• Tue, Dec 11 2012

Twinning: My Kids’ Holiday Concert Is Just Too Politically Correct For Me

Having twins can be the most amazing experience of your life. It can also cause you to wake up in the morning wishing you were someone else. Twinning offers an honest depiction of life with twins from a mom who tries to keep things somewhere in the middle.

Years ago I watched a South Park holiday special about the school pageant getting stripped of all meaning in an attempt to be politically correct. They start out with a festive Christmas play and the adults strip away everything that offends anyone in the town, from Santa to blinking lights. The kids end up dressed in grey and chanting unintelligibly on stage while minimalist music plays in the background. I didn’t think too much about the cartoon’s statement on society back then, but now that I have two children in public school, I can see how impossible it would be to have a holiday pageant without offending someone. But all the same, I still miss the annual Christmas play.

I went to Catholic school, where the Christmas play was something you did every year. It was a huge production and I can’t imagine childhood Christmases without them. There were plenty of years that the play wasn’t religious—I remember being in plays about misunderstood reindeer, an elf who couldn’t spell, and one about finding the perfect holiday card. So despite being forewarned by South Park, I was surprised when my twins didn’t have a holiday play last year in kindergarten at their public school.

Instead they had a Holiday Music Show, singing songs about Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. They were all dressed up and filed onto the stage in the auditorium and sang. It was a nice little non-offensive holiday thing I guess, but it’s nothing compared to a bunch of kids dressed like shepherds and kings forgetting their lines and falling into the curtain. Or a little 5-year-old who recites her lines so perfectly she has half the audience crying by the end of the play.

So when I saw the Christmas pageant flyer at the church we belong to, I got excited that my twins might be in an actual nativity play this year! Visions of angels and shepherds danced in my head. Of course they still do nativity plays at church! (If I went more, I might have known that.) We’ve never attended Christmas masses at our church because every year we travel upstate to celebrate Christmas with my parents. But this year, my parents are coming to us, so the church pageant was an option. By the time I realized this though, we had made plans on two of the four Sundays the kids were supposed to be in rehearsal.

So the best I can do is bring the kids to church on Christmas Eve to watch the pageant, so they’ll at least be able to see what I’m talking about. They won’t be able to see all the fun of costume fittings and rehearsal, or experience the bonding that goes along with group stage fright. But if they enjoy the play and want to participate next year, I’d happily keep our December Sundays free.

This year in first grade, my twins are doing another Holiday Music Show at their school. The songs are from the same politically correct set of faiths. We’re allowed to invite relatives, but I don’t think I’m going to—it’s just not that interesting, and even the dress code says “Bah Humbug.” The flyer sent home says that students should wear “dark pants or skirts and a white top.” It’s not that far removed from South Park grey. I guess I should feel lucky that my kids are allowed to sing actual songs—next year they might be chanting.

(photo: Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock)

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  • Aimless

    As a practicing Jew, I am not the type to get offended at every publicly displayed Christmas tree or friendly “Merry Christmas” from the grocery clerk. However, I DO take offense at this poorly thought-out piece. From dismissing the Jewish religion as part of a “politically correct set of faiths” to an obtuse refusal to see how a Christmas pageant at a Catholic church would not be appropriate in a public elementary school, this article adds absolutely no nuance or frankly, any redeeming value to the discussion. Guess what, Ms. Fallon – a play about the birth of the Christ child is unabashedly religious and has no place in the public school. And what’s more, your kids might actually benefit from learning the songs and traditions of other cultures – perhaps they might grow up to be less narrow-minded than you seem to be.

    • Jenni

      I agree, and I was raised christian (and went to a catholic school). Also, though reindeer and elfs might not have any specific religious affiliation, they only really go with Santa who is solidly in the christian camp.
      Also, don’t school still do regular plays? I seem to remember that being a thing. So, yeah, it might not be your little angel dressed up as an angel, but they can still do the fun/annoying thing of being in a play.

