The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Return sprinkle of meaning to season

HOLIDAYS in kindergarten were great. They were sponsored by the colors red and green and by the numbers 2 and 5. December was all about making popsicle stick and glitter tree ornaments, exchanging gifts and being blatantly ecstatic that Christmas was approaching whether you celebrated it or not because, hey, Santa was coming to your classroom and you were getting a new coloring book.

But by the time I got to high school, while there was snow on the ground, it was hard to tell that the holidays were approaching. The walls were bare of the tinsel and holly that once graced my elementary school and all that was left was the awkward "Wonder Years" gesture of strategically placed mistletoe in hallway doors and walking by the chuckling boys who waited below.

Few people wore red in anticipation of the upcoming break, and no one mentioned specific holidays, carefully wording their regards as "Seasons Greetings," as if Christmas and Hanukkah were spelled with four letters.

What happened to the bold and cheesy excitement that once made December so exciting? Who put the damper on Christmas parties and dreidel-making? And most importantly, where did all those little sugar cookies with sprinkles on them disappear to?

I have trudged up the educational ladder sadly because I know holidays become more and more detached from the school setting as you get older. Now that I'm in college I've almost forgotten that they exist. Scared to offend the politically correct teenagers bred in the 1990s, school administrations have nixed faith from their winter agendas, determined to create a vague and nondenominational "Happy Holiday." In order to do this, along the way from kindergarten to college, popular holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah evolved from the icons of Santa and menorahs to abstract hall displays celebrating "the diversity of the festive spirit," and diverting attention from the original intent of these religious holidays.

But there is such a thing as too much political correctness. The specific images that once made holidays so endearing have become lost as the season is generalized to cater everyone. Gone are the dreidels, wreaths and Yule logs that once made school so festive, and in turn, the rich and distinctive tradition behind each icon is lost as well. Even holidays like Kwanzaa, which isn't even celebrated enough to warrant the amount of attention it receives, have stopped being acknowledged at school.

Desperate to appease all students, the melting pot on which America prides itself stops being celebrated. If diversity is so important, especially in schools, then why highlight what makes each holiday similar rather than what makes them different and unique? It's almost as if schools are appealing to their diverse student bodies by pretending that they aren't diverse at all.

I have never been offended that we have a break during the winter months, recognizing that America, as diverse as

it is, is Christian by majority. And although my family is Hindu, we have always celebrated Christmas in the festive sense, happily putting up a tree and squeaking out carols through our tightly bundled up hooded jackets in the station wagon each year. When I was 10 years old, we even attended midnight mass at the local church. Although this caused great confusion among my friends, who were convinced that my family had converted to Christianity, we simply went to understand the religion behind the holiday we embraced so readily.

It's disheartening to see that schools have tossed these icons because it means they have dismissed the culture behind each one as well. Instead, it would be nice if schools would re-embrace the originality and depth that lies behind the holiday season. Start by putting up Christmas trees and lighting nine candles on a menorah. And what the heck. Begin handing out those little sugar cookies again. It certainly doesn't offend me. We should bring back these diverse traditions because it reminds us again that these holidays mean much more than a generic "Season's Greetings."

(Diya Gullapalli's column usually appears Wednesdays in The Cavalier Daily.)


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