Christmas celebrations and tokenism
December 19, 2022
Atar reflected on her experience as an elementary school student in Edina. “There were a lot of Christmas activities, and they would always say ‘holiday-related activities,’ but it was always just Christmas,” she said. “I found it so weird that we didn’t celebrate more than just Christmas. It’s important to show that there are other religions besides just Christianity.”
Christmas-centered celebrations don’t end after elementary school; EHS’s annual Winter Jubilee concert features songs primarily centered on the Christian holiday. “[Winter Jubilee] is fun, but there’s always one or two songs where it’s like, okay, this is touching a little too much on the religious side. ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ and ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ are chill and fun, but when you get to singing about the birth of Jesus, that gets a little uncomfortable,” Rendleman said.
Kampf also took issue with the religious music in the Winter Jubilee concert. “I think it would be more inclusive if we did less religious music at the school or didn’t have a Christmas concert. I think it makes it less likely that Muslim and Jewish students will participate. Even if we include some Hanukkah songs, it still feels inappropriate in a public school,” she said.
Both Rendleman and Kampf noted that attempts to be inclusive to Jews by emphasizing Hanukkah feel misguided. “Hanukkah is a really, really minor holiday. It only gets attention here in the United States because it’s next to Christmas, while it’s barely observed outside of the U.S. So it feels very tokenized,” Kampf said. Rendleman added that people around her frequently assume that Hanukkah is the one and only major Jewish holiday. “I think the assumption only bothers me because it shows people’s ignorance about how Judaism works…They’re subconsciously assuming that everything circulates around Christianity. [Christian dominance] makes all other religious groups definitely feel segregated and separate and kind of out of place,” Rendleman said.