    • Venessa

      My thoughts exactly! I am not Christian, but I never take offence with any religious celebrations. I love it in fact! But this article is so poorly written and structured that it puts out a bad point of view.

    • once upon a time

      Exactly what I was going to say, but you said it better. Also, as a Christian, I would be absolutely fascinated by Hanukkah and Kwanzaa festivities! Sounds like a lot of fun to me.

    • JLH

      I was thinking the same thing. I’d be interested to see/hear aspects of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa as I was never introduced to those as a child. and admittedly I haven’t made much of an attempt to find out about them as an adult. I’m agnostic so I have no real affiliation anywhere.

    • K.

      “From dismissing the Jewish religion as part of a “politically correct
      set of faiths” to an obtuse refusal to see how a Christmas pageant at a
      Catholic church would not be appropriate in a public elementary school,
      this article adds absolutely no nuance or frankly, any redeeming value
      to the discussion”

      Wham bam, thank you ma’am!

    • chickadee

      This definitely feels like an article that is responding to the prompt, “Write an article that advocates for a Christian-centric view of Christmas in the public schools.” Purpose? to generate page views and responses. It certainly doesn’t address the issues of being the mother of twins in any meaningful way.

  • CrazyFor Kate

    Your Christian privilege is showing. You already have a place for a Nativity production – your church. Let the public schools be for the public.

  • abm

    Not everyone is Christian at a public school, I don’t see what is so bad about taking the religion out of it. If you want the religion, go to your church. This is why church and state are kept separate. I often thing being PC gets old, but at the same time, there is no place for religion in public school.

  • Jenni

    Not to be a nitpicker, but how is this about twins? Isn’t this just a ‘kids in general’ kind of problem?

  • lawcat

    Here’s your page view, since the headline is clearly for clicks.

    We had Holiday Christmas Music Shows with black pants/white tops back in the early 90′s when I was in public elementary school. In fact, all our concerts involved black pants and white tops so it’s not really anything new or unique to Holiday Shows. I think it’s more about being uniform, and white tops with black pants are in most everyone’s price range.

    But even as a practicing Catholic, I wouldn’t want a public school to be putting on a Christian play about the birth of Christ. Save it for mass. If I wanted my kids to practice religion in school, I would send them to a religious institution.

    We celebrate Christmas, but other faiths celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanza at the same time. How about they ONLY perform a play about Hanukkah at the public school? Somehow I don’t think people would be all that accepting.

    And you know what? There are varying denominations of Christianity and I’m not sure what batch is going to show up in a play about the birth of Christ. As a parent, I want to control who is influencing my kids’ religious beliefs until they are old enough to determine themselves.

    • Vikky

      ” There are varying denominations of Christianity and I’m not sure what
      batch is going to show up in a play about the birth of Christ. As a
      parent, I want to control who is influencing my kids’ religious beliefs
      until they are old enough to determine themselves.” THIS! Also: Not everyone’s a Christian!

  • CMJ

    This is strange. It’s a public school – not a Parochial school. What did you expect? It’s not about being politically correct it’s about separation of church and state.

  • Roberta

    I went to a school that was 70% practicing Muslim, 15% Hindu and the rest were Christian or “other”. Our holiday concerts were always generic and still had fun. On the rare occasion there was a Christmas pageant, there was also a presentation for Diwali and Ramadan/Eid. We all learned about each other cultures and that left us with a better understanding and accepting mindset for later years.

    Complaining that you don’t want other religious things in schools in the name of political correctness is too far. As the others have said, keep religion out of schools, or include them all so everyone can understand. You can’t pick and choose equality.

  • Cassy

    I AM a Christian, and I was expecting you to say that the school banned any sort of holiday references whatsoever in a “holiday” production. Including Hanukkah and Kwanzaa is pretty standard. Not only that, but it helps children learn about people who celebrate different things than they do. Isn’t that a GOOD thing for a school to teach?
    I’m with the others – it’s just plain strange to me that you would expect a public school to do a nativity sort of play, but be surprised when a church does it. Thinking cap!

