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CHRISTMAS. WHOSE SEASON IS IT?
Among the items in my files: a holiday skit I wrote in the 1970s while I was sole proprietor of the Holland Child Care Home (family child day care).
SETTING: Children in a choir setting at a school are learning seasonal music.
TEACHER: Good morning children. Today we’ll start by singing some traditional holiday music. Let’s try Jingle Bells, one of the best known ones.
CHILDREN: Yeah, let’s sing Jingle Bells!
(They sing two choruses.)
TEACHER: What shall we sing next?
CHILDREN (enthusiastically, in a chorus of voices): Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman!!
TEACHER: That sounds good. Let’s sing.
(Teacher and children sing through Rudolph.
OFF TO THE SIDE a parent and the school principal observe the scene.
PARENT: Why are Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph presented as the only “seasonal music?” Whatever happened to Joy to the World and Silent Night?
PRINCIPAL: According to a Supreme Court decision made in 1940 and based on the idea of separation of church and state, the public schools aren’t allowed to teach any material which might be considered to show preference to any one religion over another.
PARENT: You’re referring to the court case made famous by Madeline O’Hare, where prayer was taken out of the schools?
PRINCIPAL: Yes—you see, if we were to present a Christmas program depicting the true meaning of Christmas we can be sued for denying the freedom of the child from a Jewish, Muslim or other non-Christian heritage of non-believers. We aren’t allowed to set up a nativity scene either. Since Christmas is a religious holiday so engrained in the American heritage and culture, we cannot ignore it, so legally all we can do is use seasonal songs and programs. The only way we can use Christian materials is in the historical perspective, and even that’s risky.
PARENT: You mean that Christmas must become Santa Clause like Halloween has become the “big pumpkin?”
PRINCIPAL: Yes. It’s seldom recognized or acknowledged that Halloween is also a religious holiday, All Saints Day. And soon children won’t know that Christmas is really “Christ mass—“that is, a mass to celebrate Christ’s birthday.
PARENT (lamenting): What’s a parent to do?
PRINCIPAL: Until it’s recognized that true freedom allows freedom to dare, not censorship, the public schools have their hands tied.
PARENT: Well, my hands are not tied. As a parent, I’m responsible for my child’s growth, physical, mental and spiritual. Santa Clause may exist as the secular world’s answer to Christmas, but I can lead my family in Biblical teachings.
CHILDREN: Let’s sing Here Comes Santa Claus!
PARENT: I see that the true meaning of Christmas must be taught at home, and reinforced by the church. Advent is an opportunity to unfold anew the Christmas story and share gifts that are representative of Christ’s love for us and our love for each other.
PRINCIPAL: Yes—and I assure you that children from homes that teach this will understand the true meaning of Christmas.
PARENT: I have an idea: let the teachers ask the students what they think when they hear the word “Christmas.”
PRINCIPAL: Good idea!
PRINCIPAL asks the students the question following the last chorus of Here Comes Santa Claus. Most yell out Santa, presents, candy.
STUDENT: Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. God gave him to us so we could learn how to be good.
PRINCIPAL TO PARENT: As long as at least one child at this age recognizes the true meaning of Christmas, there is hope.
PARENT: Yes, there is hope for the future.