The HollyDazzle Day
Ok, this is the stupidest thing I've heard...
Newport News, Va., is getting ready for their annual Christmas celebration, except they aren't calling it that. They're calling it Hollydazzle. And instead of lighting the Christmas Tree, they'll be lighting the “Tree of Illumination.”
Who do they think they are fooling? Does anyone really imagine that American Jews drape their menorahs with holly garlands during Hanukkah? Or that Muslims put up trees (of illumination or any other sort) to celebrate Eid? Or maybe that Hindus hang ornaments off the many arms of Kali each December? Of course not!
And when all the folks gather around the tree down in Newport News, waiting for the firemen to light it up, will any of them really think how beautiful the Multifaith Tree of Illumination is going to be? Heck, no! Christmas trees are Christmas trees; celebrations where you light trees are celebrations of Christmas. Changing the name doesn't change the nature of what you are doing, it just makes a mockery of multiculturalism and the separation of church and state.
The government should either get out of the business of holiday celebrations or they should practice true multiculturalism. Since the vast majority of Americans do not want the government to stop celebrating events important to their lives -- even my atheist friends and family celebrate holidays like Christmas and Easter -- the solution, clearly, is not to eliminate holidays, but to have public celebrations that actually include other faiths.
Pretending that Christian traditions can be universal under a different name won’t pass the muster. It offends Christians, who rightfully do not want their holidays watered down into some meaningless, politically correct verbiage. And it offends non-Christians because such renaming is clearly nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt by some to maintain the status quo – that is to have the government continue celebrating Christmas and acting as though Christianity were the state religion, just disguising it under obfuscating titles.
True multiculturalism is welcoming many different celebrations, customs, and holidays. It’s lighting a Christmas Tree one week, and lighting a Menorah the next. It’s hanging Ramadan lanterns in October and Christmas decorations in December.
Some public institutions are already doing this. My children's elementary school, for instance, had winter holiday parties that were truly celebrations of winter traditions. The walls of the school were decorated with posters depicting Divali, Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr (which at the time fell near Christmas), Chinese New Year, Kwanza, Hanukkah, and various incarnations of Christmas. The parties often included songs, games, or crafts from different cultures. Children were invited to talk about their own celebrations.
Our federal government has demonstrated another model – maintaining Christian traditions, while adding celebrations of other faiths to the calendar. The President still lights the National Christmas Tree, and the White House still boasts the largest wreath in Washington DC. But the President also hosts an annual Ramadan Iftar – the dinner to break fast. During Hanukkah, the White House displays a Menorah and hosts lighting ceremonies. He sends greetings to the Chinese community on Chinese New Year, and the African American community on Kwanza.
That is the way government celebrations should be handled – with acknowledgement of the diversity that makes this country vibrant, and with respect for the principle that the government should not prefer one religion over another. Whether it is in one unified celebration that incorporates aspects of many faiths, or in a multiplication of celebrations doesn’t really matter so long as it is a substantive move towards inclusiveness. Lip-service – coming up with feel-good names that fool nobody, and don’t please anybody – simply isn’t good enough.