Religious/Secular holidays in America (mostly Christmas, split from the Columbus Day thread)

In prep for lesson planning for the next few weeks, I ran across an article, Problems with Christmas Curriculum. Worth a read in the context of this thread.

Note that the article was written in the mid-eighties, but I don’t know that practices have changed that much in the US since then.

I still see a pretty strong mixture of religious, commercial, and cultural traditions. Our town held its official Christmas parade last weekend, and the public high school’s marching band played “Joy To the World” in the parade, and Wells Fargo brought their Sleigh-and-Horses float through, as did the local credit union, and churches participated with children dressed as they’d dress in a nativity play.

I don’t know what the rules are for the marching band: are they required to participate in the event? Do (for example) Jewish kids who opt out get ostracized?

All I know is that as a teacher I don’t feel at all comfortable including religious pieces in my classroom practice, and about as close as I feel comfortable getting to Christmas celebrations in the classroom is teaching kids to make 3D snowflakes out of paper, which IMO is far enough removed from Christmas as to be acceptable, in a way that Elf on a Shelf isn’t.

Instrumental version, I assume? Which makes me wonder: is it “religious” to play the tune, but not the words, to a religious song? Even if (as in the case of “Joy To The World”) the words and the music were originally written separately?

Are instrumental versions of religious carols an apt symbol or metaphor for celebrations of Christmas with the explicitly religious elements left out?

Instrumental–and yes, absolutely it’s religious. It’d be very very odd if they played this arrangement at a Fourth of July event, right? It’s clearly a Christmas song, even instrumentally; and the reason it’s a Christmas song is that it’s explicitly about the birth of the messiah. Unless someone is entirely unfamiliar with it, hearing the first eight notes is highly likely to make a listener think about the religious aspects of the holiday.

It’s also a lovely tune that’s dead easy to play: major key, lots of simple rising and descending scales, just barely enough rhythmic variation to distinguish it from a metronome, but not enough to trip up a novice musician. I’m sure it was chosen for these qualities more than for its religious implications. At the same time, it was chosen for this parade instead of for the football homecoming game for a reason, and we should acknowledge that its religious aspects are not easily dismissed.

My guess is that things have changed, but as a child, I had to sing Christmas carols (both secular and religious) in elementary school music class. I asked the teacher if she could include a Hannukah song and she said, “no. They are all ugly”. My girl scout troop also visited local nursing homes and sang Christmas carols for the residents. I suppose I could have skipped that, but yes, I would have been ostracized for it. I compromised by mumbling over words that I felt it was inappropriate for me to sing. So I sang, “Joy to the world, the hmmm, hmmm, hmmm, let earth receive mmm hmmm”.

Oh, I so relate to this, I did the same thing as a kid. Even with non-Christmas songs. “And the three men I admire most, mmm hmm mmm hmm and hmm mmm mmm, they caught the last train for the coast…”

The only lyrics I ever memorized were about killing Barney the Dinosaur. That will forever be what I think of first when hearing the melody. Next I might think of the Miracle on 34th street.

(I never did caroling)

That being said, in the back of my head, the trivia section, I know well and good the song is about Christ. (I had previously written “the birth of Christ” but I’m not actually sure if it’s about birth or the coming of Christ or what)


He did not do that. He was making a general observation about celebrants in general, no one in specific.

I am surprised how many posters here, many of whom appear to be atheists or non-celebrants are close friends with so many Evangelistic, Fundamentalist, or devout Christians.

I have no such close friends, myself. From my past I know of one family who is Methodist. They make a point of going to church on Easter and Christmas, but not very often otherwise. The homemaker Mom is active in Church extracurricular activities. They say Grace for Christmas Dinner. They have Santa, Frosty, Yule logs, Tree, lights and decorations outside etc- all the secular trappings. I would say, that despite the fact that they do go to Church, the totality of their celebration is far and away mostly secular. Other than my Pagan and Jewish friends, that is about as religious of a holiday as anyone I know. And even the pagan and Jewish families have a secular Christmas.

I’m surprised at the extent to which people who are not devout members of non-Christian isolationist groups don’t know any people well who are devout Christians. I’m not clear how, in the USA, one avoids knowing such people. Apparently however it is possible.

I’m not - unless you’re restricting “Evangelistic, Fundamentalist, or devout Christians” to specifically mean those who don’t associate with atheists or Christians who don’t meet their standards regarding devoutness. Everyone’s experiences are different - I don’t know a single Jewish family that has a secular Christmas. The closest it gets is that the Christian -Jewish interfaith couples I know celebrate Christmas with varying levels of religiosity on the part of the Christian partner.

Or work with them, are neighbors* etc.

*One of my neighbors has a lovely Christian homily emblazoned on a driveway pillar but also goes semi-nuts with Xmas lights beginning well before Thanksgiving (the one on the roof is reminiscent of the closing credits on Rocky & Bullwinkle). She might take issue with the idea that her holiday celebration is “overwhelmingly” secular.
**she evidently believes that Jesus is keeping her safe from Covid-19, but I don’t mind that so much, as long as she stays downwind.

Band director: “O’Reilly, Perez, Dombrowski - I want you to play ‘What Child Is This’. Levine, Al-Mansour, Singh - you play ‘Greensleeves’.”

Yeah, that doesn’t really work.

In my Elementary school, we ALL sang Dreidel, Dreidel, dreidel, and made one out of Play-doh. We all sang Christmas carols. We all made a serape and danced the Mexican hat dance, etc. Of course we spent a lot more time on Christmas than on Hanukkah , but we all participated. This was during the 1950’s.

Yeah, we all have different lived experiences. Honestly, in my kids’ school they didn’t do anything religious until high school. The elementary school kids made snowflakes to celebrate winter.

To be honest, Dreidel, Dreidel, dreidel, and the carols we sang were not overtly religious, but more “cultural”. LAUSD.

Whereas I sang “Oh little town of Bethlehem”, “Silent Night”, and “Joy to the World”.

I will concur, those are pretty darn Christian.

We sang Jingle Bells.

Christians got the carols, non-christians have the pop songs.

Christians have Bethlehem, baby Jesus, the manager and the star, non-Christians have the Christmas tree, yule log, tinsel, 25th December, mistletoe, ginberbread houses, holly, ivy and robins in the snow.

Christians took the winter holiday/feast and turned it into Christmas day.
Non-christian took St Nicolas and gave him a red coat, white beard and a ho-ho-ho.

Non-christians gave us Turkey, stuffing, mince pies, egg-nog, Christmas crackers, Christmas pudding,

But Christians got the name.

No, Christians did all those things. Do you really think that just because Santa Claus isn’t in itself a religious symbol that thus means he wasn’t invented by Christians?

I’ll give you robins in the snow, that’s pretty neutral. Turkey is a fine meal and pretty unbiased as well. All the rest are Christian, sorry.

I think all the foods are pretty neutral.

And some of the aggressively secular “Christmas songs” were written by Jews. Jews living in Christendom, of course. But i wonder if their not being Christian contributed to the secularity of the songs. For example:

Santa and the tree are Christian, though