Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why you ask?

Why, you ask, am I going on about the December holidays?  I know we have barely recovered from our sugar high of Halloween and I am harping on December.  Skipping Thanksgiving entirely.  Rest assured I will have something to say about that!  It is because this is topical in my life.

I belong to an organization, that is secular, and states that they are not religious.  We are in the the throws of planning a Holiday Party.  Without going into a lot of detail, having Santa at this party is more important than having me.  I was hurt beyond words.  I was and still am moved to tears by the whole event.  I am also angry, about the violation of the contract.

When Mac was 2ish, we were in the grocery store, and the bagger asked him what Santa was bringing him.  He said, "I don't celebrate Christmas, Santa does not visit my house."  This woman looked at me like was a beast for denying my child this experience.  Mac didn't understand why this woman told his mother she was a meany.  I have had the school call me because Mac does not want to a Santa project, because that is not his holiday and he is offended that he has to participate in the activity.  He was then teased because he freaked out about it.  It pains me to go through this with my kids.  To see the hurt in their eyes when people say and do things that are ignorant and mean.

I try and insulate them as much as I can.  It is not practical or possible to fully protect them, but as much as I can I avoid situations where they are forced to choose between the activity and their religion.  It is not a fair place to put them.  They are still so small.

I am very careful about the organizations I choose to participate in.  I quiz them eleventy-billion times and ways to make sure they are not religious, or if the are they are Jewish.

I ask the Principal at the school to make sure that Santa won't be at school events.  That my kids will be allowed to opt out if need be.  That if they are forced to opt out, that we will not have that event next year.  I have this conversation every year, with the same Principal, just to be sure.

The preschool we attend does not acknowledge any religious holidays at all.  How refreshing.  They ignore them completely, and guess what the kids still have a good time at the Winter Party.  This frankly, was the number one reason I choose the school.  I wonder how we spread this plan to all.

I never understood all of this when I was growing up, because I didn't experience it.  I haven't built up the thick skin of my husband.  I feel the pain the kids feel for the first time right along with them because I can not imagine anyone would want to hurt them, and yet they insist on doing just that.

It is jaw-dropping-mind-boggling-ly unimaginable the things people have said and done to my family because we are different.  Some of it comes from a deep place of hate and some comes from ignorance.  The folks that come from the place of ignorance are the reason for the first three posts.  I wanted to capture their attention and educate them.  You could argue I alienated them too, and maybe I did.  I really didn't want to do that, but if some of them felt the sting of the words, so be it, you walked in my shoes a bit.  I know my posts were provocative.

I want to thank the folks that got it, that engaged in the conversation, and participated in the discussion.  That respected me enough to understand that I am muddling through this as best I can, and that I may have gotten some of the theology wrong, but that my intent was to open a dialogue around this issue.  For those of you who read, but didn't participate, I hope you understand.  If you don't, lets talk about it, you know where I live.

This post has been the hardest, most tissue intensive post I have written.  I still feel that I have not actually captured how hard it is to be in a situation where you think you are safe only to have the rug pulled out from under you.  To think you have done all your due diligence and that religion is not and will not be a part of the discussion, only to find out you are horribly wrong.

I have learned a lot about myself, my beliefs and why I feel the way I do about this.  I have grown through this process.  For that I am grateful.  That said, I hope that out there someone understands how much it hurts to have to choose between a party and your religion.  That combining the traditions just really isn't appropriate, and is not really the meaning of our holiday.  That maybe next time we won't have to choose.  Maybe next time having me will be more important than having Santa.

Until then the Great Pumpkin and I will be in the pumpkin patch working on his marketing plan.


  1. It seems silly to think that Santa is a religious figure like he is someone who came from G-d. Does Santa do miracles? Nope. Did he receive enlightenment? Nope. Did he lead the Israelites out of Egypt? Nope. Was he part of the Greek pantheon? Nope. Your burden of proof is to proove he is religious. Wikipedia says he is not. Honestly, is there a case for the historical Santa? Probably not.

    So Santa is NOT a religious figure - you just mistakenly assumed he was. And because Santa is a myth anyone can enjoy him. Did you know lots of Jews have Christmas trees and give gifts? Its actually part of Jewish assimilation: http://www.ujc.org/page.aspx?id=163746.
    Not that this reflects badly on Jews, its just part of assimilation.

  2. First Wikipedia is not the best source to use, since it can be edited by anyone.

    I think you only read what you wanted to read.

    That said...
    Wikipedia actually says "Saint Nicholas of Myra is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Santa Claus. He was a 4th-century Greek Christian bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia, now in Turkey."

    It also says "Despite Santa Claus's mixed Christian roots, he has become a secular representation of Christmas. As such, a small number of primarily Protestant fundamentalist Christian churches dislike the secular focus on Santa Claus and the materialist focus that gift giving brings to the holiday. Such a condemnation of Christmas is not a twentieth century phenomenon, but originated among some Protestant groups of the 16th century and was prevalent among the Puritans of 17th century England and colonial America who banned the holiday as either pagan or Roman Catholic."

    www.livius.org also says "Nicholas of Myra: early Christian bishop, who was in the Middle Ages venerated as patron of sailors and protector of blessed marriages (Saint Nicholas). As Sinterklaas, he remains a characteristic figure in Dutch folklore. He is also the historical figure behind Santa Claus."

  3. To clarify, I do not consider Santa Claus to be a present day religious figure.

    That's true that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone.

    The article only says that Myra was the "inspiration" for Santa Claus - not that the bishop was called Santa Claus or participated in the same present day cultural event as Christmas. The article is almost entirely about the folklore or myth of Santa Claus. To say that Santa Claus is Christian is to say that the "inspiration" for Santa Claus is Christian. That's a nice thing to say but lots of people could be the "inspiration" for Santa Claus. The article is merely assigning the best fit of a historical figure for Santa Claus.

    But Santa Claus is not a present day religious figure. As far as I know he is not a saint that is worshipped (by those that worship saints) and is definitely not more than someone who does good in popular culture. Only inspiration for him occurs in religious traditions and does not occur in the scriptures of any major religion. Santa is a secularization of religion that occurs in cultural forms.

    I think Santa Claus is about as religious as the Holiday Armadillo that Ross wanted to show his son to describe Hanukkah on a Friends episode.

  4. Your opinion is that, your opinion. I have not moderated your comments because I appreciate the discussion. Be advised, should it turn ugly, I will delete them all. At this point it has not.

    The point of all of my massive, 4 post rant, was to say that ANYTHING relating to a religious holiday is not really appropriate at schools, events sponsored by non-religious groups, etc.

    The quote you used from the article on the UJC website, while correct, is used in the context of the assimilation being a bad thing. I use a quote from the same article in a previous post.

    It is not fair to ask anyone, to choose between an event and their religion. I have many friends who are Christian and would not attend an event with Santa.

    A debate on Santa being a religious figure is not the point of all of this. The point is that Jews, some Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. find him offensive, and therefore, should not be part of an event sponsored by a non-religious organization. I am confident the even the most liberal Jewish movement, the reformed Jews, do not have Santa at Shul. So, no, everyone can not enjoy him.