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Sunday Soliloquy: Let The Kids Have Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza… December 6, 2009

I enjoyed making Christmas crafts in grade school.

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.

Ornaments on MY CHRISTMAS TREE!!! There I said it.

Ornaments on MY Christmas Tree. They are representative of things I love. As you can see there is an Empire State Building which represents New York City.

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.

Image from the London District Catholic School Board

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.

Later during recess, I endeavored to engage my Jewish crush. I wanted to know what they did for Hanukkah.  “We get seven times more gifts than you do for your one stupid day,” he said.

“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?

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11 Responses to “Sunday Soliloquy: Let The Kids Have Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza…”

  1. manbearpig68 Says:

    People are too sensitive!! and it’s always liberals…

  2. gs Says:

    Afrocity, please thank your Christmas-pin acquaintance for clearing up something that’s perplexed me for a long time.

    “practicing mainstream traditions” = “bigoted”

    “deprecating the flaunting of minority or emerging-subculture practices” = “narrow-minded”

    Got it.
    From Jewish friends, I’ve picked up some Yiddish words that describe your Jewish crush’s behavior. Since children can be beastly, hopefully he outgrew his attitude. Hopefully, but not necessarily.

    (Read somewhere online: I prefer ‘Merry Christmas’ to ‘Happy Holidays’, and I’m Jewish. I prefer ‘Merry Christmas’ to ‘Happy Holidays’, and I’m agnostic.)

  3. IslandLibertarian Says:

    It is a full frontal assault against religion, especially Christianity. They want to replace Christ with a new messiah, born in Hawaii in 1961, bringing “Hopey-Changey-Socialism” to the world.

    God save the Republic.

  4. WMCB Says:

    I don’t get the animosity toward Christmas, or the hue and cry that someone might be “offended” by a religious holiday and the celebration thereof.

    What’s funny is that the PC folks are all about celebrating various cultures – so long as it’s not THEIR OWN. Anything uniquely American has to be apologized for, not celebrated, whereas any obscure holiday of the most marginalized tribe of people is “a fascinating look at their culture, and their joyous religious celebrations”. Huh? These morons will go overseas and participate in the village parade, complete with catholic dogma mixed with pagan symbols mixed with cheesy papier-mache puppets of the saints, and proclaim it great fun.

    One of the things my husband loved to do while traveling the world was be there for these various celebrations. Religious or not, they are great fun, and a peek at the roots and social life-cycle of the city, town, or village involved. Many Americans do this when they travel, and thoroughly enjoy these religious celebrations, without once ever feeling as if they are validating that religion, or somehow being oppressed or expected to convert to it. They simply enjoy it as a unique tradition, part of that culture. So why the heck cannot they apply that same appreciative standard to Cristmas trees and Rudolph the freaking red-nosed reindeer? Why is it only OUR largely Christian but uniquely and wackily American traditions – tacky tinsel and saccarine TV specials and spiked eggnog and all, that must be sneered at?

    • you are so right. Every custom, religious observance, and symbolic bruhaha is fine to celebrate as long as it isn’t Christian. I am a devout Christian, many others are not. I’m fine with that, if they would be fine with me. Christmas is a religious holiday (heck even the word “holiday” is a conjunction of the words holy – day) that has been very much secularized and many many people, religious and non-religious, celebrate it. That’s fine, but it is the Christmas holiday and it is religious at its core. I think for many of the types you describe it is a bit of cultural snobbery a la “look at the cute natives! aren’t they fun” but good old homegrown cultural (and yes religious) celebrations are suspect and dangerous. It is like the anti-religious bigotry of the communist bloc.

  5. Kathy Barkulis Says:

    I grew up in a mixed religion family–Catholic mother, Jewish father. My mother always celebrated Christmas joyously with us, but my father was always in a bad mood over the Christmas holidays. He kind of ruined it for us kids, but I did feel sorry for him during the holiday season, especially because he wasn’t religious at all and didn’t even seem to care about Hannakah. I don’t think he ever really felt a part of us because we were raised Catholic by our mother. It would have been nice if he could have just been happy for his kids, but he never seemed to be.

    • afrocity Says:

      We were always poor with little food but somehow we got a special meal. As an adult, I am a big kid for xmas.

  6. joanelle Says:

    I think a lot of us are big kids at Christmas time and Hannuka – I just love it – I grew up as a second generation Italian with outsized celebrations of religious holidays – Christmas being and incredibly special time for me – it still is.

    I went to a “holiday gathering” the other evening for one of the organizations I belong to – I later resented the fact that as I put on my Christmas wreath pin I thought twice about it – but my attitude has become – I celebrate Christmas and I have a right to express that as I choose as long as it doesn’t deny someone else their right to express theirs.

    Have a great Christmas season, Afrocity!

  7. Merry Christmas Afrocity!

  8. yttik Says:

    Merry Christmas, Afrocity!

    I’m a big kid for Christmas, too. If there’s a war on Christmas happening, I have a battalion out there doing battle. We just added a blow up Santa that nearly knocked the fuse box out.

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