Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Return of the Spawn of the Revenge of Bah Humbug!

Ah, 'tis the season, once again. Carollers caroling, lights twinkling, sleighbells ringing. Me grousing. Gah.

I know, I know, for the last three years I've been through various permutations of this one. And this year I was really, truly going to give it a rest. And I may yet, in real life. The Mermaid Girl is old enough that I'm not so worried about her fragile little identity (hah! like her identity could ever have been called fragile in any way, even when she was an infant! But you know what I mean), and me being upset about it seems to distress her way more than whatever Christmas-related outreach prompts the upset in the first place, and her teacher's so low-key that I wasn't too worked up about a big Santastravaganza in the classroom this year.

Actually, I brought up the whole December Dilemma at the parent meeting at the beginning of the year, and the teacher was like, Meh, I don't do too much fuss about any of the holidays, they get enough of that crap everywhere else and we have a lot of work to do. So, hey, fine, works for me!

And as for the Christmas Music Everywhere Already and things like the Holiday Party at Work Being Called Just a Christmas Party, No Bones About It-- meh. Again, hard to get worked up. I had really decided to just go with the flow this time around, not get all pissed off, it drives MG and the Renaissance Woman nuts when I do, anyway.

My only dilemma as of this morning--I was going to post about it, actually--was whether it's worth it to put together some kind of song and dance about Chanukah for MG's class. As she and her classmates get older-- she's in a Grade 3/Grade 4 split this year--it feels less relevant, and harder to put together something interesting and age-appropriate. I asked MG what she thought, and she said, kind of wearily, "Well, you can if you want to." So, I don't know.

But! Then MG had to go and get herself accepted into the Special Choir at the very last cutoff before it was too late (apparently she was absent during the first announcement of the choir, back in October or so, so she never signed up till now). Oh boy! The Special Choir is going to do Special Songs at the Christmas (I know, I know) Show! And they're going to sing at the mall! And she really, really wanted to do it! And so RW wrote a note begging the music and dance teacher to let her in late, and the teacher did, and now MG is part of the choir, and her first rehearsal was today, and she brought home the song sheets so she can practice lots and make up for starting late.

So, hey! Fine! Jingle Bells, whatever! Deck the Halls! You're a Mean One, Mr, Grinch, swell!

But...and probably you saw this coming...what's with "Silent Night"? With the second verse, and everything, about how Christ Our Savior is Born? And "Away in a Manger"?!?


I know MG will HATE it if I make a fuss, or even if I talk about it with her. She hates to be different, she would hate to not sing the songs. And it doesn't seem like the height of tact or consideration to ask special permission for our kid to join the choir late and then turn around and object to the set list the next day. And I get that this choir is an optional activity, not a required part of the school curriculum But I hate, hate, hate that they're singing unabashedly religious hymns as part of a school program.

Also, it's stupid. MG might be the only Jewish kid at the school, but she's far from the only non-Christian.

I'm even ambivalent about blogging this. In the past, when I've complained to friends and even some family about Christmas celebrations at MG's school, I've encountered blank looks of incomprehension and also well-meaning but often patronizing explanations on why I really shouldn't be upset about it, from surprising quarters.

I mean, I guess people really, really, really love their Christmas, and it Upsets them when someone questions any aspect of it. Okay. Fine. What the fuck ever.

It just makes me tired. I don't even want to talk about it with anyone, and I really don't want to argue about it with anyone or pull it together to explain myself.

So I am going to let her sing the fricking songs, and I am not going to make a big deal out of it, and I am not going to complain to the music teacher or the principal or even to RW. I've complained here, and that's it. I'm done. The end.

On the bright side:

Blog fodder!


Blogger elswhere said...

Oh, dear. looking again at this post from the vantage point of a couple hours later, I feel like I should make the point that none of YOU, dear regular readers and commenters, have been among the patronizing explainers. In fact, when I went back to find my old Bah Humbug posts so I could link to them, I was very moved by everyone's cheering and supportive words from back then. So, thanks, much belatedly.

10:44 PM  
Anonymous MonkeyPants said...

