Dec 21, 200912:00 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
Errol Laborde: Daring To Say "Christmas"
While at a party a few Christmases ago, I was talking to a teacher from a local private school. During the conversation she was asked how they celebrate Christmas at the school. “We don’t,” she answered. “We have many cultures there, and we don’t want to offend anyone.”
That answer offended me –– the thought of denying kids of any cultures the excitement of Christmas seemed like political correctness going amok.
A few days later I was talking to a friend who taught in the Orleans Parish school system. She said it was the same way at her school, too. Instead of acknowledging Christmas, they celebrate something called “Winter Carnival.” “It’s gone back to the pagan celebrations,” she conceded.
Putting the religious consideration aside, there is a cultural consideration. Christmas is part of the culture of this nation, and it should not be denied.
Those who say that one culture is offended by the celebration of another are speaking on behalf of the politically uptight –– and not for the majority of people of all cultures who rejoice in each other’s celebrations. (If I lived in another country with different traditions, I would certainly not expect their customs not to be celebrated out of fear of offending me. To the contrary, I would rejoice in their traditions and want to take part in them.) In this country Christmas lights even provide a glowing backdrop to Hanukkah. The celebrations do not compete but complement each other.
Christmas is not Christianity's most sacred day. Easter is. In fact, some of the most devout Christians, the early Puritans, refused to celebrate Christmas, dismissing it as being religiously insignificant. What has evolved, though, is a gentle and spirited holiday that is a reflection of many cultures and many lands –– a celebration that we speak of as being "merry" more often than as being “holy.” Christmas is itself a blend of many ancient traditions and beliefs. It can be both spiritual and secular. Either way, it is part of the nation’s heritage.
Yet it is being denied in our schools. Despite that, I will dare to make this wish: Have a meaningful Christmas, and may we grow to appreciate all cultures, especially our own.
Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival - Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via e- mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 895-2266.
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