Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly....but not a Christmas Tree?
Updated: Aug 17, 2022
Samantha Staub 21'
Illustrations: Aleksandra Mondrzik, 23'
There has been much controversy over the issue of schools displaying religious symbols during the holidays. Should we be able to create a Christmas tree out of books in the library or should we only hang snowflakes? Is it okay for a teacher to have a menorah in the classroom or should she be limited to decorative snowmen? I thought it would be interesting to learn how our student body feels about this topic. I originally believed this was going to be more cut and dry, where some students would be in favor of holiday decorations while others were against them. However, after asking several students, “Should schools be able to display religious symbols during the holidays?” the most frequent answer I received was, “It depends.”
Here are some of their thoughts:
MADELINE WEEKS: I think that Christmas trees, Santa, Elves, etc. should be fine no matter what. It seems that they are more cultural than religious. Therefore, I do believe schools should be able to display religious symbols during the holidays. I'm not saying they should have to go out of their way to show religious symbols, but if a teacher celebrates a certain religious holiday, I think she should be able to put those decorations up.
CHRISTOPHER JIMENEZ: Lawrence High School, which is a public school, has many people with different views on religion and life. Even though there are people who do have a religion, there are many people who don't, and I believe that should be respected. The students that don't believe might not feel comfortable around that type of environment, and from that moment on, might not be able to focus on the things they're supposed to.
SIMARA RODRIGUEZ: If schools were to display religious symbols during the winter holiday season I believe they should display all of them. For example, have a big poster that says Happy Holidays and put a Christmas tree, a Jewish star, and things like that on it. Never put up just a Christmas tree. If you're going to display a religious symbol you need to display all of them.
LEAH BIMPONG: I think schools should be able to display religious symbols as long as they display symbols from all religions possible. It’s important to recognize all students’ cultures. However, it’s also okay if schools don’t display religious symbols because it can be easier to display decorations that aren’t necessarily religious in order to avoid the controversy that can be caused.
KIRA ENG: I do think schools should be able to display religious symbols during the holidays, as long as the symbols are inclusive of the multiple religions. I think schools shouldn't be able to display religious symbols during the holidays if the school only displays one symbol, such as the Star of David, and nothing else. Schools should be inclusive about decorations considering multiple students celebrate different holidays. Also, a school should be considerate and inclusive of students who don't have religious affiliations and display religiously neutral images, such as snowflakes and tree lights, without an explicit religion tied to them.
LHS students seem to understand both the positive and negative viewpoints in banning religious symbols in school. It seems nearly impossible to display every religious symbol, but at the same time, how can we ban them all? Holidays are supposed to be a cheerful time of year, and displaying religious symbols should add to the fun. However, after speaking with some of my peers, I came to understand that it’s a little more complicated than that.