School tries (and fails) to ban Christmas

Ho ho ho! In Dr Seuss’s book, the Grinch tries to steal Christmas from the inhabitants of Whoville.

Has the meaning of Christmas been lost? Lady Lumley’s School reversed its decision to ban festivities after more than 500 pupils wrote letters arguing that the holiday is still valuable.

“No cards, no parties, no gifts and no Christmas tree.”

This year, teachers at Lady Lumley’s School in North Yorkshire decided that enough is enough.

The true meaning of Christmas has been lost in an “an avalanche of commercialisation,” said RE teacher Chris Paul. Rather than a day of religious celebration and goodwill, the festive season has become “a very stressful, expensive, argumentative and lonely time” for many.

The school announced a ban on all Christmas activities and decorations. That is, unless students could persuade Mrs Paul to reconsider.

“If the arguments are good enough, we might see fairy lights in Lady Lumley’s once more.”

Within days, the school received more than 500 emails and letters. Pupils considered the true meaning of Christmas, the value of tradition and its place in modern society.

Mrs Paul was impressed by “thoughtful” students who made “a strong case”. So impressed, in fact, that Lady Lumley’s School is now once more adorned with baubles, bells and boughs of holly.

Head teacher Richard Bramley insists the challenge was worthwhile.

“Students were asked to challenge the status quo,” he says. In doing so, they learnt how to deal with “the feeling that a decision is unfair” in a constructive way, which could help them to become more active citizens in the future.

The school is far from alone in questioning whether Christmas has shifted from a day to mark the birth of Jesus to a secular celebration of consumerism.

On Black Friday, which marks the first day of the Christmas shopping season, Britons spent an estimated £2.6 billion. For the first time ever, more than half of the UK population now has no religion.

There is even a growing push to interrogate the value of classic Christmas songs. Activists argue that Jingle Bells has racist origins, emerging from minstrel shows in the 1850s, and that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer could normalise bullying.

Has the meaning of Christmas been lost?

Holy night?

Yes, say some. Values like goodwill and selflessness have been hijacked by retailers who want our money — just look at the Coca-Cola and John Lewis adverts. Each year, the decorations go up earlier to get us spending for longer. Most of us aren’t even Christian anymore, so Christmas has become completely detached from its origins.

Don’t be such a grinch, reply others. Christmas values are alive and well in charity appeals, as well as the increased focus on social issues like homelessness and elderly loneliness over the festive period. Besides, this time of year has a unique power to bring families together, and give us time to rest and reflect after a year of hard work.

You Decide

  1. Should non-religious people celebrate Christmas? Why/why not?
  2. Should we do things just because we have always done them?

Activities

  1. Draw and decorate your own Christmas tree! You don’t have to use traditional items like stars or angels if you don’t want to. Use your imagination and invent your own Christmas traditions that mean something to you. For example, the decorations could represent the different parts of the world your family are from, or even your favourite sports team.
  2. Write your own letter about the true meaning of Christmas. Consider the comments from Mrs Paul about the problems with Christmas and the questions raised in You Decide.

Some People Say...

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others.”

Bob Hope

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Lady Lumley’s School, a secondary school in North Yorkshire, has reversed its decision to ban Christmas activities and decorations. It argued that the meaning of Christmas has become lost in an “avalanche of commercialisation”. Students were encouraged to write letters considering the value of Christmas in order to persuade the school to change its mind. They wrote more than 500 letters. The school said that “students who really thought about the situation and challenged the decision appropriately created the change”.
What do we not know?
Whether we will ever be able to truly say that the meaning of Christmas has been lost. Every family or person has a different relationship with the holiday, with people celebrating it in different ways and associating it with different things.

Word Watch

Commercialisation
When something is run for purely financial gain. For example, some people think that shops use Christmas as a tool to make people spend more money. This means that people end up caring more about expensive presents than things like love, charity and fellowship.
Adorned
Added decoration to make something more beautiful.
Secular
Not religious.
Consumerism
A theory that says society encourages people to buy products or goods in ever-greater amounts.
Religion
The 2017 British Social Attitudes Survey found that 53% of all British adults describe themselves as having no religious affiliation, up from 48% in 2015. Only 3% of under-24s identified as Anglican, and 5% as Catholic.
Minstrel shows
Entertainment shows that originated in America during the early 19th century in which white performers often wore black make-up or blackface. This encouraged racist views of black people.
Normalise
Give a false impression that something is normal and acceptable. In the song, “all of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names”.

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