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 or (504) 895-2266.






Reader Comments:
Dec 21, 2009 03:26 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Errol, I am very disappointed to see this post on your blog. It is extremely out of touch and misinformed. There is nothing secular about Christmas and to hint such a thing is offensive to not only non-Christians, but Christians alike. There is a division of church and state for a reason, and to celebrate Christmas in our schools would deeply violate this important aspect of our government. Though many in the U.S. might enjoy the "holiday" season and share in the warm feeling of the season, their celebration may not include Christmas. Personally, I am offended and would like for you to apologize for this post. Thank you.

Dec 21, 2009 03:27 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

As a Jew, I'm actually rather offended by people who say "Happy Holidays" and who have chased the word "Christmas" out of the season. I'm quite offended that society thinks I can't cope with being a religious minority in a predominantly Christian culture, and that my feelings have to be spared or handled with kid gloves. Seriously, there's no escaping Christmas. It's going to happen, and one cannot deny its existence, even if it's not a holiday one celebrates. It's just part of being an adherent of a different faith. Trust me, we can handle it. Been doing so for centuries!

Dec 21, 2009 03:35 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

WOW are you seriously anonymous poster... then send your kids to school over this Christmas Break if it is so separated. Without the sort after religious freedoms so many people desired many years ago you probably would not even have this government.

Dec 21, 2009 03:37 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I love Christmas, the birth of Christ and I make sure to tell everyone Merry Christmas all the time. It is all that I will say because that is what I believe. So to Errol and everyone at and those that read this

MERRY CHRISTMAS and Happy New Year.

Dec 21, 2009 03:43 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I totally agree with you, Mr. Laborde.
I am a 61 year old male who is an Atheist.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles and have lived in the District of Columbia, Houston and the Vieux Carre, on Chartres Street.

Of course Christmas is part of our culture. Even though I am an Atheist, I am also a 61 year old Anglo man who is native born and part of the American people.

All things are possible. I do not believe in god, but I am a total Saints Fan. Virgin births are a total turnoff, but I like to experience Christmas in the Quarter whenever I can.

I also enjoy Christmas at poolside in Palm Springs, or shoveling snow in Vermont. Christmas is as American as Apple Pie and Bread Puddin.

Christmas to me means sitting in the Napoleon House and having one of Mr. Impastato's fine Sazaracs.

I can also enjoy Christmas in Mexico, even though it's one of the most Catholic countries on earth, and I can exchange happily the "feliz navidad" greetings with the Mexican people.

I am most happy that you wrote this column, sir, and I must say I hope you have thwarted the thought and speech police at Christmas Time....

Happy New Year

Dec 21, 2009 04:33 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I was so pleased to read this article. I am so completely over this new politically correct society and what it has spurned. I am not Jewish but if someone wished me Happy Hanukkah I would smile and respond with warm wishes. When did so many become so uptight? I made up my mind years ago to wish people I come across a Merry Christmas and will continue to do so. Offensive to some? Sorry, I no longer care. I do care about keeping wonderful traditions in this country which my children's children and their children will continue to cherish for many years. As for that "separation of church and state" always thrown about, I have read the U.S. Constitution numerous times and can assure you that phrase is NOWHERE to be found in there. Just because the secularists have brainwashed an entire generation and scared various institutions into accepting it as fact doesn't make it so. There is a major difference between freedom OF religion and freedom FROM religion. If only our so called intelligentsia could understand that.

Dec 21, 2009 04:41 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Are you really celebrating Christmas by sitting at Napoleon House having a Sazerac ... or are you merely celebrating the merriment of the holiday season?

Christmas has nothing to do with Sazeracs -- or trees, presents or Santa Claus for that matter. And that's the only issue I take with this whole debate. I am not Christian, but have no problem with people who want to celebrate Christmas. What bugs me is the Christians who feel like they have a right to claim the entire holiday season as their own. Especially when so many of them only celebrate the overly commercialized shell of what their holiday is supposed to be about anyway.

Saying "Happy Holidays" is inclusive. It doesn't prevent Christians from celebrating Christmas, and it also acknowledges that there are other holidays being celebrated at the same time, and that there are also some people who, while not religious, enjoy taking part in the merriment of the season. Y'all didn't invent the holiday tree (check out the old pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice) so I don't think you have the right to take full ownership of the tradition. You can keep calling it a Christmas tree, and that it perfectly. But if mine is a Winter Solstice tree, that's OK, too, and it is time to start dealing with it.

Happy Holidays.

Dec 21, 2009 04:46 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Please direct the above anonymous poster to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Dec 21, 2009 08:17 pm
 Posted by  armadilloz

Well, quite interesting comments above. Eric , I'm with you. And I'm also with the religious folks. All of those "Winter Time", "Happy Holidays","Kwanza","Wintry Warmth" celebrations,(or whatever all those anonymouses above want to call it) started in this country as a celebration of a special BIRTHDAY. Without that purpose we would not be celebrating in Winter. It is Christ's birth that IS and HAS BEEN celebrated throughout history in the majority of American homes. And THAT is the reason for the season as it exists in American culture (more so in all of Western Civilization). Sorry everybody else, we love you, we respect your different cultural celebrations that occur simultaneously with Christmas. But, I don't think we need to hush or shudder or whisper when we say Merry Christmas. Nor should our children be made to feel guilty for celebrating Christmas. And, if you are offended by our American culture, or by our Christian practices then maybe you should seek counseling on how to cope with a place you don't like. I'm not asking you to leave, rather I'm asking you to leave us alone and learn to deal with it as the Jewish gentleman above so respectfully states. As for the atheist, there is still hope for you. Drinking Sazeracs at Napoleon House is close to Heaven. Merry Christmas everybody!!!!

Dec 21, 2009 08:40 pm
 Posted by  armadilloz

Errol, please forgive the typo!

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The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde


Errol LabordeErrol Laborde holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of New Orleans and is the editor-in-chief of Renaissance Publishing. In that capacity he serves as editor/associate publisher of New Orleans Magazine and editor/publisher of Louisiana Life magazine.

Errol is also a producer and a regular panelist on Informed Sources, a weekly news discussion program broadcast on public television station WYES-TV, Channel 12. Errol is a three-time winner of the Alex Waller Award, the highest award given in print journalism by the Press Club of New Orleans. He also received the National and City Regional Magazine Association Award for Best Column for his New Orleans Magazine column, beating out 76 city magazines across the country. In 2013, Errol received the award for the "Best News Affiliated Blog," awarded by the Press Club of New Orleans.

Errol’s most recent books are Krewe: The Early Carnival from Comus to Zulu and Marched the Day God: A History of the Rex Organization. In his free time he enjoys playing tennis and traveling with his wife, Peggy, to anywhere they can get away to, but some of his favorite spots are the Caribbean and historic locations around Louisiana. You can reach Errol at (504) 830-7235 or




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