Friday, December 11, 2009

'Tis The Season... for many holidays

(I suppose this might be a rant. Be forewarned.)

Usually I think of myself as pretty quiet. Kind of a keep-my-mouth-shut kind of person. But there are a few select instances where I just can't keep my mouth shut; specifically when faced with bigotry, closed-mindedness, prejudice or injustice. I'm just about ready to burst so I need to write about it here in my blog, which is the best platform I can think of where I can write without worrying that I'll get attacked from all sides.

There was a thread on Facebook from some old schoolmates of mine, talking about how at a particular small-town school near where I grew up, they are having an "actual Christmas program" this year, as opposed to a Holiday program. This is all fine and good, whatever. There are, in reality, probably not a lot of Jewish, Islamic, or pagan kids at this particular school. There is this leeetle matter of separation of church and state, and it is a public school, but again, whatever. Merry Christmas.

What got me feeling riled up were the follow-up comments, saying things like, "So it will actually be Merry Christmas!" "And there will actually be Santa!" "There's a real Christmas tree!" and my favorite, "It's about time we stopped having to please the non-believers!" Um, again I say, this is a PUBLIC SCHOOL. Not a Christian school. P-U-B-L-I-C.

Around this time, my blood started to boil and I had to really, really work hard not to make any further comment than this: "I remember growing up in (my small town) and we had a Christmas program, which I loved, but I also remember learning the dreidel song and some Solstice traditions as well, which has stayed with me all my life." This is true. In my itty-bitty, hard-workin' logging town, where this particular acquaintance is also from, we had a pretty open holiday program. We sang some carols, some secular Christmas songs, and we also made dreidels and Yule logs, and talked about winter holiday celebrations of cultures all over the world. Heck, we even sang Feliz Navidad. In Spanish. I think that's pretty cool. I was raised to be respectful and appreciative of all cultures -- even though I lived in a teeny-tiny logging town. So I know it's possible no matter where you grow up. This was not a particularly liberal town, either. This is Philomath, Oregon. (for the record, I love my hometown dearly)

I don't have a problem with this acquaintance, or their choice to post about this on Facebook, and I don't even really have a problem with the kids being able to celebrate Christmas at their school. But I have noticed a trend on Facebook (and other places) which is really upsetting me.

"MERRY CHRISTMAS, everyone! Not Happy Holidays! It's CHRISTMAS!"

"I have a CHRISTMAS TREE. Not a Holiday Tree. Only Christians have Christmas trees." (note: huh? what?)

"I think the White House should have a CHRISTMAS tree, not a holiday tree. It's America! We're Christians!"

You see how this is going.

What bothers me is not so much that these folks want to have their Christmas traditions -- go for it! I'm all for it. I celebrate Christmas, myself. I have no problem with celebrating Christmas and the birth of Jesus and anything else you want to celebrate. Put up a gigantic Nativity scene on your lawn! I'll drive by and applaud it.

But it's the assumption that Christmas is the only holiday in December -- or worse, that it's the only holiday worth celebrating and acknowledging. This is what makes me angry and offended to the core. Maybe they're just upset that they haven't been able to celebrate Christmas at their school in the past. But I don't think that's it. Something about "...not having to please the non-believers!" makes me suspect that there wouldn't be similar outrage if a family was upset about not having a menorah represented along with the Christmas tree.

A Christmas tree is not exactly outlined in the Bible as a Christian tradition. Neither, I might add, is Santa. These are secular traditions, with non-Christian roots, adapted by Christians and added to religious celebrations. You don't have to be Christian to have a holiday tree. I have quite a few friends who are Jewish who have a Christmas/Holiday/Whatever tree. Who doesn't like a gorgeous, decorated tree? It's beautiful and brings awe and delight. Let's have one. Call it a Christmas tree at your house. (call it a Christmas tree at MY house!) But not everyone celebrates Christmas.

What bothers me about this trend, and about other trends like "Make English America's National Language!" and so on, is the underlying message of "You are not like us. Your culture/language/skin color/tradition is not worth including."

But really, who is "us"? Last time I checked, America is a pretty diverse place, with people from all cultures and languages coming together. We set up our nation to welcome people from elsewhere (lawfully, of course). It is in our constitution that people should be free to worship and celebrate their religion without fear of persecution. Yes, that includes Christians... but I don't see any threat to Christmas. Have you looked around lately? Um, it's everywhere.

I just don't see how including celebrations and traditions and religions from many cultures should be threatening. I don't see why this is a problem. I really, truly, do not understand.

It's not just Christmas. It's what I hear on the news, it's what I hear from certain friends and relatives, it's what I see on Fox News and Facebook and street corners. You Are Not Like Us. Quit your whining and be happy we're not lynching you. Want to get married? Ha, ha -- your beloved is not of the opposite sex. No dice. Want to save yourself and an unwanted child from a lifetime of poverty and abuse? Well, you'll have to risk being shot by pro-lifers to go in to Planned Parenthood. Lost your job and your health? No health care for you! Too bad, so sad, your bad luck. These things are Other and would never happen to me or my family, praise the Lord.

