There’s not much I remember of my time in public school, especially in the elementary grades. I wasn’t a good student and was an exceptionally poor reader so I mostly remember being one of the “slow” students. But one thing I fondly remember is the celebrations we had at Christmas. We would gather around the [...]ld gather around the Christmas tree in front of the school and we sang Christmas carols. This was done in the evening and parents came and participated. Afterward we all went to our rooms and had snacks. During the day, when class was in session, we exchanged gifts. I remember waiting to find out what kind of gift my “secret Santa” would pick out for me. And in one particular year I got a big surprise. More on that later.
Now 55 years later it’s that time of year where public school administrators show that being educated and having common sense are often mutually exclusive. Every Christmas some school superintendent or principal makes a decision about how their school should limit the “celebration” of Christmas I mean the Winter Holiday oops, I mean the Winter Break.
This year the Superintendent of the Fort Worth Public Schools ruled that there would be no signs of Christmas in the schools. No trees, no wreaths, no lights, no gift exchange, and no Santa. Some parents’ thought this was a little extreme so he clarified this by saying what he really meant was that none of this could go on during school. It all had to take place before or after school because during the school hours only educational learning event could take place. I guess that means they don’t have assemblies and all school events during the day since the educational value of an assembly is really pretty low.
I can understand keeping the religious elements of Christmas out of public schools but keeping Santa out—I mean, really? If there was ever any religious connection to Santa Claus it ended in 1890 when James Edgar dressed up a guy in a red suit and plopped him in his Brockton, MA department store. If that wasn’t enough to move Santa from the ranks of Saint Nicholas, then casting Edmund Gwenn as the Macy’s Santa in the movie Miracle on 34th Street certainly made Santa just another marketing effort to sell merchandise.
Santa is no more a religious symbol of Christmas than the Easter Bunny is one for Easter. And I certainly don’t think that having the kids exchange gifts during the school day is something to be prohibited. As I wrote earlier, we always exchange gifts at Christmas. We drew names and it was a challenge to find out who got our name and what they might have wrapped up for us and put under the tree (yes we had a Christmas, I mean Holiday, oops I did it again, Winter Tree). Well, one year I got something completely unexpected. Some little classmate gave me a book of Children’s Bible Stories. I don’t know if she just thought they might change my attitude or if she thought I was destined to the ministry. Either way, if that happened today she would be suspended for giving a Christmas, I mean Holiday, oops Winter Gift and for giving a religious gift at that. I just said, “Thank You.” And now I realize that she must has had a premonition of where I was headed. Merry Christmas.