Re: Culturally Sensitive Xmas/Religious References
Jonathan Dixon (dixonj@ROCOCO.COLORADO.EDU)
Wed, 11 Dec 1996 15:54:15 -0700
Marc Solomon wrote:
> Chaplain Morrison wrote:
> > I do think many other-than-Christian families have been hooked by "Santa"
> > who is a completely secular figure today. I don't think that most people
> > think of him as some sort of a Christian Saint anymore.
> I would have to disagree vehemently with you on this statement. First,
> I know of no Jewish parents (with the exception of those involved in
> mixed marriages) that teach their children about "Santa" other than to
> tell their children the truth about such myths. Secondly, how can you
> say that a "person" who visits only on the day of one of your most
> holiest of holidays has no correlation to that holiday or the religions
> that celebrate that holiday. That would be like saying that Elijah
> (whose ghost visits every Passover Seder) has nothing to do with
> I specifically find some of the Christian non-religious traditions
> self-defeating. Children are taught to believe in imaginary characters
> like "Santa" and the "Easter Bunny" only to learn later on that these
> are not real. Doesn't this make the other teachings (i.e., a belief in
> G-d) by the same group suspect in the eyes of these children?
Neither Santa (as currently implemented) or the Easter Bunny are
Christian traditions. Santa currently is a mixture of images developed
by Coca-Cola, Hallmark, and various merchants, and any resemblance to
Saint Nicholas (whose day is the 6th of December) has long since been
lost. It is also important to remember that things like Christmas
Trees, Yule Logs, the Holly and the Ivy, and many other "Christmas"
traditions are actually pagan traditions (from the Celts, for example)
which were kept with slight modifications when the lands were
Christianized. I believe the Easter Bunny is also a carry-over from
pagan equinox celebrations.
Also, bear in mind that the date for Christmas was taken from early
Roman festivals, since that was the only time Christians could safely
celebrate. Most cultures in the Northern Hemisphere had some ceremony
to mark the time of the shortest day of the year, and when Christianity
became the dominant religion in those lands these ceremonies were
similarly moved to coincide with the dominant holiday even though they
had no real connection. In some cases (Christmas Trees, for example)
and attempt was made to tie it in with the new religion, in others
(Easter Bunny, for example) no such attempt was made.
I would tend to agree with Chaplain Morrison given my own observations.
While those from other religions who are highly observant generally do
not adopt the Santa tradition from what I have seen, most of those who
are only nominally members of other religions or have no real religion
at all (including atheists) who I have met have adopted the "Santa myth"
without including any of the religious "baggage" with it. In many ways,
the Santa portion of Christmas is a celebration of Secular Humanism that
just happens to coincide with the Christian holiday. I'm not sure how I
will handle that when/if I have kids, but I will at least try to keep
them focused on the religious aspects.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City