December Dilemma

All I Want for the Holidays… is Pluralism!



When I was in second grade, a classmate’s mother handmade Christmas stockings for every student and hung them on shelves near our desks. There were two stockings too many to fit the shelf space, so they were put up against the wall on the other side of the room, disconnected from the rest of their brethren stockings. And in that little corner of the classroom, next those two lonely stockings, were three sad little Hanukkah bags. To add a level of irony, the school I went to was the American School in Japan. In a country where American Christians are in the minority, it was considered acceptable to sideline my religion.

I recall this memory often this time of year, when the world explodes in holiday cheer, and we all try to draw reasonable and respectful balances between the many expressions of faith and non-faith. This issue, broadly known as the “December Dilemma,” affects children in school, employees at businesses large and small, government functions and daily activities like watching TV (think of how many holiday-themed commercials you’ve seen since Thanksgiving).

As a country dedicated to the separation of church and state and religious pluralism, we often struggle to draw the line between appropriate representations of the majority and the minority. Over the course of the past few weeks, we have been following different efforts to reconcile all of these important questions. If we as a national and international community are committed to celebrating religious freedom and religious pluralism throughout the year, we should amplify that support in the month when it can be hardest, not just the easy eleven.

There is nothing simple or easy about feeling marginalized in political, social, or cultural life because of your religion. Treat others the way you would want to be treated. Elementary school kids learn this lesson, but it is just as relevant no matter what your age may be. And it would have made a world of difference in my second grade classroom.

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Sarah Greenberg

About Sarah Greenberg

Sarah Greenberg is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. She graduated in 2013 from Cornell University, and is originally from New York, NY, where her family is a member of Central Synagogue.

3 Responses to “All I Want for the Holidays… is Pluralism!”

  1. I agree with everything Sarah wrote. However, the “December dilemma” has sort of an odd dimension this year since Hanukkah has been over for 3 weeks – it was barely a December holiday at all this year. As such, references to Hanukkah as one of many December multicultural celebrations seem out of place this year.

    Actually, the “equal time for Hanukkah” concept – like the hanging of those sad little Hanukkah bags next to the Christmas stockings that Sarah writes about – has always bothered me, not because it is often a poor afterthought, but because it perpetuates the false notion among non-Jews that Hanukkah is the “Jewish Christmas”.

    The calendar this year wreaks havoc on the “December holidays” concept as it concerns Hanukkah. While I appreciate the effort of non-Jews to be inclusive, the irony is that this year, Hanukkah greetings and decorations in mid to late December, weeks after the holiday, seem ridiculous and indicate more a lack of knowledge about that holiday than an embrace of pluralism.

  2. Lynn Magid Lazar

    Great blog. This is so very true. We are losing the ability to understand how someone can feel marginalized.

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