Thursday, December 07, 2006
(photo from www.evuk.co.uk/hotwires/rawstuff/art57.html)
The middle school choir’s rendition of A Christmas Carol had more contemporary music than I was used to. The period costumes were a mix of England in the 1800’s, short skirted women’s business suits of the 1980’s and gothic black with ‘holey’ fish net stockings from an undetermined era. Scrooge still spouted “Bah, Hum Bug!” The ghosts of Christmases past, present and future still haunted. And Tiny Tim still said, “God bless us, everyone!” The school’s cafetorium boasted no holiday decorations. In fact, no seasonal garlands were found anywhere in the school. It looked as if this school had been ‘scrooged.’
Celebrating Christmas in school is fast becoming a punishable offense.
In A Christmas Carol Scrooge wishes that “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”
Sounds eerily familiar to me.
Even though the Supreme Court acknowledged the government’s long-standing recognition of holidays with religious significance, such as Christmas, and Congress has proclaimed Christmas to be a legal public holiday, a spattering of districts across the country are suppressing Christmas in their schools.
We’re trying to raise our kids so that they will know how to ‘get along’ in this world. So what happens when they graduate and go to work for someone else? Will they be horrified that the legal firm they work for has an office Christmas party? Will they threaten to boycott Walmart® for displaying and selling Christmas decorations when they work there as a cashier? Will they protest the final float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade that carries Santa Claus as not being inclusive enough?
Christmas is celebrated in the real world. It is a federal holiday. We all benefit from a day off from work because of it.
The ghost of Christmas past reminds me how when I was in school in New Jersey in the 1960’s and 70’s we had menorahs and Christmas trees side by side throughout our school. I grew up in a primarily Jewish community, but I was Catholic. I brought matzo in my lunch, envied my Jewish friends who got presents for 8 days, and ate candy canes at our class Christmas party sitting next to a small nativity scene. We respected each other’s traditions and enjoyed them all together.
The ghost of Christmas present shows me that teachers struggle to get through December without being merry. It’s a difficult time of year for teachers and students. The stresses of the holiday are compounded by estranged families, absent friends and penniless pockets. There is no escape from the mundane and in an effort to recognize everyone, they see no one. The teacher, desperate to make a difference, fights a losing battle and is ready to quit.
We need a little Christmas! Right this very minute!
The ghost of Christmas yet to come scares me. She shows me a bleak future filled with intolerance, law suits and schools full of desperate people who show no mercy or respect to the traditions of different cultures. Her bony finger warns that if the hearts of people don’t change, the shadows shown will come to pass.
If you don’t want to participate, don’t. No one is twisting your arm. Legally students may opt out of activities, without penalty, if it conflicts with their individual beliefs. The student can opt out, but cannot silence others.
The spirit of Christmas is love, forgiveness, and hope. We could do with a little more of all three.