Okay, this has been bugging me.
Jeremy was reading the news last week, and shared the synopsis of an article with me. It seems a Jewish lady somewhere in the midwest (I think...) is suing a school for singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" at their winter recital, citing that its a Christian song because, get this, it says the words "Christmas" and "Santa" in it. (Are you rolling your eyes too?)
Okay, let's pick this apart. Here are the most widely celebrated winter holidays, and who celebrates them, when (and where in some cases) the festivity originated, and some background information:
**Hanukkah: Celebrated by Jews, and those adhering to the Jewish religion. Originated circa 200 BC.
"Hanukkah", from the Hebrew word for "dedication" or "consecration", marks the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the forces of Antiochus IV and commemorates the "miracle of the container of oil". According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanukkah)
**Christmas: Celebrated by Christians. Commemorates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth (the Messiah); Jesus's birth occured between 7 and 2 BC. (The actual month is highly disputed the world over.)
Christmas (IPA: /krɪsməs/), also referred to as Christmas Day, is an annual holiday celebrated on December 25 that commemorates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. The day marks the beginning of the larger season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas)
**Yule: Celebrated by Neopagans; originally Germanic pagans. Was first written about in about AD 730.
Yule or Yule-tide is a winter festival that was initially celebrated by the historical Germanic peoples as a pagan religious festival.... (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule)
**Kwaanza: Celebrated by those with African heritage. Was created December 26, 1966 by Ron Karenga.
Kwanzaa is a week-long holiday honoring African heritage, marked by participants lighting a kinara (candle holder). It is observed from December 26 to January 1 each year. Kwanzaa consists of seven days of celebration, featuring activities such as candle-lighting and pouring of libations, and culminating in a feast and gift giving. It was created by Ron Karenga and was first celebrated from December 26, 1966, to January 1, 1967. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwaanza)
And though an off-shoot, here is the background on Santa:
**Santa Claus: Santa Claus (also referred to as Father Christmas, although the two figures have different origins) is a popular MYTHOLOGICAL figure often associated with bringing gifts at Christmas for children. Santa is generally believed to be the result of a syncretization between Saint Nicholas and elements from pagan Nordic and Christian mythology, and his modern appearance is believed to have originated in 19th century media. (CAPS are mine. I will be coming back to this in a minute.) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus)
This woman claims that Santa is a symbol of Christianity. Santa is just what he has become today; a mythical person of interest to children, much like the toothfairy and the Easter Bunny. Saint Nicholas (whom I will touch upon in a minute) WAS a Christian, and is a celebrated Saint from the 4th century, but he is a FAR cry from the modern-day Santa Claus! So, for the sake of arguement, let's look at Saint Nicholas. He was a charitable man, no doubt, but the historically-true tale of Saint Nicholas's deeds is NOT one of gift-giving to Children.
Saint Nicholas of Myra is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Santa Claus. He was a 4th-century Greek Christian bishop of Myra in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia, now in Turkey. Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor, in particular presenting the three impoverished daughters of a pious Christian with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes. He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity. In Europe (more precisely the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Germany) he is still portrayed as a bearded bishop in canonical robes. In 1087, the Italian city of Bari, wanting to enter the profitable pilgrimage industry of the times, mounted an expedition to locate the tomb of the Christian Saint and procure the remains. The reliquary of St. Nicholas was desecrated by Italian sailors and the spoils, including his relics, taken to Bari where they are kept to this day. A basilica was constructed the same year to store the loot and the area became a pilgrimage site for the devout, thus justifying the economic cost of the expedition. Saint Nicholas became claimed as a patron saint of many diverse groups, from archers and children to pawnbrokers. He is also the patron saint of both Amsterdam and Moscow. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus)
So...his most "famous" work was sparing a Christian man's daughters from a life of prostitution. Not to be glib (its hard not to be though), but my children recieving a Wii, a baby doll, and action figures (among other things) is a pretty far stretch from being spared from a life of prostitution! I'm sorry, but I fail to see the connection.
