James Madison:

From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.

A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking.

posted by mr_roboto at 4:57 PM on November 15, 2002

Ah, Madison already thought of that huh?

Nice link, by the way, mr_roboto.
posted by hama7 at 7:37 PM on November 15, 2002

For me, a snowman is Frosty the Snowman... which is a character in a CHRISTMAS CAROL

Sez who?

There is nothing about Christmas or Jesus or God or anything having to do with religion in the song Frosty The Snowman. In fact, you might even say it is pagan:

There must have been some magic
In that old silk hat they found
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around

posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:34 PM on November 15, 2002

Oh come on SLG, it's a Christmas carol and you know it... you know what I mean at least.

Thanks for the sweeping generalization.

It wasn't meant to be as such... you're taking it personally. My point is, the schools are always, and always will be, wrapped up in the PC aspect of every subject like this one. Decisions such as this do as much to serve as a precedent for the next issue as they do to solve the current question.

but what would be the problem with actually asking someone what they celebrate, and wishing them whatever salutation is appropriate?

Because that's silly. It may be cute in your classroom as some sort of "pat-on-the-back tolerance" lesson, but I'm not asking the cashier at Safeway what holiday she practices before I say "have a Merry Christmas".

I don't expect anyone to do the same for me either. So if someone were to wish me a Happy Kwanzaa, I'll take it with a "thanks!" It doesn't matter that I don't celebrate it... I don't know anything about it really. But I'll still take it a "nice thing to say to someone".

I say "Merry Christmas", that's what I say. When I do use it, I mean it in the best way possible (which doesn't necessarily include whipping out your Jesus and dancing around). If you're offended, tough. The TOLerance is YOUR responsibility.

I say, "Merry Christmas"
You say, "Happy Kwanzaa"

Now we both know... and neither of us had to change.
posted by Witty at 12:53 AM on November 16, 2002

Merry Christmas.

In Korea and Japan Asia, it's a day for singles, but it's still Christmas.

It's not Marxist kwanzaa, or a day at the Al Sharpton laff-a-lympics, but a time to celebrate if not the birth of Jesus, then to celebrate the fact that most of us don't live under the Hammer and failed Sickle.
posted by hama7 at 6:27 AM on November 16, 2002


Well, it is a sweeping generalization, and right after you say it wasn't meant to be taken as such, you proceed to make several more. I do tend to take such generalizations about schools seriously, because I find that often the people who make them haven't the slightest idea about what actually happens in schools or about how schools can differ from one another. This may not be true of you - but when you talk about "the schools" as a monolithic block, it seems that way.

I think what I described in my classroom could be accurately described as a "pat-on-the-back-tolerance-lesson" if it were, in fact, a lesson. I don't walk around enforcing the idea that kids ask each other what holidays they celebrate - if I did, it would be PC at its worst. I find, rather, that it's been a natural side effect of having a classroom as diverse as mine.

That being said, I think you do have a good point about not being offended if someone else wishes you good tidings for the "wrong" holiday.
posted by Chanther at 6:00 PM on November 16, 2002

I think your classroom is probably an exception to a "generalization rule" that certainly exists. You may be more proactive than many other teachers in celebrating and using your diversity to your advantage... and that's a good thing.

"...people who make them haven't the slightest idea about what actually happens in schools or about how schools can differ from one another. This may not be true of you..."

I think I see your point. However, I spent the first 18 years of my life in public schools (minus the first few of course), and another 4+ in college. That has to count for something.

Public schools can't play favorites... and I understand that. But more often than not, in an effort to continually not offend anyone over ANYthing, many things (for lack of a better word) are sacrificed.

This isn't a slam on teachers or administrators (although some need it). My mother, my sister, two aunts, and an uncle are all teachers. I'm merely pointing out that public schools are forced to play the game with a stricter set of rules that are often absurd and unfair.

I think a classroom filled with decorations and symbols of ALL of the holidays and celebrations would be better than a classroom without them.
posted by Witty at 7:40 AM on November 17, 2002

Witty, it is not the place of the public schools to celebrate religious holidays. That would be defeating the purpose of separation of church and state. Schools are for education. Is it really absurd and unfair to a) attempt to not offend and b) follow the law?
posted by amro at 1:59 PM on November 17, 2002

I once had an East German teaching assistant for a class. She told me that in secular, communist, Christmas lovin' East Germany they refered to angels as (roughly translated) end-of-the-year-winged-puppets!
posted by dipolemoment at 8:08 AM on November 19, 2002

amro: I don't disagree.
posted by Witty at 10:03 AM on November 20, 2002

Call it the Holiday Season.

By the way, I find it offensive that Chanukah is celebrated as more than the third-tier holiday it is.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:18 PM on November 20, 2002

Kwanzaa a Marxist holiday? Je-sus. John Birch meets Philip K Dick.

Ron Maulanga was a black, i.e., cultural nationalist with a dash of the then trendy left wing rhetoric in his harangues at the time. Cultural nationalism =| Marxism.
Kwanzaa is a cultural nationalist festival Maulanga invented, with a frosting of rhetorical talk of community and unity (eek, it's the Stalinists!) on what turned out to be a very capitalist cake. It's artificial in orign--an eclectic mishmash of pre-existing rituals from various traditions--which is, of course, a working definition for the origins of any holiday anywhere, religious or otherwise.

I've sneered at it in the past because of Maulanga's part in it, but, for a fact, despite how one feels about him, Kwanzaa, via the 'folk process', has accrued all sorts of added definitions--with nothing to do with Maulanga nor any 'Marxist' ideology--from those who've participated in it. It's a holiday with meaning in people's lives quite unrelated to its author's intentions.

Unless, of course, you have a 50s nostalgic boner for all things anticommunist and can only view the world through a lens so distorted as to argue the Indonesan army invaded East Timor to save it from the Stalinist hordes of its independence movement, and perhaps went just a wee bit too far with the whacking of a mere third of the populace. (But they meant well...) Then everything's a commie conspiracy and where's Tailgunner Joe when we need him?
posted by y2karl at 10:34 AM on November 30, 2002

« Older datawrangler   |   Rock paper scissors: The world championship Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments