White Christmas

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Best of Publib ChristmasThe Great White Christmas Debate 

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Have a Very Merry Something

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Librarian Debra Hiett queried the Publib List:

My adult planning librarian wants to show  the movie, White Christmas,  pass out lyrics for a sing-a-long, serve eggnog, hot chocolate and snacks. She wasn’t sure if it would be against library protocol, relating to a particular religion. I don’t think  White Christmas  is a religious movie and told her to go for it! (we do have a movie license)

Have any of you been challenged for anything similar to this?

To which the Publib Chorus responds:

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Nann Blaine Hilyard : Deb, I’d be more concerned that you have a public performance license to show the movie (or any movie, for that matter) than about the content – though White Christmas is about the secular holiday rather than the religious one.

Tom Cooper  : White Christmas seems like a pretty secular movie-and the song, unless I’m mistaken, was written by one of our greatest Jewish-American songwriters, Irving Berlin. Kind of a multi-cultural package in itself. I wouldn’t worry about it, but I don’t know your community. 

 James Casey  : And don’t forget that Danny Kaye (Kaminsky) was among the most popular Jewish-American stars of all time.   Although it is considered to be among the most famous Christmas movies, White Christmas is probably as much a Veterans Day film and generally appropriate for the November-December holidays.   The hardened, super slick show business performers show their reverence and appreciation for their old commanding General suffering hard luck after WWII.  There are plenty of unemployed Iraq-Afghanistan war veterans right now who might enjoy such a film where military service is shown affirmation and respect.

Darcey Mesaris  : You do need a license to show White Christmas. I believe that it is covered by MPLC-unfortunately, you can’t purchase a one time license from them, unless that has changed from the last time I checked with them. So, you would need to purchase a one year umbrella license.

Darcey Mesaris  : I work and live in a fairly religious area of the country. We are showing  Miracle on 34th Street ,   The Great Rupert  and  A Christmas Carol , with no objections from the community, at least no known objections at his point. 

Steven M Grochowsky  : So… *each* program held at the library must appeal to everyone?

Mnemosyne

Mnemosyne in Pagan Green

S Epstein   : I cannot speak to your library/regions policies or feelings about programming related to religion.  If you town/board doesn’t mind – it would not seem to be an issue.  That being said, if your town’board is an area that is sensitive to such issues – you should be prepared with a response.

But the real reason I’ve replied here, is that I’ve read the other responses and I am stunned.

White CHRISTMAS is NOT secular!!!!  Christmas is NOT, in any way under any circumstance a secular holiday!  EVER.

As librarians – please, please, please learn and understand this for those who are NOT Christian and do not celebrate Christmas! – Of which there are multiple groups ALL over the country (Muslims, Jews, Pagans, Wiccans.)

Diedre Conkling  : I think that it is not necessary to have every program for every group.  I don’t think that was the point.  I think the point was that Christmas is a Christian holiday.

That is not necessarily a problem.  It use to bug me that everyone seemed to assume that we all celebrate Christmas.  I don’t.  It is not part of my religion.  However, I have become more relaxed on a personal basis and just look at it as a folk or cultural holiday.   I give my friends who do celebrate the season gifts (and I give gifts on the gift giving holy days in my religion) and I eat their goodies. So these days I am less frustrated when everywhere I turn people are wishing me a happy, merry, fun, etc. holiday or Christmas.  Still, it should be recognized that it is a Christian holiday.

S Epstein  : I did not say that.  In fact – I said – check your local policy and do whatever you please :-)

What I am saying is to remember what things are.  Christmas is never secular.  

If we start calling Libraries, bookstores – there will no longer be libraries.  Librarians will be madder than wet cats when a library is called bookstore!  Rightly so – imho. Not all places with books are the same thing.
Not all holidays are secular.

Pamela Johnson  : Christmas is a cultural, rather than a religious, holiday for many, many people. In every public library I’ve worked in, we’ve had a tree and decorations for Christmas. Never once has a non-Christian complained about it. And I worked in one branch with a substantial non-Christian population. The only complaints I’ve had that relate to Christmas come from Christians who are offended because a member of staff wished them Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

 Jesse Ephraim  : 

>Christmas is never secular.

Easter Bunny Day

Easter Bunny Day

Just to be accurate, it is, for many people.  In fact, much of the imagery associated with it is pagan or secular in nature.  The same is true of Easter.  For example, I’m not Christian, but I celebrate  Santa Claus Day  and  Easter Bunny Day.  My home decorations (for both holidays) aren’t religious at all.

How Christmas decorations are viewed by non-Christian patrons is another matter.  I just object to saying that it is NEVER secular.

 >Still, it should be recognized that it is a Christian holiday.

I’m going to play the devil’s advocate here…

Many of the traditions, decorations, and means of celebrating Christmas have pre-Christian origins, and were absorbed into the Christian celebration as a means of making the process of Christianizing pagan cultures.  Some of those things have been absorbed into secular society, now, and have been “reclaimed” by neo-pagans.  The part of Christmas that is primarily Christian is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  The rest of it came later, often from non-Christian or secular traditions.

It is a Christian holiday, but it is also a secular one.

Paula Laurita  : If the neo-Pagans have reclaimed aspects of Christmas, that doesn’t make them secular.  It makes them religious.

My staff is still dealing with the fact that there is no tree until after Thanksgiving, with the understanding it stays up through January 6th.  If we’re going to have a Christmas tree it stays up ALL THROUGH Christmas.  (Insert-evil-Catholic-plotting-to-take-over-the-world-laugh-here)

They now know that if someone mistakenly suggests having a Harvest Festival that I’m going to refuse to get nekkid, paint myself blue, and dance around a bonfire.  I’m not that evil.  They are more than welcome to do so if they can get the permits.

Joanna Price  : Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ- it is not a secular holiday. It can be celebrated in a secular fashion (see: American consumerism), but that does not make it a secular holiday.

Mary Soucie  : Since you have the license, I don’t see it as a problem as long as it fits with your community. We decorate both our libraries with Christmas decorations and do not get complaints. We also decorate for Halloween and Easter and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and Independence Day and….. I do think that you need to match programs to your community and certainly not every program will appeal to all patrons.

You can buy a one-time license through Movie Licensing but if you’re going to show more the 3-4 movies a year, it usually makes sense just to get the annual license.

Christmas is both a Christian and a secular holiday. For Christians, it is certainly a religious holiday. For many non-Christians, it is a secular holiday and they just enjoy the other side of the season- the gift giving, cookie eating, Santa waving fun. For me, Christmas is very much a religious holiday. I have a Jewish friend whose mother-in-law goes all out with the non-secular part of Christmas from a trimming a tree to hanging stockings to Santa images everywhere.

I like Diedre’s attitude of accepting the parts of the season that make sense and not getting upset if someone wishes us a  Merry Something.

Kevin Okelly  :  I have  been pleasantly surprised at how civil this discussion has been.  It’s a Festivus miracle.

Charles Dickens

The Dickens you say

I am trying to get people to call it  Charles Dickens Day, without success. The modern Christmas celebration was invented by Dickens (with a little help from Prince Albert).

I expect my campaign to rename Christmas will meet with as little success as my campaign to get people to answer the phone by saying  Ahoy-Ahoy like Alexander Graham Bell did.

 

jjohnson at worthingtonlibraries.org  :  Alexander Graham Bell AND Montgomery Burns

Craig Haggit  : Yes, the “fist-fights in the parking lot” won’t come until the PLA Convention in March!

  ALPL  : I’ll bring the wine and folding chairs!  Screw cap wine only, we don’t want pointy objects around.

  Robin Shtulman  : However we want to define Christmas or secular, or religious, or pagan, it is important to recognize that Christmas is not a universal holiday, and that not all of our staff or patrons celebrate it.

Whether you choose to offer Christmas themed programming should be driven by whatever your library’s policies are.  Some libraries embrace all holidays in a spirit of community education, some opt to observe no holidays in an effort to remain neutral. Do what feels right for your community, be responsive to your staff & citizens, and just know that everyone thinks differently and do what needs to be done to make members of your community truly welcome in your library.

 Brock Peoples  : This is a great answer to this discussion. (Also, as someone else has pointed out, bonus points to all for the civility!)

The town my district is located in decorates for Christmas, including a nativity set on public property. “What feels right for your community” would make us amiss if we ignored the holiday. It is always important, though, to realize that not everyone shares warm and fuzzy feelings about Christmas, or may have very different traditions from the rest of the community. 
 

