home > archive > 2004 > this article
By Alan Caruba
It's a curious thing. Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ, broke box office records this year, but as we move closer to Christmas, the date designated as the birth of Jesus, one can hardly look anywhere without reading or hearing about a politically correct retreat from the simple fact that it was, it is, and it will always be a religious holiday.
Indeed, the word "holiday" is a retraction of "holy day."
For sixty-one years I lived in a lovely northern New Jersey suburb that was so picture-perfect a Meryl Streep movie was once filmed there. It is Maplewood and, earlier this year, I sold my home and moved to the Gaslight Commons, one town over in South Orange. Imagine my surprise to discover that the combined Maplewood and South Orange school system was suddenly making national news because its official policy was to ban Christmas carols; even songs about Santa Claus are subject to the ban.
It is useful to know that, while attending school in Maplewood in the late 1940s and early 1950s, we kids all sang Christmas carols and other holiday songs. A lot of us were Jewish. The Jewish kids loved the Christmas carols and when references to Jesus or Christ came up, they would politely fudge a bit and keep on singing. I don't recall any Hanukah songs, but I do recall visits to the homes of the Jewish kids where their parents would explain what the Festival of the Lights was about, along with its traditions. Suffice it to say, come Christmas morning, most of the Jewish kids were greeted with gifts by the fireplace. It never occurred to them not to expect them and it never occurred to them that this was some great act of assimilation. It was just Christmas!
Well, actually, it was the birth date of Mithras, an ancient Middle Eastern pagan god whose birthday continued to be celebrated during the early years of the Christian church. Church fathers simply took over the date, proclaiming it the birth of Jesus and, voila, Christmas! Like the cliché says, "It's the thought that counts."
And my thought is that no Jewish kid I know ever converted to Christianity because of a couple of Christmas carols and no Christian kid ever converted to Judaism because he learned to sing, "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel." Indeed, despite all the blandishments of Christmas holiday celebrations, the world is still home to millions of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and others for whom Christmas has no religious meaning whatever, unless you check out the shopping centers in Tokyo, Bombay, and, who knows where else.
So why did the superintendent of schools conclude that Christmas carols were inappropriate to the Christmas season? He told a local daily newspaper that they had been banned since the early 1990s. Because a few Grinches had complained this year, he felt obligated to comply. "Rather than try to respond to all the various religions and try to balance them, it's best to stay away from that and simply have a nonreligious tone to them and have a more seasonal tone."
How to you have a "seasonal" tone during Christmas without Christmas carols and Christmas songs? The answer is, you don't! How the heck do you get to be a superintendent of schools without understanding that? In fact, the New Jersey School Boards Association says its policy is that performance of songs from various ethnic or religious groups actually helps broaden student's awareness, but that it allows districts to "impose tighter restrictions."
The Maplewood-South Orange district policy was spelled out in an October 29 memo by Nicholas Santoro, the chairman of the district's Fine Arts Department, who said that songs like "Winter Wonderland" or "Frosty the Snowman" are fine, but apparently those horrid songs about Jesus were not. Just in case no one got the message, he added that printed programs for "holiday concerts" (there's that word again!) "must avoid graphics which refer to the holidays, such as Christmas trees and dreidels."
So, in essence, the lesson the district wants to convey to the children in its care is that Christmas is NOT about a religious event of great importance to Christianity and, please, let's have no reference either to Hanukah, a holiday possibly celebrated by the Jewish Jesus and his Jewish apostles.
This anti-religion craze has seized schools from coast to coast and shows up in heated debates over whether to publicly display a crèche or a menorah during the holidays. It is so viscerally un-American that it is profoundly offensive to anyone with a shred of knowledge about our nation's history.
The phrase "America is a Christian nation" may offend some people, but historically and demographically it is accurate. The nation was founded by people seeking to freely express their religious beliefs concerning the practice of Christianity. Religion and its free practice were so important that America became the first nation not to institute an official state religion. When the Bill of Rights was written, freedom of religion was deemed so important it was incorporated into the First Amendment.
Playing it safe by avoiding anything "religious" as part of the educational process is just part of the on-going dumbing down of the students who pass through it. All that talk about "diversity" is a sham. The population of the world is diverse. Any street in any town in America is diverse.
Will someone be offended by a Christmas carol? You can bet on that. Christmas is about sharing a hope for "peace on Earth" and Hanukah celebrates the purification of a synagogue reclaimed from pagans. It doesn't get more religious than that!
The effort to kill Christmas, to drive images of the Ten Commandments out of public buildings, and, in general, undermine any understanding or practice of religious faith of any kind is the real offense. Rise up, America! Sing those carols! Spin those dreidels! ‘Tis the season!
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the website of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba 2004
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996 - 2005, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.