The first of November: The Halloween decorations get sent back to the attic, the pumpkins are chucked in the garbage, and jumbo-size bags of candy lay in the discount aisle at half price. Within minutes it seems, everything is replaced by Santa hats, snowflakes, and Christmas songs playing at every department store. Forget about Thanksgiving; the end of October seems to signal a deep hidden urge as the steady background chant of Christmas, Christmas, Christmas is heard.
Even at school, one can’t escape it. The race is on to finish school work before Winter Break, conveniently placed during the week of Christmas. There seems to be a hundred different Secret Santas and candy canes are passed out left and right in class.
But what about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or those who don’t believe in any of these holidays? Has public school become too religious, placing so much emphasis on this Christian holiday, or not religious enough by not including holidays of other religions? Should we get rid of celebrating holidays in school altogether, rip down the miniature Christmas tree and Menorah on the AC unit and celebrate Thanksgiving, ignorant to the Columbus controversy?
Winter Break would become just that: a week off of school where students can stay home, enjoy the cold weather, privately celebrate holidays with their family, and ring in the New Year with friends before coming back to finish up the semester. But something about that feels sad, less warm and magical. Many can attest to there simply being a different feeling in the air in December. There’s something comforting about wearing ugly sweaters and eating candy canes in history class while Christmas music plays in the background. People are nicer, happier, and the atmosphere just feels more relaxed.
While religion in public schools has always been a hot-button topic and seems to depend on the population of the town, this seems to beg a different question. Has Christmas taken on a deeper meaning than simply a religious holiday? People who are neither religious nor come from families who celebrate it often love it just as much as though who do.
Christmas has come to convey much more than originally intended. It has become a reason for people to come together, regardless of their religion. Friends rack their brains for the perfect gift for Secret Santa or spend a day baking cookies and drinking hot chocolate. There’s a certain feeling during this season that comes from curling up on the couch and watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas with your family. While perhaps it has become a consumerism pothole with the constant ads for the perfect gift or the crowds of tourists outside the Rockefeller tree, in school it’s a way for students to forget about the loads of work or tests next week and remember to be a little kinder and enjoy the simple things.
So for now, it seems to be okay leaving up the lights around the smartboard and the Menorah in the corner. Though maybe add a kinara to the decor (a traditional candleholder during Kwanzaa) to make sure everyone feels included.