Bryan Bonfiglio  : Ahoy-Ahoy! everyone.
Just to keep this going, here are some more interesting facts about the date of Christmas and how it was chosen based on similar pre-Christian celebrations. Enjoy!

Attis in the Louvre

Attis in the Louvre

Roman Pagan Religion: Attis was a son of the virgin Nana. His birth was celebrated on DEC-25. He was sacrificed as an adult in order to bring salvation to mankind. He died about MAR-25, after being crucified on a tree, and descended for three days into the underworld. On Sunday, he arose, as the solar deity for the new season. His followers tied an image of Attis to a tree on “Black Friday,” and carried him in a procession to the temple. His body was symbolically eaten by his followers in the form of bread. Worship of Attis began in Rome circa 200 BCE.

Greek Pagan Religion: Dionysus is another savior-god whose birth was observed on DEC-25. He was worshipped throughout much of the Middle East as well. He had a center of worship in Jerusalem in the 1st century BCE. Some ancient coins have been found in Gaza with Dionysus on one side and JHWH (Jehovah) on the other. In later years, his flesh and blood were symbolically eaten in the form of bread and wine. He was viewed as the son of Zeus, the Father God.

Egyptian Pagan Religion: Osiris is a savior-god who had been worshipped as far back as Neolithic times. “He was called Lord of Lords, King of Kings, God of Gods…the Resurrection and the Life, the Good shepherd…the god who ‘made men and women be born again'” 5 Three wise men announced his birth. His followers ate cakes of wheat which symbolized his body. Many sayings associated with Osiris were taken over into the Bible. This included:  23rd Psalm: an appeal to Osiris as the good Shepherd to lead believers through the valley of the shadow of death and to green pastures and still waters
Lord’s Prayer: “O amen, who art in heaven…”

23rd Psalm

XIII Psalm

Many parables attributed to Jesus. Worship of Osiris, and celebration of his DEC-25 birth, were established throughout the Roman Empire by the end of the 1st century BCE.

Persian Pagan Religion: Mithra was a Persian savior. Worship of Mithra became common throughout the Roman Empire, particularly among the Roman civil service and military. Mithraism was a competitor of Christianity until the 4th century. Their god was believed to have been born on DEC-25, circa 500 BCE. His birth was witnessed by shepherds and by gift-carrying Magi. This was celebrated as the  Dies Natalis Solic Invite,  The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.  Some followers believed that he was born of a virgin. During his life, he performed many miracles, cured many illnesses, and cast out devils. He celebrated a Last Supper with his 12 disciples. He ascended to heaven at the time of the spring equinox, about March 21.

The Babylonians celebrated their  Victory of the Sun-God  Festival on DEC-25. Saturnalia (the Festival of Saturn) was celebrated from DEC-17 to 23 in the Roman Empire. The Roman Emperor Aurelian blended Saturnalia with a number of birth celebrations of savior Gods from other religions, into a single holy day: DEC-25. After much argument, the developing Christian church adopted this date as the birthday of their savior, Jesus. The people of the Roman Empire were accustomed to celebrating the birth of a God on that day. So, it was easy for the church to divert people’s attention to Jesus’ birth.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmas_sel.htm

Patricia Sutherland  : I have to agree with the ‘pick and choose’ perspective on Christmas.  After having lived in, and recently returned from, 4 years living in a conservative Middle East country, I am much more relaxed with how we ‘celebrate’ what are commonly thought of as religious holidays.  Santa Claus, trees, decorations and ‘Christmas Dinner’ events dominated the retail and recreation scene once Eid Al-Adha was over.

The library is a place of inclusiveness and diversity.  Holding Christmas-themed library programs shouldn’t be an issue, but it would be great if we also recognized, and provided a learning environment, for other cultural-based and religious traditions as they occur throughout the year.

Just my two (Canadian) cents LOL

Helen Rigdon  : I’m super happy to see that Festivus has made an appearance into this conversation.  Now that’s a holiday!

Per the fist fight viewing, I’ll bring the cooler!

Party on!

S Epstein  : First – let me say thank you to all of you who have written me off list with words of support and encouragement. 

