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Dec. 19, 2006

Taking the 'Christ' out of Christmas

by Pia Nargundkar, Online Editor-in-Chief
The Thanksgiving leftovers are almost all gone, the salt trucks are gearing up to melt away the snow, and Blazers are getting ready for Christmas. To the resentment of some and the delight of others, the celebration of Christmas is becoming less religion-exclusive and more of an American tradition. So whether you are Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, any combination or variation of the previous, or something completely different, it's increasingly likely that you'll be doing something in the spirit of the holiday.

According to a national poll conducted by Opinion Dynamics in November 2005, approximately 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas in some way. That percentage echoes Blair's population as well in a random poll of 70 students during 5A lunch in the week of Dec. 11, 90 percent said they celebrated Christmas.

Chrismakkuh

Senior Shoshi Gurian-Sherman has been celebrating Christmas in one way or another since she was four years old. As a child, Gurian-Sherman, who is Jewish, had been convinced that Santa Claus did not like Jewish children. Her mother, seeking to pacify her, took her to the local mall to see Santa and explain the situation. The Santa told her that he loved all children and he would leave her a small gift if she put up a stocking.

Ever since then she has hung up a stocking every year. When her next-door neighbors moved to her neighborhood around 10 years ago, her family invited them over for Passover. When Christmas came around, those same neighbors invited her family over for a Christmas dinner. Over the years, their families have become very close, and going next door to celebrate Christmas has become an important tradition.

Although Christmas is still a religious holiday for Gurian-Sherman's neighbors, she says that their families meet to celebrate "the universal themes together."

All in the family

Junior Angela Sivak celebrates Christmas with all the bells and whistles. Every year her family buys a tree and decorates it with lights and ornaments. After exchanging presents in their house, they visit her grandparents and then exchange additional presents. Most years they also have a fancy Christmas dinner. Sivak, however, says she is not religious. She celebrates Christmas because her parents are Christian and it's a family tradition. One that's becoming an American tradition too, Sivak believes. She says that with "Wal-Mart and such industries" marketing Christmas as a time to relax and spend time with family, it is becoming more of an American holiday than a religious one "thanking God for the birth of Jesus."

Senior Emily Sutton, a self-described agnostic, agrees with Sivak. She does not get into the Christian holiday spirit, but goes along with it all because of her family. "My parents are Christian, so I do it for them," she says.

Going back to the basics

Not everyone is enjoying the inclusion, though. Junior Hizkias Neway, an avid Christian, is "quite disappointed" over what he sees as the secularization of Christmas. Unlike the others, he argues that the holiday is not mainly about "Santa Claus, gifts or family."

While Neway advocates bringing Christmas back to its religious roots, Blazers like Gurian-Sherman and Sivak will continue their celebrations of the holiday. Says Gurian-Sherman, "Christmas has become more about inclusion and sharing."



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  • Courtney (View Email) on December 19, 2006 at 9:28 PM
    I find it upsetting that people don't know the true meaning of Christmas, or at least the history behind it. However, as long as the ACLU doesn't "cross" the line (in quotes because they already have) and forbid the 88% of Americans who believe in God from celebrating it, I won't complain.
  • . on December 20, 2006 at 9:32 AM
    my family puts up a christmas tree, and that's about it; our version of "celebrating" is just having some gorgeous lights to look at to stave off the cold.

    no gifts, no exchange or anything. maybe that's what it was like a long time ago.
  • sco lover on December 20, 2006 at 3:49 PM
    I'm going to go ahead and assume that the statement "Not everyone is enjoying the inclusion, though" didn't come off the way you meant it. The secularization of a distinctly religious holiday is not "inclusion"--it is dilution. Christmas in America has been co-opted and subjected to this country's materialistic and gluttonous ideals, to the point where the holiday has become more about expensive presents and drunken holiday parties than about the coming of redemption and grace.

    I'm all for having good cheer and good will in the wintertime--it's what all the major religions call for, and that's all great. But nobody should be under the illusion that Christmas celebrates anything other than Christ's birth. I'm tired of America stealing Christian traditions/values, bastardizing them, and then calling them "new American traditions" or claiming that America is a Christian nation or whatever.

