I was looking after my three year-old granddaughter yesterday and we were listening to some Christmas music. We both decided we really liked a piece of music by Peter Combe called ‘So Far Away’ from his album ‘Wake Up It’s Christmas’. There are lots of beautiful tracks on that album but this stood out for both of us. When I checked the lyrics I was moved by the chorus – Peace and goodwill to all people on earth is So far away, so far away.
The song is about the rituals at Christmas time and what they mean. The hope is that one small baby could change human nature so that peace could reign forever more. It may sound like a bit of a cynical piece of music for children that this hope is so far away but they are listening to the music. In that sense it is on two levels. Combe writes – ‘… hope can conquer all your fears and love can wipe away the tears.’ It is a simple message that is actually echoed in all the religions of the world but human nature is as it is.
It is for this reason that I am concerned that our obsession with political correctness in maintaining a secular curriculum with no mention of celebrations like Christmas and Easter at all has become absurd. In the Western world, the dominant religion is Christianity and that underpins the culture, irrespective of how many other minority religions co-exist or how many devout atheists there are. As such, it is relevant to explain to the children (whose parents may well not be of the Christian faith) what these celebrations are all about and why we have national holidays at those times. When not running kidz-fiz-biz, I teach English to foreigners, all of whom want to know about how we celebrate our festivals in Australia and what the customs are. They simply don’t know and are curious because most of them are not of Christian backgrounds. After all, they don’t want to cause offence if invited to a celebration of some kind at someone’s house. They want to know! This is not about proselytising! It is about education. They will still maintain their own religious convictions and celebrate their own religious festivals but they want to know about their adopted country’s rituals. In Australia we have to hide behind political correctness and keep these people in the dark. How absurd!
So, my recommendation is that you avoid proselytising but simply state the facts. In my kidz-fiz-biz classes I would ask the children what they knew about Christmas. They would invariably say it was about Santa and presents and yummy food. When I would ask when else do we have presents and yummy food, they naturally respond that on their birthdays this happens. When I explain that Christmas is a birthday party too, their eyes are wide open. No one has ever told them that before. I explain that a little baby called Jesus was born a long, long time ago and it is His birthday that we celebrate all over the world. ‘He’s famous,’ would often be the response. Well, that’s quite correct. I don’t say any more than that because there is no need. I am not there to proselytise but simply to explain that Christmas is a birthday party. It is up to the parents to explain further if they wish to. To ignore the celebration entirely, however, is wrong in my opinion. It is just as wrong to say Christmas is about Santa bringing presents and leaving it at that.
Let me know your thoughts. Are we going too far when we ignore these religious festivals? After all, isn’t that the thin end of the wedge? If the message of Christmas is much broader in being about peace on earth and goodwill to all men, then why not be reminded of this broader message at least once in a year? I am reminded of the very famous World War I incident in 1914 where both sides lay down their arms on Christmas Eve and into Christmas Day and even exchanged small gifts with the enemy. War was not going to be forever. War was an aberration. That is the basic message of Christmas – peace – irrespective of what faith you have or don’t have. That is a human message and beyond religion. I agree with the notion of keeping public education secular but let’s not go too far. What do you think?