Today’s post is actually Afrocity’s Political Holiday Wish List #3 but it is also a Sunday Soliloquy of sorts. I was watching Bill O’Reilly the other day when I saw his report on a school in Massachusetts that would not allow Christmas or Hanukkah items in a gift room.
Many have called Bill O’Reilly’s “War on Christmas” fake and manufactured only in his mind. I am here to say that it is not fake. Increasingly, over the last decade or so I feel that Christmas has become the “C” word–even having an acquaintance call me bigoted for having a Christmas pin on my sweater. I simply asked why is it okay for non- Christians to celebrate Hanukkah, Holi yet I cannot say “Merry Christmas” or bring Christmas themed cookies to the staff “holiday party”. For that question I was called narrow minded.
I recognize that America is a country made up of many religions,nationalities, and every possible ethnicity Sure, we should accommodate everyone. But why should I give up my right to say Merry Christmas in order to do that? Why should my identity as a Christian be denied? There have been times when I have been silenced.
Afrocity the child, painstakingly waited every year for December 25th to roll around. It was the only time that I received a decent meal in many cases. My formative years were spent in Catholic school. Of course we celebrated advent season in class. We made cone trees for our mothers as art projects, getting glitter and stars all over my uniform and face. Elmer’s glue stuck to my hands while making pipe cleaner snowmen. The nuns would give us bags of gumdrops and other goodies to take home. A black Santa Claus would come to visit us and we would each get a toy. I do not know how this was funded by the church but there was one Christmas that the school gift was my only gift.
Being a parochial school, the nuns also taught us the true meaning behind Christmas. For instance, participating in the school Christmas play was mandatory . I can recall singing the “Little Drummer Boy” to my classmate Kim who played the Virgin Mary. I loved every moment, however it was Catholic school. Our parents knew that religion would be a part of our daily routine. Every morning we did not say the pledge of allegiance to the flag. We said “hail Mary’s”.
In 1980, I moved to Oak Park, Illinois and entered public school. Things were a bit different in Oak Park. For the first time I went to school with Jews and Muslims. Every morning a designated child would lead us in “prayer” to the American flag. After roll call, there was an absence of the daily catechism. No more watching “Davey and Goliath” during recess. Instead out days were filled with arithmetic, music, creating ashtrays of clay, and social science.
Still, for holidays our bodies still participated in passing around Valentine’s, pumpkin carvings and making turkeys out of hand tracings. Christmas brought with it a similar scene as it had in Catholic school. We sang our carols and had a party day – passing around candy canes and filled cookies but something was different. While practicing for the school pageant, I noticed two sad faces staring at us on stage. It was two small boys, our Jewish classmates. Their parents would not let them participate in our pageant. They were just there in an ocean of empty auditorium seats. I felt sorry for them and wondered why we could not do something to include them as well. At that moment for me at least, there was guilt and relief. I was glad that I was “lucky enough” to celebrate Christmas. I was also conflicted about the cute Jewish boy that I had a huge crush on. I was sure that he hated us. With a sigh, I continued caroling with my Christian classmates.
“Do you have ornaments or a tree? Can you watch the Snoopy Christmas show on TV?” I asked out of ignornace.
“No stupid,” he answered.” There is no Jesus. Jesus is dumb and so is all of that shit like your trees and stupid ornaments.”
A strange sensation overcame me as I felt a bit attacked. He was also saying things about Jesus that mom taught me never to say or I would go to hell. Standing in the outdoor play gym in snow covering sand, I kicked at the ground not knowing what else to say. My hands were cold because I lost my only pair of mittens. My Jewish crush continued to play. I should have left it alone but being Afrocity, who would grow up to be a big mouth, I could not.
I reached into my pocket seeking warmth when I felt a wrapped Santa cookie cake. It had coconut flakes on top. I was allergic to coconut. Candy and cake is candy and cake right? Wrong. I offered the cookie to my Jewish crush and he looked at it, threw it on the snow pile, continuously stomping it as he said “Stupid Christmas”.
Like a dumb girl, I laughed but it hurt my feelings.
That was the last time I spoke to him.
Was it right for me to offer him the cake? Probably not but I was a child. It was 1980, times of hedonistic Christmas heydays and debauchery. Public nativity scenes…saying “Merry Christmas” openly. In all of this time nearly 30 years later can’t we find a way to coexist as one during the month of December? At this point in 2009, I feel like the child sitting alone amongst a sea of empty auditorium seats. Does giving voice to one group necessarily constitute silencing another?
Autpgraphed Letter Signed,