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Reflecting on inclusivity this past Holiday season

We should strive to represent all holidays

After months of anticipation then only two short weeks of vacation, the holiday season is over at last. Snow continues to fall — as does the temperature — and classes resume as usual. We have successfully survived another round of capitalism via religious holiday, and we have a brief respite until it comes around again. However, as people pack up the last of their Christmas decorations and say goodbye to the holidays for the better part of a year, now is a great time to think critically about our holiday practices and improve upon them for next winter.

On what date does Christmas fall? This question is easy, even for people who don’t celebrate the holiday. How about all the other December holidays? Believe it or not, Christmas is not the only holiday celebrated in December. In fact, December holds many holidays that are rarely recognized by the American media or people at large. On Dec. 8, Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day, or Rohatsu, in remembrance of the date on which Buddha achieved enlightenment. Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, an eight-day observance with varying dates — in 2015 it started on Dec. 6 and ended Dec. 14; this year it will start on Dec. 24 and end on Jan. 1. Muslim people celebrate Id al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, in the twelfth lunar month of the Islamic year. Kwanzaa, while not inherently religious, is a weeklong holiday when African people celebrate their heritage, beginning Dec. 26. Meanwhile, Wiccans, Pagans and some atheists recognize the Winter Solstice as a holiday. Nearly everybody knows when Christmas is, but few people (outside of those who celebrate the holiday themselves) have even the slightest clue as to when these other holidays take place.

It isn’t necessarily your fault if you have no idea what Kwanzaa is, because in America we are raised to worry only about appeasing the big man in red who sees us when we’re sleeping, in hopes that we don’t receive unsustainable, environmentally unfriendly forms of energy in our stockings. The moment snow begins to fall, American pop culture revolves almost exclusively around Christmas. When homeowners decorate their property, the adornments are Christmas decorations. When seasonal music comes on the radio, it is Christmas music. Colored bulbs of electricity are Christmas lights, evergreens are Christmas trees, gifts are Christmas presents and academic recesses are Christmas breaks. In a country based on the right of religious freedom, it seems as though Christmas is the only widely recognized holiday.

Of course, the reason Christmas is paramount in America — besides the easy marketing and cheap capitalism — is because Christianity is the most recognized religion in the world, with about 2.1 billion followers. With as many followers as Christianity has, Christians are an easy target for businesses around the holiday season. Because the Christmas market is so lucrative, everything has become marketed as having to do with Christmas, when in reality very little of it is religious. In fact, one might argue that Christmas has become distorted by capitalism over the years, and that now it is only a semblance of a religious holiday. Having grown up without religion but with immense Christmas spirit, I can confirm this belief. There is even a movement to change the name to Krismas, celebrating Kris Kringle and his presents, thus removing all religious elements of the holiday. The idea would be more compelling if Christmas weren’t already basically devoid of religion.

Because of its transformation from a religious day to a simple holiday, it is possible that the American focus on Christmas isn’t very offensive to people of other faiths. Millions of people in the United States celebrate Christmas, regardless of their religion or lack thereof. Additionally, many people who do not celebrate Christmas are not intimidated or offended by it. Overall, Christmas seems harmless to the majority of people in the United States. It is not the majority, however, to whom the rest of world must cater. If even one in a hundred people is offended by the commonality of Christmas, then something needs to change.

Let’s hear more multicultural music on the radio. Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song is wonderful, but it doesn’t seriously address Jewish culture. More than satire, we need music that accurately represents religions other than Christianity. Let’s see the lighting of a giant national Menorah in New York City, right alongside the national Christmas tree. We can recognize more than just one religion in Times Square. Let’s let Santas who aren’t white infiltrate malls and spread holiday cheer. Let’s say, “Happy Holidays,” because it’s easy and inclusive. Let’s make the holiday season for everybody, not just Christians. It may not seem important, but it is — now more than ever.

Never have we needed religious equality more than now. With an entire religion facing a brand of persecution that hasn’t been seen since World War II, it is crucial that we immediately acknowledge the role our religion or lack thereof has — not only in our lives, but also in the lives of everyone around us. The role of religion can be monumental in one’s own life, but the moment it begins to affect others, it becomes an object of oppression instead of one of fulfillment. At this point, it is no longer OK. These changes won’t take effect this year, or even next year for that matter. That’s why it’s important that we start somewhere, and with the new year, now may be the best time to do so. Whether or not you have been successful in keeping your new year’s resolution, or even if you didn’t bother making one to begin with, it’s not too late to commit to a better tomorrow. With hearts full of acceptance and warm wishes for all, let our combined new year’s resolution be to work so people of any nationality, religion, and background may feel included in the most wonderful time of the year. Let’s be sure that all people are able to have Happy Holidays.

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