America has a rich holiday heritage. Christmas is just one of those holidays that hearken back to the earliest days of our nation. Yet, while the Christmas holiday should be a time of anticipation and excitement for children of all ages, children in many public school or governmental settings are not allowed to celebrate this holiday in any fashion. If adults allow the children to express their excitement or draw pictures depicting the holiday, they could face censorship.
Despite case after case where courts have upheld the celebration of Christmas as a cultural heritage, upheld the use of traditional Christmas holiday music or presentations, and even the teaching that Christians believe it is the birthday of Jesus, many public entities have over-reached by banning all mention of the holiday.
Not only has the nativity been banned, but also, in some cases, decorated tress, or anything related to the holiday spirit whether secular or sacred. “Merry Christmas” has become taboo. Thanksgiving Day, a holiday well represented in historical documents, has become the innocuous and totally hedonistic, self-centered, “Turkey Day.”
Instead of a holiday where gratitude is encouraged, Thanksgiving Day is now simply a holiday in which to stuff our bodies and feed our egos by focusing not on our blessings, but on what we ourselves have accomplished.
Worse, some educational facilities don’t even allow children to celebrate their own birthdays! Not celebrating holidays or birthdays is one thing. But to do so in an educational situation where vulnerable children clear down to pre-school are told they can’t mention their birthdays, can’t wish a friend “Happy Birthday” without drawing the teacher’s ire, when the joy of childhood is squashed by adults who can’t allow such thing for fear they’ll lose their job, there is a serious problem.
Another so-called solution to birthdays so little Jane/Johnny won’t feel bad is to have the policy that if one child celebrates a birthday the parents must provide a gift for every child in class. Sure, this is a good way to help parents already struggling with finances. This also doesn’t help our little ones learn to celebrate an event in the life of another without expecting something in return.
Considering our children are in the care of the school system most of the day, such a twisting of history and the squashing of those holidays and events in their lives that mean so much to them, constitutes, at the very least, verbal and emotional mistreatment.
Children need to be able to express their excitement. Holidays have always been a time for children to share with classmates another year of growth, another milestone and special family traditions. To say they cannot celebrate holidays and other special days except in the confines of their home sends the message that the celebration itself is suspect and it invalidates the children’s excitement and joy over such events.
While some of these policies are meant to protect children who have less than stellar situations, what it does instead is to invalidate their hurt as well. It is a subtle, and in some cases, not so subtle, form of propaganda that takes children and tells them celebrations and their feelings are bad. Why can’t we teach instead the concept of being happy when others do well or celebrate special days in their lives?
It is time parents and teachers confront the unjust regulations (or an over-reaching interpretation of them) of holiday and birthday celebrations that destroy the excitement and joy, the reality of childhood. It is time holidays are restored to their rightful and traditional in public life. Our children deserve the right to celebrate.