Second, let me also apologize to those of you who were supportive, and I snapped at a bit – while this is not excuse, it is explanation –  I was snappish because…

Third, some people have saved their incivility for private. And to those of you – I say shame on you!

Last, I did not address the issue of if the program should occur or not – that is up to the library.

Tituba Teaching The First Act of Witchcraft

Tituba Teaching The First Act of Witchcraft

In this age where Wiccan programs are banned from libraries and jobs threatened if they are scheduled, programs led by Muslims are boycotted, snide comments made by library staff about Jewishish patrons — ALL of which I have heard about and witnessed in my state in the past year – I feel strongly that understanding of, respect for, consideration, and tolerance of religion are becoming more and more important.

I have attended Passover ceremonies – though I am not Jewish.  I have celebrated Ramadan though I am not Muslim. I’ve gone to Maybon festivities though I am not Pagan.

These are not secular holidays simply because I, 5 others 10 others or 10k others celebrate them non-religiously.

I celebrate the 4th of July not because I am particularly patriotic – I’m not, but I LIKE picnics and days off!  That doesn’t and shouldn’t change the reason for the holiday.

The fact that some people who are not religious still celebrate a religious holiday does not make that holiday secular.  To claim that holiday as secular, when it is a religious holiday can be very hurtful to both those
who believe and those who do not.

I am not saying people shouldn’t celebrate – I am saying it is important that people understand what things are, especially those of us who are looked to as knowledgeable.

Paula Laurita  : Su, Let me say ‘thank you’ for reminding us all that there religious basis for a variety of holy days and just because I don’t celebrate that aspect of the holy day doesn’t remove it’s meaning.

It reminds me of a friend who was upset that a rabbi, whom I worked with, gave me a Christmas present.  (A lovely chi necklace.)  He couldn’t ever understand that the rabbi was respecting my faith.  I would never give the rabbi a Christmas present, but did give him Hanukkah presents over the years.

Thank you again for reminding us that respect doesn’t mean denial.

Theyer, Hillary  : I was looking for the right words, and Pamela nailed it.  I’m not religious anything, don’t go to any church, and celebrate Christmas as a cultural holiday. My family’s Christmas traditions came from the Catholic/Christian/Mormon backgrounds of my grandparents, but we celebrated with the tree, presents, candles, singing, Santa, big family meal, new puzzle out on the coffee table, schmaltzy movie on the black and white television, as a family gathering … I mix up particular early Christmas memories with Thanksgiving memories a lot, and usually try to remember if there was a tree in the background to sort them out. 

Gypsies Chorus

Gypsies Chorus

We sang carols because they are beautiful songs, and singing together is fun.  The tree is fun to decorate and smells good.  I knew what the words to the carols meant, and of course knew the Christmas story, but the fact that we didn’t pray or go to church didn’t make a difference in celebrating. I also grew up with a bunch of friends with one Jewish and one Christian parent, and got invited to many Bat Mitzvah celebrations, First Communions, and such.  I knew I was missing the religious part, but was taught well to sit quietly, respect the ceremony, follow the rest of the group for standing/sitting, and know I was there for my friend/relative to celebrate something important in their life. 

Christmas is not a universal holiday.  Neither is Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc.  I married into a family with cultural ties outside the US, which makes Thanksgiving a non-issue as my side is the only side that celebrates it!  The keynote speaker at the California Library Association convention made a great deal about arriving from Britain and watching us celebrate Independence Day (his words “get over it already!”).  On the other hand, my English Grandmother couldn’t comprehend I didn’t have Good Friday off from school.  I’ve worked places with and without trees, with and without decoration/program prohibitions.  I used to worry about it, and now I don’t. The only complaint I have gotten was for a Christmas puppet show, and the parent was of a religion that didn’t celebrate holidays of any kind.  She was upset that we didn’t have anything for her child during school vacation, so I handed her the flyer for the “Winter” program where we read snow stories (in Southern California, which I think is a much stranger cultural clash, reading about sledding and such with kids who probably have never done that), and made snowmen out of cotton balls, etc.  She was fine.  I promised we would invite a puppet program that didn’t tie to a holiday again, which we did.  We offer stuff tied to holidays and stuff that isn’t.  I’ve worked with groups that pulled together a Vietnamese New Year Celebration (none of us were Vietnamese but our community was), Chinese New Year, Diwali, and Kwanzaa.  What we didn’t know we learned, and mostly people really appreciated the effort.