When I was forced to prance about on stage for parental photo ops or special occasions, I would secretly sing my own made-up words to their songs.

Would you like me to write some Jewish-specific ones to suggest to MG?

11:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, the good news is that she's in the special choir, and that's fabulous. as a former school music teacher, i do know that it's hard to find choral music for december that's not crap and also not christmas (which is why i eventually dropped the "holiday concert" in favor of a february one the following year...there are only so many songs about snow that one can tolerate.)

but's not appropriate for a public school. my advice, for what it's worth, is to do as you've suggested---suck it up for this season, since you begged in (and since it takes so long to find music and get the kids prepared)--but meet with the music teacher in january to talk about ways that next year can be either secular or balanced. i don't think you should just let it go. if i were that choir director (and i very well could have been 15 years ago), i would have wanted to know. (but i probably would have cried if i heard about it in november, to be honest)

i wonder if mg would be up for inviting a few of her closest buds over to your house for a little hanukah party? instead of trying to train the whole class, she might be up for getting just a few friends to understand that this is the holiday she (mainly) celebrates in the winter. i know hanukah is not as amenable to parties as some holidays, but it might work.

when i was in 7th grade a jewish girl moved to town (yes, that's true-ONE Jewish girl moved to the town where I thought i was the religious outcast for not being catholic or lutheran). we became buddies, and her mom did that: had us over for dinner one night during hanukah--i think just 3 of us. we did the chocolate coins and the dreidel games with her little brothers and ate yummy food. i don't know if her mom planned it that way or if she just wanted karen to have a little something to make up for the christmas parties she would not be attending, but the little group of people became the non-christmas advocates after that--and karen didn't have to.

6:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, yeah, sorry about that novel I just posted.

6:21 AM  
Anonymous rachel said...

I was bracing myself for the Christmas Crush at school, but so far our school, at least, seems to call the December assembly "Winter Festival". So it seems to be specific to each school, and not to Canada generally.

Which probably doesn't make you feel any better.

I think you should do something Chanukah for her class or the school. I know it takes energy, and energy is hard to come by in November. But it's a service (a mitzvah? Is that correct use of the word?) to those kids, even the Christian ones, to have even a small voice of unhomogenized difference in there. Every reminder that they're not the only people in the world is a good reminder.

For my own part, I'm going to see whether I can get into Byron's class to read them the story of Persephone. And I know Persephone is not as emotionally charged for me, so it doesn't take as much energy, but it's still important!

6:40 AM  
Anonymous Fluprosis said...

In my district, right wing nut jobs (part of this cult of freaks also known as "Republicans") sued the school for having a non-christmas themed Holiday Chorus, arguing that it was biased against Christians. The goyim somehow think that it is their right to christianize society as much as possible, and to convince everyone that this is normal. It drives me nuts, but I do get some comfort from the fact that, because we control the banks, we can deny these people a mortgage or at least raise their rates when we get a chance.

7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, don’t think because you’re Jewish that you’re the only one who hates Christmas. Just imagine the pressure of having been raised Roman Catholic in a family that is Italian (on one side) and Czech and Irish (on the other side). I mean, these people are still pretty close to their European roots and take Christmas seriously. If you’re not in the spirit and don’t want to spend endless hours with them for days and days around the holiday, if you don’t want to drop all of your disposal income for the last six months on presents, and if you don’t want to go to Midnight Mass because you’ve been an atheist since, um, high school, well ... whatever you imagine cannot be worse than “celebrating” Christmas as an atheist among Catholics. Be happy that you are a Jew and you don’t get the guilt involved with all the Christmas stuff. Srsly.

But do indulge yourself in the only part of Christmas that’s really, really fun -- the food. I like the food. Even though I am called upon to make much of the food, I still like the food.


7:44 AM  
Anonymous Pronoia said...

This pagan is with you, sister. I'm already going around singing "it's beginning to look a lot like a-holiday-I-don't-CELE-brate." Sigh.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Pamelamama said...

As soon as the slightest hint of "winter holiday" shows up on the scene, I begin my ironic and relentless humming of "Sleigh Ride" Somehow it makes me feel better.

do,do,do, do-doot do-do-do, doot, doot do-do-do, doooooo.
do, do, do, doot-doot-doodle-oot, a-doot doot doodle-oot dooooo.

