Thursday, December 15, 2011

Merry (Secular) Christmas

France has always touted itself as a secular nation, one in which the State and religion are kept separate. Thus, I was little more than a bit surprised when I walked into my daughters's classroom in early December to find a fully decorated Christmas tree on display. And, not only was her classroom decorated, but the entire school was covered with Christmas decor. Tinsel, garland, ornaments and lights hung from every banister. In addition, the students received a note from le Père Noël promising them something under the (school) tree if they were good. I asked the teacher if it was common practice in France to put up a Christmas tree. She assured me that it was. I then asked if any of the Muslim or Jewish families had any issue with it. "Mais, non," she responded, "why would then?" "Because they are not Christian and Christmas is a Christian holiday." She stared at me for a good five seconds, her brows furrowed, and then said, "Christmas trees are not religious symbols, Madame. And neither is le Père Noël." Turns out, she's right about Christmas trees not being religious symbols (they were actually a pagan ritual that began in Latvia in the 15th century) but Saint Nicholas, a SAINT, not a religous symbol? Now that was a good one. Surprisingly, all the families in my daughter's preschool class participated in the Christmas party and no one objected to Saint Nicholas showing up.

1 comment:

  1. Why should they? Most of my Jewish and Muslim friends all 'celebrate' Christmas one way or another. The the Muslims Jesus is 'Isa' the last 'Great' Prophet before Mohammed. Yup, the celebrate him...