An Ottawa school recently decided to cancel a Christmas concert in favour of a "non-denominational" February Fest, much to the chagrin of many at the school community. The intent behind the decision was "inclusiveness" for certain minority cultures. A craft night will now replace what could have been a beautiful display of the magnificently joyous sounds and sights of Christmas. Principal Mhairi Rowland of Cambridge Public School, Ottawa explained her decision in the following words:
"As our school community continues to grow, we welcome more families who do not celebrate Christmas. It is our belief that these students deserve the opportunity to take part in the concert experience too."
Lovely sentiments, but do members of various minority faith communities even want a concert of their own?
One must also ask if choral music is part of the cultural heritage of individuals who celebrate Eid, Diwali or Baisakhi? Choral music is traditionally associated with Christmas, but is it also associated with Eid or Diwali? One would imagine not.
Indeed each religious community has its own distinct style of celebrating its religious holidays. The distinctive feature of Christmas is carol singing and choir music among other festivities. It is therefore surprising that Principal Rowland feels compelled to deliver a concert to those who have no tradition of choral music, while denying the opportunity to those who do.
Furthermore, should accommodation of whatever constitutes as non-denominational mean the obliteration of Christian culture? Why can't "inclusiveness" also include Christmas, which signifies peace to all anyway?
Both Christian and non-Christian Canadians welcome the Christmas season each year.
Many secular Canadians and non-believing Christians also celebrate Christmas as part of our Canadian heritage. Non-Christian Canadians know that goodwill is universal, that the spirit of charity and accommodation that pervades Christmas extends far beyond Christian communities. A Christmas concert is simply a beautiful reflection of that ebullient generosity. And while the singing may contain some religious content, songs like "Let It Snow" or "Jingle Bell Rock" can hardly be seen as offending the religious sentiments of minority groups.
Moreover, no one is ever barred from or forced into participating in Christmas festivities or music-making. Cambridge Public School has a small minority of students who do not celebrate Christmas. It seems grossly unfair to deny the majority the right to celebrate its religious and cultural heritage because of a few who don't. Perhaps the minority students can be compensated for their understanding and patience in other ways, but let the school revise its decision of cancelling the concert.
Let Christmas roll! It is truly "the most wonderful time of the year."