Our views: Christmas in public schools

By Matt Metzler and Paqui Toscano, Staff Writers

Paqui’s view

As a faithful Christian who was confirmed two years ago and goes to church every Sunday, I look upon Christmas as a time to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ, my Lord and savior. However, Christmas, as the name implies, is a strictly Christian holiday.

I’ve heard many people over my years at public school complain that our society is straying too far from the religious principals of our forefathers. While that may be true, our Judeo-Christian forefathers also drafted the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which among other things protects citizens from possible government infringement on an establishment of religion. Since public schools are run by the government, the rights given to citizens of the United States (which include students) in the Bill of Rights apply within the halls of public schools.

In other words, I strongly believe that Christmas should not be recognized in public schools.

“Christmas” break should always be referred to as “winter” break. Christmas concerts should be holiday concerts – although playing Christmas themed music for its musical quality shouldn’t be banned. And while Secret Santa gift exchanges should technically be called Secret Holiday Gift-Giver, this is not necessarily necessary because Santa has become a more integrated part of our society and is not necessarily associated strictly with the Christian faith.

Evergreen trees with lights on them that are displayed in schools should be allowed, but things specifically saying Christmas should not be. Likewise Christmas plays that are clearly Christian based, commonly produced by many schools, may be fun to do but quite truthfully also violate the separation of church and state, a fundamental aspect of our democracy.

If you’re Christian, Christmas is a time to celebrate. But as we look around us at Fairmont High School, we’re not all Christian. Some of us are Jewish. Some are Muslim. Some are atheists. And some don’t fit into any of those four categories.

Our society is not composed of one religious group; Fairmont High School certainly isn’t, and because of this we shouldn’t infringe on people’s rights to freedom of religion.

The Board of Education should respect the First Amendment and go to the greatest pains to separate their school district from the religious events. That’s what’s right and needed. That’s what makes America, America.

Matt’s view

I’m kind of a lousy Christian, but I’m a Christian nonetheless, and Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  I’m one of those people who are ready to start blasting Christmas music the day after Halloween, so I guess it’s no surprise that I support letting the celebration of Christmas seep into my school life.  Let me explain.

While Christmas isn’t solely celebrated in the United States, it’s hard to deny that Christmas has become a very Americanized holiday, at least in our country’s celebration of it.  It’s one of only 11 federal holidays throughout the year, sharing this classification with the likes of Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Memorial Day.

And while Christmas is, strictly speaking, a Christian holiday, that certainly doesn’t mean that only Christians celebrate it.  After all, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Christmas.  You don’t have to be commemorating the birth of Christ to celebrate Christmas.  You can celebrate Christmas by exchanging gifts with friends and family, or decorating a tree, or having dinner with the family at Grandma’s, or watching the 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story.  Our country’s First Amendment doesn’t tell you how to celebrate holidays any more than it tells you which holidays to celebrate – it’s up to you.

That being said, students and teachers should be allowed to celebrate or abstain from celebrating Christmas in whichever manner they choose.  If a school wants to put on a Christmas play, and they find enough volunteers to produce it, then why shouldn’t they be allowed to?  A play is a play.  Just because some people celebrate Hanukkah doesn’t mean that they couldn’t enjoy a play about Christmas – and if they couldn’t enjoy it, no one should be forcing them to participate or attend in the first place.

And if teachers want to put Christmas trees in their classrooms, or offer their students the opportunity to partake in a Secret Santa gift exchange, then I think they should be able to do so, without feeling pressured to change the name of what they’re doing in order to be “politically correct.”  I find it very hard to believe that a cheerfully decorated tree or a classwide gift exchange could truly and deeply offend anyone, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Furthermore, I fail to comprehend how doing any of these things in school infringes upon the First Amendment’s freedom of religion.  If you’re a devout follower of your religion, surely you wouldn’t let the people around you distract you from following your own beliefs.  I don’t think we celebrators of Christmas should let those who don’t celebrate Christmas prevent us from making the most of the holiday, and by that same token, I don’t think those who don’t celebrate Christmas should take offense to the fact that the majority of Americans celebrate Christmas – which is just that, a fact.

You can choose to say “Happy Holidays,” and I can choose to say “Merry Christmas.”  I don’t prevent you from celebrating the season your way, and you don’t prevent me from celebrating it my way.

That’s freedom, isn’t it?  Isn’t that what America is all about?