I just can't stand that stuff. I think Jesus also said, that so long as ordinary people stand up for the right things and do not retreat from those who seem to have more power, what's right will prevail. Jesus is all about peace, and understanding, and helping the downtrodden and overlooked and persecuted. Right? (for a really interesting article about this, click here) So the fact that so many of these anti-humanitarian, hateful sentiments are expressed from people who also claim to be Christian, is almost more than I can bear. So I have to say something. And I'm saying it now.

I'm glad those kids at that school get to sing Christmas carols. I just hope that if a Jewish family comes to town and wants to light some candles for Hanukkah along side the giant stuffed Santa, they won't get any guff.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, Peace on Earth, Goodwill to ALL people (including the ones I'm currently crabby about).


Nicola Ries Taggart said...

Have you considered submitting this (or a versio) as a "Letter to the Editor" or somewhere? So well said. Thank you for expressing yourself so clearly.

Daphne said...

thanks, Nick. I might!

Tammie said...

i agree with nicola. this was beautifully put.

Daphne said...

Thanks. Maybe I'll work on it a little and submit it. Thanks for the encouragement!

Barefoot_Mommy said...

"Only christians have Christmas trees!" huh what? Exactly... uh.. "christmas" trees are a PAGAN tradition... not Christian. And don't even get me started on the whole correlation between Jesus's "birthday" being on December 25th and how the holiday is all about Christianity. ... I get all red faced and sputtery and all just thinkin about that kind of ignorance. LOL Gurge. I third the notion that you should write a letter to the editor.

kiirstin said...

This is a beautiful, beautiful piece. It isn't full of rancour as so many others like it, either from the "believers" side or the "non-believers." But the point is still forcefully made. It's really well done. I believe you made my morning, thank you!

Lara Starr said...

While agree with all of the above, when I was in school (v. mixed racially and culturally) we had to sing Pablo the Reindeer - the single lamest holiday song ever written!! Multiculturalism gone to far!!! :)

Nymeth said...

Even though this post is about stuff that really upsets me, I still loved it - because the world is a better place for having you in it *hug*

(And only Christians have Holidays/Christmas trees? I wonder what that light-covered thing in the corner of my room is, then...)

Daphne said...

Barefoot: I know, right? If you're going to be all "Christmas is for Christians" then let's take a look at these beloved traditions, shall we? Otherwise, just shut up.

Kiirsten: Thank you! your comment made MY morning!

Lara: that is just wrong.

Ana: aw, thanks. *hug back* This stuff drives me crazy but I really believe in speaking up without being just as much a jerk as the jerks I'm angry with.

D'Arcy said...

I wrote a whole comment but Blogger lost it somehow. Basically, it just said that even though I'm a Christian and celebrating the birth of Christ, I agree wholeheartedly with you.

Of course, I'm also the Catholic straight girl who doesn't get why homosexuality is "wrong" and how, exactly, allowing same sex couples to legally marry is a threat to heterosexual marriage. So maybe I'm just not a good Christian ;)

Daphne said...

D'Arc: you're a bad, bad Christian and you know it. :)

teabird said...

This morning, I wrote a letter to a friend, and ranted about the same subjects -- it took me three pages of incoherent "and then.. and then..." to get my point across, if I did, indeed -- and then I read this post.


Daphne said...

Thanks, Tea! This stuff burns me up. Blogs are good for expressing ones' frustration!

Eva said...

I get in arguments with my parents and their friends about that. Neither of my parents are even practicing Christians, but they get pissy at the public school thing. I can't make them change their minds, though. *sigh*

Stefanie said...

Amen Daph! Well said! James's family would occasionally have a Hanukkah "bush" with blue and white lights on it when he was a kid and Santa somehow would leave gifts too. And James and I used to have a Solstice tree until we got old and crotchity and decided it was too much work. The point is, as you say, there is room for everyone to celebrate in whatever way is most meaningful to them.

Lesley said...

Great post, Daphne! I wholeheartedly agree with you.

Personally, as someone who recently returned to the Christian faith after more than half my life spent as agnostic and then pagan (and struggled for a long while with the idea of becoming Christian again because of the attitude of so many who claim that faith), I really have to try very hard to have a Christian attitude towards those who feel it is their right to dictate how everyone else should live and what they should believe and that it is their way or no way. Of course, many 'Christians' (and I hate to generalize, but especially a lot of the ones I meet down here in the South) would not consider me a true Christian anyway.

And this whole 'Happy Holidays' thing - WHY is this such a big deal? I remember growing up, that was a common greeting during this time of year. It's only in the last few years, when certain people starting getting so offended and labelled it PC.

What I want to say to those people is: Seriously, people - this is NOT what this season is about. Get in the true holiday spirit and love thy neighbor, celebrate peace on earth and goodwill towards all.

So, Happy Holidays to you, Daphne!

P.S. Oh yes, and Facebook is a great tool for informing you about the political/religious/social views of your 'friends' - during the last election, my husband ended up defriending several of his old schoolmates because their over-the-top comments just got too infuriating.

Daphne said...

What a great comment, Leslie! Thanks. I wish more people were a good example like you! Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas! And Happy Solstice! (it's past Hanukkah now I think...) :)