Point: Should religion influence winter holiday celebrations in school?

Emma Brezel, Staff Writer

The holiday season is my favorite time of year.  The holidays conjure up memories of walking through Manhattan on a snowy evening and gazing at all the lights and holiday displays.  I love the smell of the street cart offering roasted nuts while drinking peppermint hot chocolate.

But, above all, I love listening to the sounds.  Although it is the normal sounds of the Manhattan hustle and bustle, there’s something more jolly about the chaos.  In the background, you can hear the bells of the Salvation Army Santas and the horse drawn carriages and sometimes even a Christmas carol being sung.

At Schreiber, this kind of cheer and holiday spirit is much more subdued.  Especially in the past few years, there has been an obvious effort by the school to make any holiday activities, like window painting, as nondenominational as possible.

“For Hanukkah my parents got this pair of really expensive white gold hoops and I had to pretend like I didn’t even like them because I wasn’t allowed to show any religious affiliation at school,” said senior Jamie Weiss. (Mean Girls reference for all of you who didn’t get that.)

With the commercialization of Christmas and the mixture of the religious winter holidays, winter festivities have become more secular then ever.

For many people, the winter holidays represent a time of cheer and a time to tell the people around us that we care.  Activities that might be seen as religious, like sending candy canes or sparkly decorations, are just a way of elevating the joy and spirit of others and not as religious symbols.

Christmas and Hanukah decorations no longer represent such strict religious traditions, but ones that can be shared by everyone.

These festivities are just innocuous fun and should be promoted at school because they boost student moral and promote friendship.

“Holidays, in terms of celebrating in school, is all about merriment and the joy of the season, not religion,” said senior Allegra Maldonado.

I appreciate the efforts by the administration to make the school comfortable for students of all religions.  It is important that all students at Schreiber feel safe to express themselves.

But, the bottom line is that in the real world, we aren’t so sheltered from religious themes and we must learn to coexist.

The day after Thanksgiving ends, it seems that we are bombarded with Christmas everything, from TV advertisements to window displays to Christmas movie marathons.  Students are bound to be influenced by religious influences in the community.

While walking on Main Street, one sees business owners hanging up their Christmas decorations and putting up signs for their Christmas promotional deals.

If the school is looking to promote religious equality, then religion should not be stifled in the holiday activities and decorations.  We do not need to become overly politically correct, so eliminating the religious aspects of winter holiday celebrations would be a step in the wrong direction.

When school attempts to make holiday celebrations religiously neutral, students could come to the conclusion that expressing their religious beliefs to others is not appropriate in school.

Schreiber should promote cheerful winter celebrations, and if religion is a part of this, it may be more of a positive influence than a negative one.