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The Christmas Wars / Christmas Dilemma

More events during 2011. Part 4

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This is a continuation from Part 3

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2011-DEC-12: WI: Hindu song pulled from holiday concert:

The Greendale School District planned a multicultural holiday concert that includes Feliz Navidad, a Kwanza/Christian song, and Have Nagila, a Jewish song. They originally included Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram, a popular Hindu devotional song which was popularized by Gandhi during the Salt March to Dandi, India during 1930. Recently it was sung by Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and Zoastrian supporters of an anti-corruption protest in India.

One or perhaps two parents complained about its lyrics, said that their child would sit out of the song, and promised that an e-mail with an English translation of the lyrics would be sent to all of the parents. 1 The School deleted the song from the concert.

Rajan Zed, the president of Universal Society of Hinduism, director of Interfaith Relations of Nevada Clergy Association and spiritual advisor to the National Association of Interchurch & Interfaith Families wrote a letter to the Greendale School District asking them to apologize to the Hindu community and to the children who had been scheduled to sing the song. He wrote:

"How fair was singling and pulling out a Hindu song and including a classic Christmas song Feliz Navidad and Jewish song Hava Nagila in the multicultural holiday concert? Was it not giving preference to one religion over another?"  2

The GreendalePatch blog conducted a non-scientific poll asking their web site visitors: "Should Greendale have pulled a Hindu devotional song from its holiday program?" Results were overwhelmingly in favor of inclusion:

  • Yes, the song should be pulled: 147 responses (10%)
  • No, the song should have remained: 1,272 responses (87%)
  • Not sure: 32 responses (2%)  3

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin is investigating the Greendale School District for violation of religious liberty protections under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  3

Some visitors to a blog article left comments. Three of the more interesting ones were:

  • BK wrote: "Knowledge of and comfort with other cultures will be an imperative for success in our global economy. It's unfortunate that a biased few can diminish an excellent educational experience for many others. Hopefully there will be more open-mindedness and respect for other cultures next year. ... The parent should have pulled their child from the concert, kept them at home during the the time the concert was being performed, and spent that time explaining what small-minded means."

  • Greenville Citizen wrote: "I'm tired of having to 'walk on eggshells' and be politically correct as of late, having to be conscience of other cultures and religions, but having my holiday beliefs swept under the rug."

  • Jason Patzfahl wrote: "... I always appreciate the mix of Holiday songs that are sung from different cultures and religions at my childrens' holiday concert series here in Greendale. I want my children to experience other religions and cultures early on instead of living in a vacuum. We always love the holiday concert and do not wish to see it cancelled or ANY songs pulled from it. As any parent in Greendale knows, our school system is becoming more diverse each year - and to deny a song from one religion, but allow songs from other religions creates more of a problem than one parent with an internal problem (bigotry) could ever cause. I think the ball was dropped on this one. I also notice we don't have any Muslim or Hindu parents complaining about their children having to sing Christian-based or Jewish 'holiday' songs."  1

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2011-DEC-14: MI: "Love Note" to "pagans" in Hudsonville:

Some residents in this town in West Michigan are convinced that a "Grinch" is loose in their neighborhood. An anonymous person attached notes to the mailboxes on many houses decorated with lights. It said, in part:

Hi neighbor. You have a nice display of lights and this love note explains how that pagan tradition began.

For thousands of years, Sun worshippers have celebrated the Sungod's rebirth after [the Winter] Solstice. Pagans honored the birth of the 'Invincible sun' with a 'festival of lights." They used big bonfires, pigs fat tallow candle lights, and today, billions of colored christmas [sic] lights. Rome's seven-day December Saturnalia was religious revelry with decadent drunkenness, outrageous adultery, and giving Saturn's nativity birth gifts to the children.

The Norsemen yuletide solstice carousal used sexual soliciting mistletoe, Yule log bonfire, ... decorated evergreen wreaths, and tree worship.

None of this honors the life of Yeshua the Christ. God told Yisra'el through Moses not to follow religious customs of pagans or they would be ensnared into worshiping Him in heathen way Christmas tree lights, nativity birth celebrations and heathen idolatrous Sun worshiping practices."

Tricia Warsen received one of the messages. She said:

"I just can't imagine that someone would spend the time and energy putting together something like that, knowing it is such a joyous season. It just made me think, you obviously don't have the joy of the season that we do. ... We're not Pagans at all. We believe in the Lord. We go to church regularly. We teach our children that Christmas is about more than trees and lights and presents. It's truly about Jesus coming."  4

The article received three readers' comments:

  • Judith Martin Straw, Publisher and Editor of Culver City Crossroads wrote:

    " I just don't understand they make it sound as if paganism were somehow a bad thing - I'm completely baffled."

  • Julie Wiseman wrote:

    "Happy Little Pagan. ... I understand the confusion and insult by these notes being left. But there is truth in what this person wrote. All holidays have a 'heathen' origin. That's history, not a modern insult for those choosing to involve their prophet in the season."

  • Bruce Robinson, webmaster of this web site, wrote:

    "Everyone involved in this local event seem to be ignoring the real 'reason for the season.' As Sesame Street might say: 'Christmas is brought to us by the number 23.45.'

    This is the tilt of the Earth's axis, in degrees. It causes the seasons. It causes the day light hours to vary in length during the year. Around about DEC-21, the Winter Equinox arrives; daylight hours are at a minimum. The next day has a slightly longer daylight interval. The ancient Pagans did not have accurate clocks and so it took them typically about 4 days to realize that the days were actually lengthening. In the Roman Empire they celebrated Saturnalia in honor of their god Saturn on DEC-25. And it was quite a celebration because they sensed that the warm weather was returning. The Church simply took over the holiday and eventually renamed it Christ's Mass and associated it with Jesus' birthday. Actually, internal evidence in the Bible seems to indicate that Jesus was born in the Fall. 'Christ's Mass' became to 'Christmas'." 4

This topic continues in Part 5.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Viviana Buzo, "GreenvilleSchool District Pulls Hindu Song from Holiday Concert After Parent Complains," GreendalePatch, 2011-DEC-12, at: http://greendale.patch.com/
  2. Viviana Buzo, "Universal Society of Hinduism President Seeks Apology from the Greendale School District ," GreendalePatch, 2011-DEC-12, at: http://greendale.patch.com/
  3. Viviana Buzo, "ACLU Investigating the Greendale School District For Violation of Religious Rights," GreendalePatch, 2011-DEC-13, at: http://greendale.patch.com/
  4. Ken Kolker, " 'Love note' to Hudsonville's 'pagans:' Neighbors found notes in the mailboxes," WOOD TV, 2011-DEC-14, at: http://www.woodtv.com/

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2011-DEC-14
Latest update: 2011-DEC-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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