A Christmas Furlough

A Christmas Furlough

Jesse Ephraim  : The Santa Claus figure was derived from a number of sources, including Saint Nicholas, Odin, Krampus/Black Pete, various European folk figures, Thomas Nast, Clement Clarke Moore, Coca-Cola, L. Frank Baum, and more.

We are way off the original subject by now, though, so we are probably all going to have to agree to disagree.

Joanna Price  : The problem with this is as follows (I’ll just be honest):

Considering Christmas as a secular holiday is a privilege that belongs to the majority of the United States, because the majority of Americans come from some form of Christian background. I’m not talking about one’s parents, but 100 years ago, there were no atheists.

I come from a Jewish background, and my family doesn’t celebrate Christmas because it’s not a secular holiday– it’s a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Indicating that it’s secular, e.g., not religious at all, doesn’t alienate people who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, and it doesn’t alienate people who celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. It alienates people who don’t celebrate Christmas at all (i.e. me), because if you argue Christmas is secular, you argue that there’s no reason why I shouldn’t celebrate it (see: be “normal”). In fact there’s a good reason why I don’t celebrate it, and it’s fairly disrespectful to argue that I should consider a holiday that belongs to another religion secular because of the discomfort atheists have with relating their Christmas celebrations to its’ roots.

Now whether a public library should have Christmas programming or not depends on the community, e.g. who is paying taxes that keep the place open, and what their needs and expectations are. But don’t call Christmas secular in order to justify having Christmas programming in your library. It’s not only unnecessary, it’s alienating.

John Wylder  : But “Santa Claus” is just short for “Saint Nicholas,” and even “Kris Kringle,” as I understand it, is a corruption of the German for “Christ Child.”

Xmas in the US has become a battleground of the culture wars, and I fear there is no longer any neutral or safe ground.  Whatever you do will leave you open to attack from one quarter or another, whether you acknowledge the holiday or not, so make your decision and, if I can quote Martin Luther here, Sin boldly no matter what you ultimately do.  Or, as my grandmother used to put it, “You pays your nickle, and you takes your chances.”

 Jesse Ephraim  :

>I’m not talking about one’s parents, but
>100 years ago, there were no atheists.

Sure there were.  There were atheists in ancient Greece, even.

>my family doesn’t celebrate Christmas
>because it’s not a secular holiday– it’s a
>holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ

What does Santa Claus, pine trees, gift-giving, elves, and reindeer have to do with Christianity?

>It alienates people who don’t celebrate Christmas
>at all (i.e. me), because if you argue Christmas is
>secular, you argue that there’s no reason why
>I shouldn’t celebrate it (see: be “normal”).

There are a number of holidays in the U.S. that I don’t celebrate.  I don’t feel any pressure to do so.

>In fact there’s a good reason why I don’t celebrate it,
>and it’s fairly disrespectful to argue that I should consider
>a holiday that belongs to another religion secular because
>of the discomfort atheists have with relating their Christmas
>celebrations to its’ roots.

You can think of it in any way you like.  The point is that it IS a secular holiday for many people, and not just atheists and agnostics.

If you want to talk about the roots of Christmas celebrations, they don’t lie in Christianity.  They are in the folk beliefs and pagan religions of Europe. 

Bryan Bonfiglio  :  Agreed, perhaps not the best Website to quote from, but these facts are repeated and studied over and over in academic circles.

http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/kingpapers/article/volume_i_29_november_1949_to_15_february_1950g/

Wendy Wright  : Remaining “holiday-neutral” may be less time-consuming for library staff, but consider all the extra circ. opportunities that themed displays offer. Holiday events and displays also keep the library looking “fresh” for regular customers. Why not promote as many diverse occasions throughout the year as possible? While events are not always feasible, a display costs little. I think the film event is a great way to generate a sense of fun and energy in your library, and would be tempted to have displays of other winter holiday materials up at that time if you are worried about any group feeling excluded.

Toga, toga

Toga! Toga!

