As Christmas approached, I noticed that every store had huge sales and Christmas music playing in the background. Christmas has definitely become a very commercialized holiday, unfortunately masking the significance of some of the other winter holidays. This situation is not surprising considering 70.6 percent of Americans in the U.S. identified as Christians in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. Even on campus, 21 percent of the students who took The Phillipian’s “State of the Academy” survey last year identified as Catholic and 17 percent described themselves as Protestant. As a result, the non-Christian minority can feel marginalized and can have difficulty celebrating their respective holidays. Though Andover actively supports students who are a part of this minority, our community should strive to make the holiday season even more inclusive.
While our community can find more impactful ways to promote winter traditions and holidays other than Christmas, I recognize that our school has made efforts to raise awareness regarding less celebrated holidays. For instance, lights commemorating Hindu’s Diwali and Islam’s Eid were placed on the columns of Samuel Phillips Hall, one of the most frequented locations on campus, to remind many students of those holidays.
To reach our goal of inclusivity on campus, our school should strive to increase student exposure to lesser known holidays. Our administration and leaders of various religious clubs could use Paresky Commons to spread awareness. With its multiple rooms and the number of students who frequent it, Paresky has a lot of potential to promote different holidays and traditions. Club members could set up a place near the front entrance of Paresky or in one of its rooms on the second floor where they could briefly share their religious beliefs and the different traditions that accompany them.
We can also use All-School Meeting to inform students about under-recognized winter holidays. During the holiday season, guest speakers and knowledgeable faculty members could talk about holidays such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and explain their roles in Jewish and African-American cultures, respectively. Informing students about the traditions and holidays that are important to some of our peers would foster a community in which non-Christian students can feel included and safe.
Even by simply referring to winter as “the holiday season” instead of “Christmas time,” we can all avoid immediately excluding winter holidays and traditions that exist in minority cultures. When having conversations with friends or family, one can also try to talk more about less recognized winter holidays.
Although our community should embrace non-Christian holidays, we should not prevent students from enjoying and participating in Christmas activities since it is also a very important holiday to many people at our school. We should realize and accept, however, that there are religions and holidays other than just Christianity and Christmas. While Christmas and its celebrants should not be suppressed, our school should focus more on educating its students about marginalized holidays.