EDITORIAL: Understanding Religion and Coming Together in the Holiday Season

The Holiday Season is one of the best times of the year with festive cheer, gift-giving, charity, and spending time with family. However, between all of the Freeform Original Movies, last minute shopping deals, and houses decked out in Christmas lights, the real meaning of the holidays can be lost–– or the fact that there are more holidays than just Christmas that are celebrated.

Having several Hanukkah songs has become a staple in the Carillon program as a nod to the Jewish festival. Even still, the message of the holiday has been misunderstood.

“The consideration for Hanukkah is nice, but the holiday is frankly unimportant in the Jewish religion,” says Jewish senior Jolie Patten. “It only became commercialised because of Christmas. We don’t celebrate it for the candles that lasted eight days, contrary to popular belief; we celebrate it because we won a war.” Her opinion on the Carillon music selection this year: “We should stick to songs about the message of peace and safety rather than a children’s song about a misconception [about dreidels] in our religious history.”

Benjamin Grambs, a band student, said “I do think the music department believes in celebrating religious diversity, however, it just doesn’t seem to be reflected in this year’s Carillon program. I know the ensemble directors have worked hard to be culturally diverse in the past, but there are a lot of factors that go into the Carillon repertoire; it cannot be perfect every year.”

This is a bigger issue than just Carillon music selection. Patten also noted how Hanukkah has become a big deal in terms of the need to represent all religions, but there is a lack of dedication to true religious equality in how it is treated.

For example, students are not going to receive homework over Christmas Break this year, but have during Hanukkah. Furthermore, more significant Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are not given multiple days off for the full duration that they are celebrated, and teachers still assign work and tests. This does not even begin to cover other holidays in the winter season, such as Diwali or Kwanzaa, or other important ones during the rest of the year that substantial numbers of students celebrate.

“I feel that society can and should do a better job at including all holidays, not just Christmas,” said Sam Klein. “Often I hear on the radio and on television the referral to the ‘Christmas season,’ yet that time of year is so much more,” he said. “The holidays are a time to rejoice and celebrate family, community, and love. It should never be designated for one religious affiliation, for we all embrace in the values of the holidays.”

Seniors Riya Dave and Ellie Daigle seconded that idea, expressing, “It’s a time of happiness. It’s more than just Christmas, but a time of giving where people of all different religions share the joy of the season.”

Increasing materialism associated with these holidays is another issue, lessening the religious value of these celebrations. “It’s not about the stuff, it’s about the cost of it,” stated Winnie Akaba. But the cost of what? Of gifts? Of religious connection? Of understanding why we celebrate in the first place?

This holiday season, people need to remember the importance of why we celebrate. Even if it isn’t for the religious reasons, but appreciating family, the spirit of giving, and what we have, it’s a time to be thankful and give back. In the end, all religions, regardless of what holidays they celebrate, support this love of life and desire to give back. If that can unite people under one holiday spirit, the Warde community would be better for it.

This is not to say that that the Carillon program should comprise of solely secular music. However, with the right perspective, it should help students and staff come together to genuinely have a joyful holiday season.

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