Both of the schools my children attend are having Christmas programs.
My son’s public elementary school has chosen to sing “This Little Light of Mine” minus the overtly Christian parts, although most in the audience will understand that context to be there. Even the most liberal of denominations teach their kids in Sunday School to sing this song. It being written by a Moody grad does more than hint at its more blatant roots.
I can’t go to the grocery store or fabric store while accompanied by my children without them enduring a litany of questions by some well-meaning elderly folks. I mean, I get it, I’m white, right? They’re white. We live in the United States. Clearly it’s safe to assume that we’re the same. We’re all Christians who celebrate Christmas and teach our children about Santa. Naturally, when my children (particularly the three-year-old) don’t respond to their questions and I politely smile and nod to try to avoid hurting the questioner’s feelings, that’s taken to mean that the questioner should just keep pressing. Were you good this year? You have to behave so that Santa will bring you presents for Christmas. Are you looking forward to Christmas? Did you go see Santa this year?
There was that one time when we were practically hounded by an elderly woman in Jo Ann Fabrics. She just would not leave us alone. Ask my mom, she was there and her Christmas celebrating self couldn’t believe how persistent the woman was.
Somehow it never goes over well when the kids answer that Santa isn’t real. They always seem to take it personally. “Santa’s not real?” “You don’t celebrate Christmas?” “You don’t celebrate Christmas?!?” It’s like that woman at the quilt guild who couldn’t believe I wasn’t on Facebook and asked, “Do you even have email?” Of course, that’s totally reasonable because that one experience is literally the same thing as the wider human experience, yes?
Is it really too much to ask that in our public sphere, we acknowledge our differences? That not everyone celebrates Christmas. That there are other holidays around this time of year. That not agreeing with someone or letting them get their way is not a declaration of war or the beginning of persecution. Is it really that offensive to be inclusive and to expect that our government remain neutral by not giving any one group preference over another? Is it that hard to see why trying to create an open forum can lead to more difficulties than remaining silent?
To the folks who think they’re being persecuted because we don’t all happen to agree with them…when someone wishes you a “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” did you ever stop to think that it might be sincere? They’re not declaring war on your religion. They’re wishing you a happy holiday which you can interpret to mean whatever holiday you find most significant in your life.
As for the elderly folks who think my kids are cute, I’m flattered. I think they’re cute too. Feel free to wave or smile at them. The three-year-old finds that entertaining. If you must say something then stick with questions about the generic holiday season, snow (or the lack there of), the weather and see where the conversation goes. If you find similarities, then great. If not, then be polite and if you get the vibe that the parent isn’t real keen on you interrogating their child(ren) move on. It’s nothing personal. We’re not all the same.
Check your privilege. It’s tough, believe me, I have my own set of privileges to deal with on a daily basis in trying to understand another’s perspective, but it’s still worth it.