Two ideas for non-religious themed displays or events at this time of year are the Winter Solstice and ancient Rome’s Saturnalia festival. (Toga party, anyone?) I have two small children, and our family celebrates the Solstice rather than Christmas, but we would hardly expect Christians to suppress visible manifestations of their holiday! I’ve begun teaching my four-year-old Latin and have a foggy notion of using Saturnalia as a way of exploring ancient Roman culture next year while having lots of fun decorating and feasting. I suppose an elementary school library or homeschooling group would be more appropriate for this type of programming… But perhaps in a public library one Storytime in December could have a multicultural “Winter Festival” theme (Christmas, Chanukah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Solstice etc.), with or without themed craft activities  afterwards.

Any excuse for a celebration, I say!

TARDIFF, ANTHONY  : Yes, I know that the Attis connection, at least, is problematic. Professor Andrew T. Fear of the University of Manchester wrote an essay called “Cybele and Christ” about the relationship between the old Cybele/Attis cult and Christianity. His conclusion was the opposite: that the Cybele cult was influenced by Christianity and that it developed, whether consciously or unconsciously, to be a pagan answer to the dominant religion of the time (Fear, A. “Cybele and Christ.” In Cybele, Attis & Related Cults: essays in honour of M. J. Vermaseren, Brill, 1996). You can find a good portion of his essay at http://books.google.com/books?id=T1nmUY70OzEC&lpg=PA37&dq=%22Cybele%20and%20Christ.%22%20in%20Cybele%2C%20Attis%20and%20Related%20Cults&pg=PA41#v=onepage&q&f=false.

My undergrad is history, and while that does not make me an expert, it did teach me that history is rarely “pat.” Our attitude towards history today seems often to be that it is in the past and so does not matter, unless we can bring up an oversimplified version to support a specific viewpoint. We tend to get a lot of sound bite history these days, History Channel history, “Everyone knows” history (e.g. “Everyone knows Columbus was trying to prove the earth was round”). Actual history is far more complex, nuanced, and, frankly, interesting than that. History once was, after all, the present, and is just as messy and fascinating as the present is today. So I am rather suspicious whenever anyone tosses off some “history” to justify a viewpoint, unless they really delve into it, show their research and their sources, and present a picture that is more than just a blurb.

Robert Ingersoll

Ingersol the Infidel

Jennifer Armistead  :  Not to be nitpicky, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to argue with you that 100 years ago “there were no atheists.” Right off the top of my head, I’m thinking of Robert Ingersoll, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Aphra Behn, Tom Paine, and I know there are many more. It’s true that during the 19th century there was a surge in professed atheism in Western society, as shown in Without God, Without Creed by James Turner, but atheists and agnostics have existed probably since there were humans, and have been documented since early Greek civilization.
Sorry to go OT. Carry on!

Jeff Imparato  : I’m sure it makes my Pagan friends happy when they see the Yule tree, decorated this time of year.

HARMON-MYERS Margaret  : Aside from library involvement, I think there are differences between “celebrating”, observing, or acknowleging .  I am not religious but don’t find offensive, nor would I try to restrict, the observation by others of any religious day.  Christmas is not secular, per se, but it is a deeply entrenched part of our culture; for some it is strictly cultural, for some primarily religious, but one does not preclude the other and both deserve respect.  And religious does not just mean Christian (Jesus’ birth, etc.)

We have personal choice, and feeling offended is a choice.  I don’t want to deny the public arena to a component of our culture, our ethos, because people interpret or observe it in different ways.  The library, as part of the culture, can bring the community together by having something like a giving tree which allows people to take a tag from it to purchase a toy or clothes for those in need.  We can also welcome other community organizations to bring in something for display for visitors to enjoy, or ignore if that is their choice.

Rawles-Heiser, Carolyn  : At my library, the only thing we do for Christmas is the Friends put out some pointsettias and we gather holiday kids’ books–including all the holidays around this time of year.  Oh, and we close on Christmas.

I do celebrate Christmas and I personally consider it a religious holiday.

Poinsettia

However, looking at this from the persepctive of people who do not,  think about what it is like to see Christams decorations, hear Christmas music, see Christmas ads and shows on tv, have stores full of stuff to buy, have Christmas activities at Scouts, school, etc. everywhere you go ad nauseum for at least 1/12 of the year.     For those of us who do celebrate Christmas, it wears thin enough!  

