There is often controversy around the holidays in regard to decorations in schools and other public places. For example, some say that there is a “War on Christmas” because of signs that say HAPPY HOLIDAYS instead of Merry Christmas. On the other side, those who celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa often feel that their beliefs are underrepresented in public areas that are festooned with Christmas’ wreaths and decorations. At Germantown Friends School, the main lobby is decorated with a Christmas tree and multi-colored lights. There is mistletoe hung over the center of the lobby, which most everyone gives a wide birth. Just as an aside, the significance of mistletoe started in pre-Christian Europe in the midst of Norse mythology, where it was used to kill somebody. In the sixteenth century it somehow became a symbol of Christmas and a popular excuse to kiss somebody. Mistletoe is an example of a cultural symbol that doesn’t really have any religious significance, and in the opinion of the editorial staff should not be offensive to anyone. The windows in the lower school building are adorned with hand drawn symbols of many religions. This showcases the school’s attempt to educate and be inclusive to many religions.
All of these decorations beg the question: Is it appropriate to have holiday decorations displayed at Germantown Friends since we have many non-Christian students? And, do such decorations offend minority groups who feel underrepresented? We would argue that as long as a variety of religions and customs are represented these symbols as a group help us to feel excited about the upcoming holidays. Although GFS strives for diversity, we are a Quaker school and as a Christian religion one would expect that you would encounter more Christian decorations than others.
Because of this we believe that holiday decorations do have a place in GFS and serve to help us get into the holiday spirit. The editorial staff believes that as a schoool, GFS respects all student holiday beliefs The festival of lights celebration is a case in point. All students are encouraged to share their family customs and traditions. Therefore, feel free to hang as many wreaths, as much mistletoe and as many holiday decorations as you desire, just keep the kissing to a minimum. Happy Holidays!
~ The Corner Editorial Board 2012-13