Are you as tired as I am of all the complaining about the so-called “war on Christmas”? Now that Donald Trump has been elected, I’m hearing on the media that people are jubilantly saying, “It’s finally going to be ok to say ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
For real, people, you know that not everyone celebrates Christmas. But the majority of people do in this country, and it’s never been not ok to wish people “Merry Christmas” if you know they celebrate it. On the other hand–think for a moment about how it might feel to someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, which is a holiday with a religious basis, to be inundated with all things Christmas–i.e. about Jesus Christ’s birth–for an entire month. Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of Jews and Muslims and atheists and Hindus and others for once. Wendy Jacobson can help us out here. She wrote a piece for the Minneapolis Star Tribune headlined “Enough with the Christmas songs.”
Hear her out. Her Jewish son has to sing Christmas songs in Christian churches because he is in a boys choir. He is a singer and wants to sing with the boys choir. Everywhere she goes, she hears these same songs. And she says, yes she knows that she is in the minority, especially in Minnesota, but still…
This year, when she was sitting in the bleachers at a public high school the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and Christmas music was playing over the loudspeakers, she hit her breaking point. So please, put yourself in Wendy’s shoes. And now imagine the situation reversed. What if you were wished “Happy Hanukkah” everywhere you went, from every store clerk, for a month? What if Hanukkah songs were all you heard in public (and yes, I know that there aren’t anywhere near the amount of Hanukkah songs as Christmas songs), and Hanukkah menorahs were everywhere instead of Christmas trees? Might it not wear on you? Might you not wish that the country not push one religion’s traditions so hard, a country that supposedly enshrines freedom of religion?
Of course, America is all about capitalism, and that’s the driving force behind all this. Christmas is a huge selling opportunity. And maybe, if the stores and the boys choirs and the p.a. system at the high school stuck to secular songs like “Jingle Bells”, or Christmas songs that are just about celebrating the holiday with family, like “White Christmas”, it might not have pushed Wendy over the edge. But songs like “Silent Night” are really religious hymns, and that’s different. Ask yourself–have you ever heard a Hanukkah song played in a store?
Really, if you are in the minority in this country, you endure the inundation of white Christian America, but you do not see yourself very often. If you are black, you watch mostly white actors in almost all the films and TV shows (although that has changed with cable TV somewhat. But not enough.) If you are Latino, you hear yourselves being denigrated by the incoming president of the U.S. If you are Asian, you just don’t see yourself represented anywhere, pretty much. If you are Native American, likewise. If you are Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, a person of color, you don’t hear your songs, you don’t see your art, you just don’t see yourself represented when you walk out your front door and into the larger American society. How does that feel? Again, I get that the majority gets played to because that’s what sells the most. But still…
As Wendy says in conclusion, “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.”