Christmas has appeared on the Henrico County (Virginia) Calendar. Henrico (Virginia) County School Board recently announced calendar changes for the next school year. They will preserve the two-week Winter Holiday but will rearrange teacher workdays so that they can give school holidays for Hanukkah, Eid and Diwali. According to an email sent to all parents of Henrico students on December 13th, the calendar gives “more opportunities to observe religious holidays in an increasingly diversifying community”. On the 2018-19 and 2019-20 calendars the period of vacation that spans Christmas and New Year is described as “Winter Break” [i] [ii], yet the newly published 2020-21 calendar in addition to referencing the festivals of other religions refers to the same break as “Winter Break (includes Christmas….)” [iii]
Prior to recognizing these other festivals, Christmas was not recognized on the calendar. Now, while other festivals are recognized, Christmas becomes parenthetical. I was one who registered my disapproval of the new calendar stating that if the calendar previously did not recognize a religious holiday there was no reason why suddenly it now should. But we live in an increasingly multi-cultural society, so apparently we should therefore respect the religious sensibilities of others.
As the years go by our public media culture moves farther and farther away from referencing Christmas. More and more so-called Christmas music bears no reference to the real meaning of Christmas and public symbols are marginalized.
I was recently in the United Kingdom. Driving on December 1st listening to the radio a presenter reminded me that it was the first Sunday of Advent. Although the programing was in no way religious, I looked forward to how he would explain the reason for Advent. He proceeded to invite people to call in and share their special experiences of opening a window of an Advent Calendar. I listened as a small child called in to talk of the candy he found in a box behind the door, while an elderly lady spoke of the love letters that her husband had hidden for each day of December. Nowhere was there even a hint of reference to the Advent of a coming King.
During the same visit I stayed in a hotel outside Heathrow airport on my final evening. Walking through the foyer my eyes were caught by the glitter and tinsel of a little star covered model barn. Momentarily I thought I was seeing a traditional nativity scene until I realized that St. Nick was standing outside the barn with a few of his reindeer.
In a world that increasingly wants to write the Christ out of Christmas, I guess I am just going to ignore CHRISTMAS and enjoy celebrating the birth of the King who is transforming the world.