Think how nice it would be to go into one public place that is free of all of that and how much you would appreciate it.  Think about how nice it would be not to have to tell your kids you are skipping storytime for  a month to avoid Christmas programs.      You would certainly feel a lot less marginalized.    It seems to me that as one of the most inclusive and neutral institutions in  our society, that is a valuable thing the library can provide.

Dohrn, Terry  : Look up the definition of the word “Christmas”. Almost everywhere you check you will find that the definition is some variation of “a celebration of the Christian Church commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ”.  

Merry Christmas! I love these discussions we have!

Debra Hiett  : WOW!!!

I am astonished, pleasantly so, at all the responses my question generated.
So far, no one has stated they were challenged for showing the movie, “White Christmas.”

Of course, that does not mean that we won’t!  If we are challenged or receive complaints I will let you know.  We will show the movie, and had planned on showing the movie, and I will keep my fingers crossed.  If we are challenged this group has provided me with lots of ammunition. Thank you for all your postings!

Chris Rippel  : Dear Colleagues,

> 100 years ago, there were no atheists.
Actually, there were a number of atheists and agnostics 100 years ago.

The most famous American atheist at that time was Robert G. Ingersoll
(1833 – 1899).

I think there is evidence that more people and books 100 years ago than now
claimed Jesus was a mythical figure made up by early Christians.

Kevin Okelly  : I don’t know about “more than now,” but the America of the past was certainly a much more religiously diverse place than people currently give it credit for being. As many of you probably know, a number of the Founding Fathers (e.g., Jefferson, Washington, Franklin) were Deists (i.e., theists who believed in a rather hands-off God and rejected the notion of the divinity of Christ.)

Sarah Howison  : 

>We have personal choice, and feeling offended is a choice.

Maybe this is off-topic, but this statement doesn’t seem right to me. It takes the blame from the person who gave the offense and puts it on the offended party.

If someone makes a racist/sexist/off-color joke and it offends me, is it my fault that I am offended, or the fault of the person who told the joke? In a lot of cases, offense is not intended, but it does happen, and when it does, it’s worth discussing. The idea that someone should “lighten up” or just “deal with it” (both comments I have received in the past) is…well, kind of offensive to me. ;)

No, a person doesn’t have the right to go through life without being offended, but they do have the right to express their opinions, including whether something, be it a joke or a certain library program, offends them.

…But, that’s just my opinion. I promise, I mean no offense. :)

chickens

Cluck, Cluck, ClucKEE!

Janet Lerner  :  Hello all,

I haven’t worked in public libraries for over ten years, and can’t believe that you’re still cluck-clucking over Christmas.

No one except the profoundly mentally ill worries about this kind of stuff anymore.

Move on…

Diedre Conkling  : 

> It is sad to see that what was a very civil discussion with differing
> points of view is now leaving that realm and is on the verge, if not
> slightly beyond the verge (can something be beyond the verge?), of name
> calling and uglyness.

Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.  It must be time to end the discussion.

Pamela Johnson  : It’s important to distinguish between offense intended and offense taken. Sometimes a comment is ignorant, but not unkindly meant. If you take offense at every ignorant but well-meaning comment that comes out of somebody’s mouth, you do yourself as well as the other person a disservice.

Bridget Krejci  : Can we please agree to disagree regarding Christmas and programing? We really do not need to hear everyone religions beliefs

S Epstein  : WOW…. this was terribly offensive and insulting.  Enough in fact to make me consider leaving Publib.  I would prefer to not know this is the state of our profession. Or maybe we need to go back to a moderate list?

(Janet – I think an appology is due for calling people who have religious beliefs menally ill – which even if was not your intent – was the message.)

Darryl Eschete  : All: I’d say this discussion has devolved to the point where it is all heat and no light. I’d also say that discussing it any further would be superfluous and that this will become more uncivil, now that this sort of door has been
opened.

Darrell Cook   : Didn’t get THAT message at all. Janet shouldn’t have to apologize for anything. I don’t think her post was any where near “offensive and insulting.” Much less “terribly.”

The only thing terrible here is the PhD’s spelling.