    And finally, giving gifts and putting up a tree on Christmas Eve isn't celebrating Christmas--it's giving gifts and putting up a tree. They are empty gestures if you ignore the meaning and weight behind them, and I think that's what our culture is tending towards. If you feel like giving presents to celebrate the Winter Solstice, then go ahead and do it. But don't tell yourself that you're celebrating Christmas when you're actually just paying lip service to your parents. Faith isn't hereditary; it is a living, breathing entity that lives in you and demands that you be sincere not only with others but with yourself.

    Merry Christmas!
  • David on December 21, 2006 at 8:22 PM
    I'd just like to point out that the ACLU fights for American's personal rights and civil liberties, so to say "as long as the ACLU doesn't "cross" the line (in quotes because they already have) and forbid the 88% of Americans who believe in God from celebrating it, I won't complain," is incorrect. The ACLU has long been an advocate and defender of religious freedoms (http://aclu.org/religion/discrim/index.html), as it embodies the freedoms each individual human is born with. While it may seem sometimes that the ACLU attempts to "forbid" religion, it is always because the rights of another person's religious beliefs and practices are being denied. You seem to make the assumption that every advocation for seperation of church and state is an attack on god and religion in general - it's not. If you ever are denied you right to practice your religion, the ACLU would gladly fiht for you in court.

    Also, you imply that everyone that believes in God is a Christian - and that every Christian believes in God.

    I'd also like to point out the history of chirstmas is disputed.
  • Libertarian (View Email) on December 22, 2006 at 11:21 AM
    "Also, you imply that everyone that believes in God is a Christian - and that every Christian believes in God." - David

    Your first statement is correct, not the second one. Every Christian does believe in God. That's part of their religion.

    "I'd just like to point out that the ACLU fights for American's personal rights and civil liberties, so to say "as long as the ACLU doesn't "cross" the line (in quotes because they already have) and forbid the 88% of Americans who believe in God from celebrating it, I won't complain," is incorrect. The ACLU has long been an advocate and defender of religious freedoms" - David

    Agreed. Some seem to feel that not allowing the government to promote a religion is taking away some rights. Rights belong to the people, governments have no rights.
  • Unaffiliated on December 31, 2006 at 12:58 PM
    Christmas has become two different holidays, and that's the way it should be. On the one hand, there's the affirmatively Christian Christmas, with twelve-o'-clock mass and Nativity scenes in the front yard. On the other hand, there's the secularized Christmas, which is a chance to open presents, eat cookies, put up lights, and enjoy the company of family.
    Maybe what we need to do is make Christmas into two formal holidays -- one on Dec. 25th with prayer and religious observances, and one a week earlier as a "winter celebration" where everyone can put up glittering lights and sing "Jingle Bells." Christmas is already divided-up enough that this is a natural progression.
    Note: I do not celebrate Christmas, by the way; excuse any misinformation
  • David on January 1, 2007 at 10:58 AM
    YEa you're right. I was trying to say something but it didn't come out right.
  • Alumni on January 3, 2007 at 5:13 PM
    There's many reasons for the de-christing of christmas. First, the big businesses want to make lots of money and would like to sell christmas stuff to non-christians.

    But there are also many Christians, who want Christmas trees to be up everywhere durring Christmas and say "Merry Christmas" to everybody and see anything short of any of that as "an attack on Christmas". These people are succeeding at spreading Christmas to other people, but said other people aren't going to change their beliefs just because they now celebrate christmas.

    The problem is that when Christmas is considered a solely Christian holiday some Christians complain because it "is an American holiday that everyone should celebrate! Happy Holidays is a PC term! Everybody should say Merry Christmas!" But when it is more than a Christian holiday, some Christians still complain because they want to have their cake and eat it too.
  • dennis (View Email) on January 10, 2007 at 9:44 AM
    i agree with sco lover if people want to put up trees and pretty lights and say that's celebrating christmas then they are wrong. The true meaning of CHRISTmas is to celebrate Christ's birth. If people want to give gifts and spend time with family or whatever then go ahead and call it gift day or something but don't come up in here and say we are celebrating christmas when what you are doing is just putting up a tree and some lights and exchanging gifts.
  • statistics, anyone? on January 11, 2007 at 10:55 PM
    "In a random poll of 70 students"

    oh, mr. stein, where are you when we need you?
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