Should I Do Christmas in my Music Room?

There is much debate on whether Christmas belongs in the classroom, and I do not have an official answer, but I do have a possible solution. This week I would like to present to you three ways to celebrate holidays during Winter and how they relate the National Standards for Music.

1. More than Christmas

We must realize and recognize that there are more holidays that land during our Winter season than Christmas. We also must be sensitive enough to know that not all the “holidays” that have been commercialized are even that important to those who celebrate them. Christmas is important to Christians because it literally celebrates the birth Jesus Christ, but if you do some research, you’ll learn that Christmas is more of a secular event than a religious holiday in that the true history of the birth of Christ doesn’t really mirror that of the Winter season. The same can be said for Hannukah. If you research Hannukah you will learn that it is not one of the Jewish holy days and is a relatively minor holiday for their religion. Hannukah has gained popularity because of its proximity to Christmas in the United States.

This is where being the music teacher gives us a wonderful advantage, you know your entire school and hopefully know the different religions and cultures present at your school. You can work with the families in your building to learn about the cultures and celebrations that are relevant to your community and learn about those during the Wintertime.

Analyzing, comparing, and responding to music from various cultures is in every standard that you are well within your “rights” to incorporate these songs and activities into your lessons.

2. Around the World

If you are at a campus that is against acknowledging the holiday due to its religious nature, you could always frame your lessons as exploring music from around the world. Christmas music is music and because it has the elements of music, playing it, listening to it, and responding to it, falls in the realm of the National Standards. To be fair, you should include music from all cultures and religions and apply the same analysis to those pieces of music and not make Christmas music appear to be superior in any way. We shouldn’t do this regardless of your campus’ wishes about Christmas, but some of us do tend to show a bias toward Christmas especially in our holiday programs and concerts.

At my campus, we do perform a holiday performance that is centered around Christmas. Although no mention of God or Jesus, the performance is about Christmas or the “meaning of Christmas” as it pertains to hope, peace, and sharing. If someone wanted to be picky, Christmas is a religious holiday and should not be celebrated in school.

However, in Texas, the law is written,

Sec. 29.920
Winter Celebrations

(a)A school district may educate students about the history of traditional winter celebrations, and allow students and district staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including:

(1)“Merry Christmas”;

(2)“Happy Hanukkah”; and

(3)“happy holidays.”

(b)Except as provided by Subsection (c), a school district may display on school property scenes or symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations, including a menorah or a Christmas image such as a nativity scene or Christmas tree, if the display includes a scene or symbol of:

(1)more than one religion; or

(2)one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol.

(c)A display relating to a traditional winter celebration may not include a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief.

So celebrating, acknowledging, and decorating for Christmas is not only okay, but lawful.

At my campus we do a sing-along, where we teach songs from all over the world that are religious, multi-cultural, and offer different views points. We try to honor all cultures and religion in the music room and truly make it about the music and how music is used in and for celebrations, versus, here is this holiday we celebrate and play music in the background.

3. Let the Holiday Pass Without Celebration or Acknowledgement

I always say to be true to yourself. If the holidays are emotionally triggering for you, then do not feel forced to celebrate them or acknowledge them. You can study world music without incorporating secular Christmas music. You can choose to explain your choices to your students or not. It is your classroom and in the end, it is your choice.

In my classroom, we sing, say, dance, and play along to all types of wintertime music. We do listen to Christmas music, sing Christmas music, but we also play dreidel, sing Kwanza celebratory songs, and more! You know your campus and know your community, do what feels right for your classroom.

Sing! Say! Dance! Play! Care!


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