Re: Xmas trees in Cohousing
From: Rebecca Dawn Kaplan (rebeccapsyche.mit.edu)
Date: Tue, 14 Feb 95 10:03 CST
Arne feels that those who are offended by government-sanctioned
celebration of Christmas need to "lighten up".  This sounds like
a convenient call for the perpetuation of the status quo, so
that the "oppressed" majority won't have to be bothered to 
think about anyone else. 
The example of the schools which do not allow the "c-word"
is not quite true. It is not that people are not allowed
to *say* the word Christmas, it is that they are not allowed
to refer to winter break as "christmas holidays". Actually,
I agree with Arne, they should call the break Christmas, 
because it *is*, and that is my whole point. Public
schools, and almost all employers, give people Christmas off.
NOT hanukah, NOT kawanza, NOT ramadan, NOT yom kippur, but
Christmas is the holiday for which everyone is given a vacation.
The fact that the school might hold an in-school menhorah
or kawanza-log lighting doesn't even come close to 
equalling the systematic preference given to christia 
students in the form of having their holiday off 
from school. (Though i would be perfectly willlijng 
to agree that  a public school shouldn't be
celebrating other holidays either, and besides, 
they are probably doing it wrong. How would one
hold a yom kippur service in schoo anyway?)

The reason schools don't refer to the break as "christmas"
does not help students of minority religions, it only
allows christians to avoid the guilt over having
their holiday officially sanctioned. I suspect that the
schools think that by demanding that people refer to 
it as Winter Break, then no one will notice 
that it mysteriously always happens to coincide
with christmas. 

Arne feels that he shouldn't have to give up the celebrations
of "his culture" so that others won't feel bad, especially
since celebrations of minority cultures are being
encuraged. Thanks for saying this. This sounds like
an acknowledgment that Christmas is a cleebration
from *your* culture, not some universal celebration.
After all, if it were merely a culturally-neutral 
homage to capitalism, then whywould anyone here
want so badly to celebrate it publicly i n
their cohousing group?

I think a lot of this comes down to a question of how
decisions should be made in cohousing with regard to 
minority interests. Do we simply use majority-rule?
Do we say that every groups traditions are
equally wqelcome? What if i want to celebrate a
wiccan tradition that involves a nude physical
ritual of saturnalia? Would this be welcome 
in the common house?

This question of cultural dominance is not
merely theoretical. I and many others have 
ancestors who were beaten or killed for 
refusing to celebrate christmas. Ignoring 
power differentials, and asserting that Christianity
is being suppressed, while it still retains so 
much social support, is dishonest and will
not help create more genuinely 
multiculturally-supportive communities.

I am willing to defend the right of anyone, christians 
included, to celebrate their traditions. It is easier
to do so when the people demanding their rights 
are willing to acknowlegde that it *is* their traditions
that they are trying to defend.  If christmas
were a culturally-neutral universal, we would not
even be having this discussion, because
theyre would be no one around to disagree.

-rebecca

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