Yeah, I'm sure that made a lot of sense to you. I am an excellent music transcriptionist. My BFF has promised me a cd with 100 different versions of this song, from reggae to a capella. Nothing makes you feel better than snooty elitist irony -- well, that's what works for me, anyway.

I think I'm supposed to be teaching children right now...

9:28 AM  
Blogger Pamelamama said...

Forgot to say, I usually change the verse to:

come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with JEWS!

9:34 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I have been following this thread with interest. I work as a woman cantor and am a product of the public Canadian schools of which you speak. So it follows, that I too sang all of those "wonderful" carols as part of numerous December pageants when I was growing up in the 70s. I do agree that it is inappropriate for any public school to be singing religious hymns as part of their program, but I am on the fence about the solution. I would hesitate to recommend the "throw in a Channukah song" solution, because in my opinion it is silly to equate the 2 holidays simply because they both fall in December. Channukah is actually a minor festival on the Jewish calendar that has been conscripted into our "Christmas" out of some misstated need for inclusiveness.

In our multi-cultural society, we non-Christians simply cannot avoid the celebrations, but we should not be made to observe them either. It might serve you better to keep the discussions internal within the family and make certain that MG fully understands what she is singing and what the implications are to your faith and observance of it. Good luck with the struggle. Believe me-it is endless.

10:07 AM  
Blogger liz said...

I think it'd be great if you could go in to MG's class and talk about Chanukah with them.

And I think talking in January with the chorus director about maybe including BNL's Festival of Lights song would be cool.

After all, Chanukah is intended to be a very public holiday. You're supposed to make sure your menorah can be seen from outside your house.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shades of "The Loudest Voice."

10:39 AM  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

I have nothing profound to add. But we've just received the December calendar for BB's self-described secular preschool -- it's at a UCC church. A week on Hanukkah, a week on Kwanzaa, a week on Christmas. Oh, sure, equally weighted and all that. But I don't think any of the Christian kids will have any issues of faith after a make-a-dreidel activity. My Jewish kid, after the significance-of-the-nativity-scene activity? I dunno. And I'm not planning to find out. I think I'll keep her home that day. Sigh.

10:57 AM  
Blogger dynaknit said...

Jewish here, went to an Episcopalian school, sang the religious Xmas songs and said the Lord Prayer every day and NEVER had a crisis of faith. The pablum my 4th grader will be singing at the Winter Concert is wretched--I wish he was singing real Christmas songs. I am a humbug-er, but only after working retail for 9 years, and really only about presents.

1:01 PM  
Blogger susan said...

This reminds me I should check with the other Jewish parents in CG"s class to see whether they want to do something for Hanukkah for school or not (there are at least 3 Jewish kids in the class, maybe four).

that's all about me, and not much helpful for you. I decided the other day after seeing how much Xmas stuff is already out in stores that I need to basically not go into a store with CG until January.

5:52 PM  
Blogger MexicowithKids said...

Well you know I've always got your back on this subject!
Lots of love and missing you all,

8:20 PM  
Blogger nyjlm said...

I've been asked by two of my dd's former teachers (in addition to this year's teachers) to return to their classrooms to share about Chanukah. Part of me hates it because it sets up this whole Chanukah = weird Jewish Christmas thing in the minds of the kids. However, last year I was really pleased when I went to my son's 3rd grade class, and I am looking forward to going to 4th grade this year. I think as they get older it gets more interesting. I wish I could recall the name of the book I read. It talked about a child in a mostly Christian community and the kids wanted to know why she didn't have a tree, she ended up having a Chanukah party and taught them her traditions. I also read an Eric Kimmel book- The Chanukah Goblin I think?

I feel ok about things going into the holiday season this year. Of course it hasn't started in full just yet. ha ha ha. But my aim in going to their classes is just to even plant the idea that not everyone is the same, not everyone worships or believes the same. In a very homogenous community where many kids grow up learning outdated parental biases, I think it is important and worthwhile. I wasn't sure last year.

5:59 AM  

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