When I was in grade 1 in the United States, our school avoided teaching students about Christmas, for fear of alienating non-Christian students who didn’t feel a part of the celebration.
In an effort to promote “inclusivity,” the school tried to teach kids about other religions’ holidays, and even invited my mom to speak to my class about Hanukkah. Christmas wasn’t mentioned in class once, and the school didn’t even have a Christmas tree; I guess they figured that everyone knew what Christmas was and it didn’t need to be said, but if someone unfamiliar with this Christian celebration had shown up at the school and seen the Menorahs and Hanukkah posters everywhere, they would have been absolutely sure that the Jewish community in Ithaca, New York, was so large that they had entirely taken over a public school. In reality, there were two of us in a class of 35. While the school was trying to be inclusive, in practice it did nothing but patronize other cultures and religions.
The harder people try to acknowledge other religions and other cultures, the more it’s possible to alienate people of that very culture. It’s important to be inclusive; if the goal is to make everyone feel welcome no matter what their background, then keeping awareness of the fact that not everyone may celebrate the same things as you, or face the same struggles, is absolutely necessary to that goal. If you take it to the point at which you’re idolizing another culture or raising them above your own, though, then you’re no longer helping.
I remember a few years ago, I was with a few friends at a game shop, and I was talking to my friends about one game that I wanted to buy but couldn’t, because I didn’t have the money. One of my friends perked up at the comment immediately. He hesitated for a second, then grabbed the game and went straight to the counter and paid. He then turned around, gave the game to me, and simply said: “Merry Christmas, Sheffi.”
There was no religious implication to that action. There was nothing patronizing.
The spirit of giving, the feeling of holiday cheer, is one everyone can appreciate, no matter what background they come from. It’s the kind of tradition that isn’t bound by any cultural barriers. Christmas, to me, has nothing to do with Christianity. It barely has anything to do with Santa Clause, either.
Instead, it’s about spending time with friends, and with family, and it’s about gifts and selflessness. You don’t have to be Christian to appreciate that.