(The Vancouver Sun, December 16, 2002)
Dear Teresa: I keep hearing all this stuff about not saying Merry Christmas and saying Happy Holidays instead. I think this is so stupid. Whats wrong with Christmas? My mom said it started over a mint or something. At my school, my teacher wont let us decorate because she says not everyone has Christmas. Well, I have a couple of friends who dont have Christmas and they dont care if we put up art and stuff. My teacher is an idiot. Whats the big deal? This sucks!!
Teresa: So you know, the big deal started over a company who sells mints changing the words in a traditional Christmas song they used in their advertising from the twelve days of Christmas to the twelve days of giving. From what I understand, they wanted to make sure every culture that celebrates religious and traditional holidays at this time of year felt included. You bring up a good point regarding how all this controversy has affected children. My guess is your teacher is only trying to be sensitive to the feelings of every child in your classroom. In my opinion, the best way to include everyone in the classroom is to celebrate as many traditions as possible. I cant see how cutting out or watering down one culture includes kids or teaches them about understanding and acceptance. What I would suggest you do is get a bunch of kids together and ask your teacher if you could have a calendar in the room that marks the dates and celebrations of every childs cultural background. You could have a special celebration for every holiday and festivity so you can learn about several traditions, their histories and how they are celebrated. This way every child will feel included and worthy. Besides, it sounds like fun dont you think? To get you started, here are a few of the recently past and upcoming holidays to celebrate in your classroom as well as Christmas:
- Diwali: Diwali, which means row of lighted lamps, is a Hindu festival often referred to as the Festival of Lights recently celebrated in November. Festivities run for five days nationwide in India and in countries all over the world. It is an age-old custom and sacred holiday celebrating and acknowledging light over darkness, good over evil and hope for a bright New Year. Decorations, fireworks, fresh flowers, gifts, game playing, sweets and festive meals with close friends and family all mark the occasion.
- Ramadan: A sacred Muslim holiday beginning in the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. The custom marks a holy month of fasting from sun up to sun down, inner reflection, appreciation, empathy, self-control, charitable acts, and a time of worship and devotion. At the end of the month, Eid al Fitr is celebrated as a time for rejoicing with family and friends often with decorations, gifts, and festive meals.
- Hanukah: A Jewish sacred holiday celebrated this year from November 30th to December 7th that commemorates a time 2300 years ago when forced to abandon their religion and customs by the Syrian king Antiochus. A man named Judah Macabee fought to reclaim the temple and their right to their religious beliefs and customs. When the temple was reclaimed, he wanted to light the Ner Tamid or eternal light but there was only enough oil in the lamp for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned instead for eight days. Consequently, the custom is to celebrate eight days of the Festival of Lights lighting a candle in a nine candle holding candelabra. Decorations, gift giving, specially prepared meals, and game playing all mark the holiday season.
- Kwanzaa: An American/Canadian African holiday celebrated from December 26th through to January 1st. The holiday has been celebrated since 1966 to acknowledge and honor seven different principles of living: Unity, Self- Determination, Collective Work, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith. Each day a candle is lit to honor and show commitment to the Creator, culture, and ancestors.
- Chinese New Year: Celebrated in 2003 on February 1st with festivities on Februray 2nd. This upcoming year is the year of the Ram and celebrates the year 4701 on the Chinese calendar. Various parties, lucky money for gifts, lion dancing, and fireworks are amongst the festivities to be enjoyed.
There are many other cultural celebrations I could list. My hope is that along with a Christmas celebration full of decorations, songs, and the true sentiment of Christmas, you have a lot of fun learning about the rich diversity we enjoy in this country. So Ill leave you with this one final sentiment: Merry Christmas Brian!