So, with the election of Donald Trump, people are saying that we can finally say “Merry Christmas” again. Like, we couldn’t before? Of course you can say “Merry Christmas”–to people who actually celebrate the holiday. But it’s not a national holiday that everyone celebrates, like July 4th. It’s a religious holiday. I am so tired of people talking about the so-called “war on Christmas”, as if the majority of Americans are being persecuted for celebrating their favorite holiday. Look around–Christmas decorations are everywhere. Listen–Christmas songs are being played everywhere. All the time. For a whole month, or more.
How about if we take a step back and think about what it feels like from the perspective of a person who is Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu, or atheist, or any other belief. Let’s listen to Wendy Jacobson, who wrote an article for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune titled “Enough with the Christmas songs.” She was sitting in the bleachers of a public high school, waiting for her daughter’s dance team to perform, days before Thanksgiving, when the p.a. system began playing Christmas songs. And she reached her breaking point. She says, “that was the moment I finally–after 40-plus years of living as a Jew in a Christian world–became annoyed with the constant loop of Christmas songs.”
Of course, we live in a capitalist society, and Christmas sells. It’s a big money-maker. But, it would be one thing if the stores and public places played winter-themed songs (“Let it snow, let it snow”) or even secular Christmas songs (“I’ll be home for Christmas”). When it crosses the line into religion-based songs (hymns) such as “Silent Night”, that’s different. Think of how that would feel to you, if you were of a different faith. For those people who are Christian, let’s reverse things to try to understand the experience from “the other side.” Would you want to be blasted with Muslim songs for the entire month of Ramadan everywhere you went, or with Hanukkah songs for eight days in every store and every public venue you entered? Of course, if that were to actually happen, it might promote the multi-cultural life that actually is America, which we so rarely acknowledge. So maybe Christmas songs, in conjunction with songs from many other traditions and faiths, including Native American and Hmong and Japanese and Somalian and so many others, all blended together over the year, would be fine, and interesting, and enlightening.
But then, there is a reason the founding fathers put the separation of church and state into the Constitution. So while private businesses have a right to play whatever music helps them sell products, public schools should not be playing Christian hymns.
As Wendy says, “I fully understand that Jews are a minority in the U.S., even more so in Minnesota. And I get that Christmas reigns supreme among the holidays. Other occasions are a mere afterthought. But the people who celebrate these other holidays? We shouldn’t be an afterthought. Maybe that’s why I got so frustrated as I sat in those uncomfortable bleachers.”