But anyway.... No matter what a person believes in during the winter holiday season, I think the unifying values are these: gratefulness for what we have, charity toward others (particularly those less fortunate), love and goodwill toward others, and hope in a better tomorrow (whether it be because of the miracle of the oil, the birth of the Messiah, the promise of a more fruitful season ahead, or in the strength of one's heritage). Santa is just that; a picture of goodness, kindness, charity, love, and hope. Children can't always grasp the larger concepts of these values, but they can understand the goodness of a mythical man who blesses them with things they enjoy. And I believe when children are blessed, they best learn how to bless others. (I said when they are blessed, NOT to be confused with them being spoiled!) They learn how good it feels to recieve, and they learn how to spread that feeling of love and blessing to others.
As for the reference to Christmas, people the world over, regardless of how they celebrate the season - even Neopagans who celebrate Yule and do not believe in Christ, or even God for that matter - refer to the time of year as Christmas; not as a Christian reference, but as a seasonal reference.
Again, not to sound glib, but I would love to know whether this woman's children go trick-or-treating (pagan holiday) or get money under their pillows when they lose teeth (mythical tradition). Neither of those traditions have ANYTHING to do with Christianity, nor do they have anything to do with Judaism. If she is to shun a school for celebrating the Christmas SEASON (not the person of Christ), or a mythical man who is a symbol of goodness, kindness, and charity, then in my mind's eye, she should also ban celebrating these other things.
And not to get on my parental high-horse, but what type of message does suing a school send to her children? That their right to celebrate their holiday trumps anyone else's? Or that anytime you disagree with something, you should use it for monetary gain? So what, when her kids disagree with a future employer, they should slap a law suit on them? Sorry, but the real world doesn't work that way! Everyday, all of us are faced with things we don't like; thngs that bother us, things we don't agree with, and things that are in direct opposition to our core beliefs. Its part of life. Grow your own spine and deal with it!
I find it ironic (though not surprising) that, in a country that is most prevalent in those who celebrate Christmas, over all the other winter celebrations, in public schools, they do not learn about Christmas and the birth of Jesus. They learn about Kwaanza (which was invented in 1966 - its not even a commemorative celebration), Hanukkah, trees, snow, and the universal principles of the season, but they cannot, DO NOT teach the kids about Christmas and what it stands for. A child's values come at home, not at school. While I am not thrilled that, as a Christian, my son learns about all the other celebrations, in a purely historical/sociological context I am okay with him learning these things. I am not offended that others celebrate other winter traditions, nor am I threatened by it. My children celebrate Christmas and know that it is because of Jesus that we celebrate it, and that we give and recieve gifts because, in Jesus, God gave us the most precious gift ever given. We celebrate Santa because it is fun, and I know that in time, they will all learn that Santa is a mythical man, much as I did and my husband did.
I think this woman's arguement is based on pride, fear, and an opportunistic window. If she truly felt that strongly in her convictions, she should have stayed home, and not allowed her children to perform in their music program. I believe she was motivated by fear; fear that her children may stray from their Jewish traditions by learning of other winter traditions. (But again, values are taught and reinforced at home, not at school.) And I believe that in this modern sue-happy era, she saw a window of opportunity to lawyer up and make some fast money. But at who's expense? When people take advantage of kids....that is one of my biggest anger-inducers! Ultimately, who suffers at the hand of this woman's actions? The kids that attend that school! That school will be bled dry! There will be no money for books, paper, kleenex, teacher salaries....any of it! Coming from a long line of teachers and public-schoolers, this enrages me!
Anyway, to come full-circle, I think this woman's case is completely unfounded, and I can only hope and pray that her misery-induced position is seen for what it is in a court of law. Hmm...now it makes me wonder what she will say or do when asked to solemnly swear to tell the truth with her hand on a Bible, or stand in that courtroom with the American flag hanging in it; a symbol of "one nation, under God." And what's next? If she wins, what will she do with the money she recieves that has printed on it, "In God We Trust."
Okay, now I'm getting off-track and cynical. But you get my point.