Steve Benson  : I didn’t think it was offensive either — just stupid.  This has been an interesting discussion ranging from the how-we-do-it to historical background.  What is expected and welcomed in one local might get you run out of town in another.  Doesn’t seem as if the writer at issue is a part of the profession any longer.  Her own words make this clear.  Perhaps this is why she has missed the new tech innovation that librarian 2.0’s know off — the delete key if you tire of a conversation.

Happy holidays everyone

Wylie, Alan  : Could have done without the ‘mentally ill’ bit but i do tend to agree with her! Libraries closing or being privatised, redundancies galore and we have a long drawn out discussion about xmas!!!

Judy Anderson  : I found it offensive that someone is using mental illness as an insult. That’s grossly inappropriate. That calls for an apology.I also think some of the “older” librarians (meaning having been around a long time) forget that there are new people out there who haven’t come across the issue before. And laws change constantly and there are trends that change constantly. My first job out of library school was as a director. These issues often aren’t discussed in library school and people need answers.

It’s also helpful to get the take and experience of wide range of people because you never know what will come up. Who would have thought that people respecting other religions (or those with no religion) and avoiding the violation of the first amendment would be considered to be conducting a war on Christmas. That’s a relatively new topic.

And really, we are librarians. It doesn’t seem appropriate for us to be insulting anyone for asking a question we’ve heard before. Isn’t that kind of what our jobs are about, at least in reference?

(Side note. I don’t think it was an attack on people of faith, but an attack on someone for asking what should or shouldn’t be done about Christmas in libraries.)
 

US National Christmas Tree 1923

The US National Christmas Tree - 1923

John Richmond  :  Just back from Kansas for the Thanksgiving holiday, where I worshiped several immense turkeys and a few hams, besides.  Though I saved my most rapturous rapture for pecan pie.  (For some reason, none of my relatives was thoughtful enough to supply mincemeat this year, with or without real meat.  Or unreal meat, I suppose.)  So I am late getting into this, but I am reminded that just about the first post to publib I ever, well, posted–if not *the* first–had to do with Christmas, and I received MANY indignant comments from publib folks who were appalled–**appalled**, I tell you–to think that we had a *Christmas* tree in our library.I *tried* to explain that I was in East Texas, and that not to have a Christmas tree in the library’s foyer would have been tantamount to committing career (my career, that is) suicide, but some still didn’t get it.  Ah, well.  Back here, up north in Illinois–in East TX, usually pronounced “Ill-uh-noiZZZZZZ”–we still have a Christmas tree. We put it to good use, inviting the public to decorate the tree with mittens, gloves, scarves, and hats for child-size people, which we then deliver to a charitable outfit in the library district. Sometimes we call it an “angel tree,” and I am mostly theologically mute on the subject of angels.  Which probably is all right, as the fervor over angels seems to have diminished from what it was a few years back, when *everyone* was writing a book about angels.When I was in seminary, the “Advent police” sometimes came around to see if fellow seminarians were putting up Christmas decorations and listening to Christmas music in their rooms while the all-too-short season of Advent was upon us.  That’s a whole ‘nother story….Shahin Shoar  : Libraries have to have established practices in place when it comes to these things.  Many academic libraries have done away with celebrating any holidays, religious or not, by decorating their buildings, desks, or rooms.  Public libraries could do the same.   However, since we are more and more a community center rather than just a place to read or check out items, we have to reflect what our communities expect or want.  There is nothing wrong with acknowledging Christmas or any other holiday for that matter.  Libraries often have educational and fun programming going on including history of different holidays.  What should not happen is ignoring other holidays which means ignoring people in the community who celebrate holidays other than Christmas.  Yes, academic libraries are over all of this, they serve a different clientele, we still serve little kids who get excited about little things like doing crafts and singing songs.

 

New York Public Library Christmas Tree

Best of PubLib Editor – Robert Balliot investigating the placement of an actual Christmas Tree at the New York Public Library.

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Have a very Merry Something!

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2 Responses

  1. The Christmas season is also a time when suicide rates increase –at least in the northern hemisphere. In addition to any festive programs, it might be a service to the community to have and publicize some additional hours where hot beverages are served without too many reminders of Christmases past. Perhaps volunteers would like to staff those hours.

  2. [...] Tobacco use by prospective employees , authoritative Library Property Stamp procedures , and the Great White Christmas debate.   Publib Topics November [...]

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