When I was a child of 7 or 8 years, our Christian family became very good friends with a Jewish family. Like our family, they had two daughters the exact age as my sister and I. Each year, we helped them celebrate Hanukkah, and they helped us celebrate Christmas. As a result, we all grew up to appreciate what other religions have to offer and what they had in common: Love.
Our family later moved to Salt Lake City. Now there is a city that knows how to celebrate Christmas! The whole downtown area became a twinkling tribute to the season. At the time, I belonged to two choirs. One group was through Job’s Daughters, the other through my junior high and high school. Each year, our “jobies” group would put on a Christmas concert at several local rest homes, and carol down the halls of Shriner’s hospital. My high school choral group performed for local Mormon churches every Sunday from Thanksgiving to the weekend before Christmas. While I was not Mormon, I took no offense at singing in a Mormon house of God.
Not far from our home, residents of a dead-end street made their street into “Christmas Street.” Each home on the street decorated with merry twinkling lights and a colorful Merry Christmas and happy new year picture book page featuring a page from the story of the birth of Christ. Now that I live in the Northwest and given how these two religions are viewed today, I wonder if this little street still hosts this tradition.
No more do we hear “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah!” In today’s world, store clerks instead say, “happy holidays!” I once told a clerk she was more than welcome to say “Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.” She sadly smiled and said, “that’s against store policy.”
My junior high school put on a Christmas Concert every year, singing both religious and non-religious songs of the season. Today’s schools call it a “winter festival” or “holiday concert.” They no longer perform traditional songs, such as “The First Noel,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” or “O Come Emmanuel.” Instead it is religious free songs of winter wonderlands, and only if the schools even have a music program any longer. School choirs should be free to perform traditional songs without fear of reprisal. People can choose not to attend a Christmas concert or request their child not be taught Christmas songs, though in doing so a parent is teaching their child intolerance. Those of us who enjoy the traditional songs want to hear them sung by the children we so love.