Opinion: A Fight for Celebration

The morning after Thanksgiving break, a Monday more dismal than most, dozens of seniors woke up early and rushed to school with wrapping paper and tinsel in hand. The holiday scene they created, complete with a candy cane covered tree, boosted the spirits of many incoming students who chattered excitedly and peered over the upstairs railing in order to take in the glittering scene.
Unfortunately, this festive display didn’t last long before word spread that the tree had to come down and rumors began circulating.  In a meeting with student government later that day, Dr. Bramlett reminded students of the four-year-old policy prohibiting any sort of promotion of a particular religion within school. Cheerily she added, “We love the winter theme! Snowflakes, snowmen – those are all good.” While paper snowflakes are certainly nice touches, it’s not the impending snow students are most excited about – it’s the holiday season.
After seniors generated an inbox full of angry emails and reached out to several members of the St. Luke’s staff for help, Mr. Davis decided to meet with the class on Wednesday in order to address the heated issue. Mr. Davis assumed an air of humility as he began his speech and acknowledged the hypocrisy of embellishing the front of the school with a wreath, a symbol of Christmas almost as iconic as the tree, and in the same week ordering the removal of all religious decorations from the student commons.
“We don’t have it right yet,” he admitted, suggesting the administration was open to amending the unwritten policy. Mr. Davis responded to the questions of a couple of seniors before the brief fifteen minutes allotted to class meeting were over. Despite the promise of a more official meeting on the topic at a later date, the majority of students still felt somewhat cheated by the administration’s selectiveness on what constituted as “religious symbols”.
Christmas is the second most celebrated holiday in the world – second only to New Year’s. The holiday has evolved into something much more, or by some standards much less, than a religious holiday anticipated only by devout Christians eager to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Christmas is a part of American, not just Christian-American, culture – a truth clear from the excitement generated nationwide over such events as the annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
Much like Christmas, the Christmas tree is no longer strictly affiliated with Christianity as it perhaps once was, but relates rather to a season of cheerfulness and geniality. According to a study done by Pew Research Center in 2013, “Only two-thirds of Christians (65%) say Christmas is mostly a religious holiday, while most non-Christians see the holiday as more of a “cultural” event than a religious occasion.” Perhaps even more relevant, the article goes on to add, “81% of non-Christians in the United States celebrate Christmas.”
These statistics just further validate the feelings of confusion that many hilltoppers are struggling with after the tree’s removal. Many students feel like the quick dismantling of the tree was a reaction that might be expected in response to the set up of a nativity scene or crucifix, but certainly seemed melodramatic for the circumstances.
School no doubt felt more welcoming when students were laughing around the Christmas tree rather than staring, perplexed, at the crumpled box it was hastily packed away into. While St. Luke’s has been making a very commendable effort towards acceptance over the past few years, it seems as if we’ve hit a bump in the road with the handling of this policy.
Students feel that in an effort to be inclusive, the administration is excluding too much. One student even posed the interesting question, “How come we can’t have a tree, but Take Note can sing about the birth of Christ?” As Mr. Davis already acknowledged, the policy needs work, and many students have proposed the simple solution of not only putting the Christmas tree back up, but the Hanukkah banner as well.
The administration is (reasonably) trying to protect the idea of an “inclusive community”; however, the majority of the student body feels like the highest form of inclusion is the incorporation of all of the holiday traditions that make this season one worth celebrating.
–Josie Williams and Jane Zech, Staff Writers
(Photography by Avery Bachman, ’15)
Posted by on December 10, 2014. Filed under Op-Ed. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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