Posted by Michael Hiteshew on November 19th, 2004 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
Secular extremists are on the warpath again and the location of this year’s pogrom is Maplewood, New Jersey. The battleground, as usual, is the school. The object of their contempt: Christmas. Just for starters, it’s no longer to be referred to as Christmas. Can’t have that. It’s now to be referred to as a “holiday season”. How inclusive.
Schools planning “holiday season” programs have been instructed to not include any icons or images in their pamphlets or concert programs that might be construed as religious symbols; for example, Christmas trees or dreidels. That might be offensive to someone and might also be construed as promoting a particular religion. Children are so impressionable, you know. And sensitive to the mere mentioning of religions to which they may not belong.
I can’t resist stopping for one brief second to point out that the word holiday is merely a contraction of the words holy day. Clearly the secular extremists aren’t paying close enough attention to details. If you’re going to wage a proper pogrom, at least be creative enough to invent some Orwellian euphemism with which to replace the nasty, unprogressive words “Christmas season”. Referring to holy days clearly won’t do.
On the hit list this year is any performance of traditional Christmas (oops, I mean “holiday season”) music that contains, or even implies, any reference to religion. I say “implies” because even the instrumental versions of traditional Christian Christmas songs have been banned. In the article District bans instrumental Christmas carols we read:
Instead of tunes about Jesus, and even Santa Claus, the 40-member Columbia High School brass ensemble will be limited for the first time to seasonal selections such as “Winter Wonderland” and “Frosty the Snowman,” the Newark Star-Ledger reported.
Superintendent Peter P. Horoschak explained the brass ensemble’s Christmas carols have slipped under the radar since the policy was adopted in the 1990s. A few have complained about it, he said, and this year the district is trying to be proactive.
“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 more of a seasonal tone,” he told the Star-Ledger.
A seasonal tone? And what season would that be, Peter? It’s certainly not Christmas. Must be winter.
A citizen weighs in with these caring thoughts:
…a parent of three children in the district said the policy might be “a little excessive” but worries that people who don’t observe Christmas, such as Jews and Hindus, might feel left out of the school activity.
Poor dears. They could be scarred for life. You leave them alone, you nasty old Christmas celebrating meanies. Funny thing is, most of the immigrants I know love to celebrate Christmas. They put up trees, give presents, like Christmas music, the works. They don’t seem scarred to me. Nor do I think they feel compelled to religious conversion. They just have fun. Odd, that. Probably need to be re-educated.
Dawn Eden, commenting in The New York Post, was more nostalgic:
It’s a terrible loss, for the town and the kids.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I missed the era of institutionalized celebration of Christianity in schools. Back when my Jewish father went to public school, it wasn’t unusual for the kids to have to sing hymns like “Onward Christian Soldiers.”
Even when I was growing up — under the modern rules that require religious music to be presented in a secular setting, as an expression of tradition rather than a devotional exercise — it wasn’t always easy being a Jewish kid in the chorus. The Christmas songs went on about Jesus, while the Hanukkah music usually got no deeper than “dreidel, dreidel, dreidel.” But things changed when I joined the concert choir at Maplewood’s Columbia HS.
I knew something was up when Mr. Fenstermacher, the choir director, handed out the music we’d learn for the concert. Besides the usual carols and Hanukkah songs, we got two fat libretti: Handel’s “Messiah” and “Judas Maccabaeus.”
For a 14-year-old, just looking at the swirling and overlapping musical notes was daunting. But I learned those songs and got a better education in sight-singing than I could ever have gotten from the pop fluff normally given to public-school choral students. A few years later, that education would help me pass an audition to enter New York University’s music-business program.
Performing in front of the townspeople, I also learned something about the power of inspirational music to bring people together. I knew that the lyrics about the Messiah weren’t about my religion’s Messiah. Yet I couldn’t help but be moved at how Handel’s intensely beautiful music, sung by teenagers in intricate four-part harmony, had such an uplifting effect on the listeners, many also not Christian. It was an awesome thing to sing the opening notes of the “Hallelujah Chorus” and see the entire audience rise as one.
This year… Out are Handel, the Jewish hymn “Ma’oz Tzur” and “Joy to the World.” In are generic seasonal tunes like “Winter Wonderland” and “Frosty the Snowman.” From the sublime to the mediocre.
Many parents are outraged, and they should be. Their children will miss out on some of the most challenging and enriching musical experiences of their high-school career — all to satisfy administrators who’d rather please no one than make the effort to oversee a culturally diverse and rich holiday program.
But all is not roses in secular pogrom land:
Even First Amendment lawyer Ron Kuby, an avowed atheist, is on the side of the angels. “Unfortunately, it’s always easier to stifle the speech than to risk a lawsuit,” he says. “But this serves no one’s interest. It infuriates the religious community without any corresponding benefit to maintaining the separation between church and state.”
So yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. There’s just no Christ in Christmas. And stop whistling that Christmas song, you right-wing, fundamentalist, fanatical little brat. Have you no compassion? Happy Holidays!