  • AlbinoWino

    It’s funny because I was raised Catholic (my family was very open minded and consider themselves Christian now instead) and I remember thinking as a child it was inappropriate for our school music teacher to force us to sing religious Christmas songs. We didn’t even acknowledge many people don’t celebrate Christmas and I went to a public school. I understood even around the age of 9 or 10 that there is a separation of church and state and with good reason. I guess my parents were just secretly evil and indoctrinating me with being politically correct for realizing some people have different beliefs than me (I’m atheist now) and just because one group in dominant doesn’t mean they should ignore all other groups.

    • Justme

      Aren’t Catholics already Christian since they believe in Christ? Do you perhaps mean non-denominational Christians?

  • chickadee

    Political correctness? Really? What about “inclusiveness”? What about “making the children feel welcome in their own schools”? What about “public schools are not supposed to be a bastion of Christian gospel performances”?

    I went to elementary school in New Jersey in the 1970s, and we sang songs that reflected the school’s makeup — secular songs, Christmas carols, and Hannukah songs. No one got upset, and we all sang all the songs because they reflected the community of which we were a part. And if someone told me that Christmas carols were banned from school performances along with Jewish songs or anything that evoked religious doctrine, I would be fine with that because community harmony accepts that not everyone believes the same thing, and what better place to learn that than school? And what better age to learn that than the age of As Soon as Possible?

    Nativity plays belong right where you’ve found them — at church.

  • Gloria Fallon

    I appreciate everyone’s comments, but I’m puzzled by many of them–nowhere in
    this article does it say that I want a Nativity play in our public school. No
    intelligent, sane person would want a religious play in a public school. I
    think holiday plays (non-religious plays) would be fun and cute, but I state
    right in the first paragraph that even they would be impossible. I merely miss the fun
    that went along with the holiday plays of my childhood, and I wish that my kids
    could enjoy the same.

    • buzzbees

      You open this piece with an anecdote illustrating how boring political correctness is in schools. You end with ‘I guess I should feel lucky that my kids are allowed to sing actual songs-next year they might be chanting’. That’s some pretty critical stuff. You might miss the holiday pageant, but you are clearly criticizing political correctness in public schools as well.

    • Sara610

      Maybe I can help you understand why so many readers came to the conclusion they did.

      “It was a nice little non-offensive holiday thing I guess, but it’s
      nothing compared to a bunch of kids dressed like shepherds and kings
      forgetting their lines and falling into the curtain.”

      “I went to Catholic school, where the Christmas play was something you
      did every year. It was a huge production and I can’t imagine childhood
      Christmases without them.”

      “So when I saw the Christmas pageant flyer at the church we belong to, I
      got excited that my twins might be in an actual nativity play this year!”

      All of these comments illustrate three things: 1) You favorably compare an explicitly Christmas-oriented show to a more inclusive performance; 2) You feel that a Christmas pageant is an indispensable part of childhood; and 3) By being so excited that your children might “actually” be in an actual nativity, you feel that this is something that’s seriously lacking elsewhere in their lives. Since as far as I can tell, school is the only other place that they might participate in a performance other than church, the reader can reasonably draw the conclusion that you feel that the school was remiss in not providing this indispensable experience.

      The point is that your kids CAN enjoy the same. I work for a church, and we’re preparing our Christmas pageant right now. If your problem is not with the absence of a Christmas pageant in the school, but rather the perception that your children are missing out on one in general, I’m not really sure what you’re complaining about. Your church obviously provides that opportunity–take it and the problem is solved.

    • Gloria Fallon

      Thank you Sara. I honestly don’t write to offend or insult, so I appreciate your helpful comments.

    • ipsedixit010

      Don’t insult our intelligence.

      You kids attend public school. You have said:

      “…but it’s nothing compared to a bunch of kids dressed like shepherds and
      kings forgetting their lines and falling into the curtain.”

      This is a nativity reference. If your intent was that you wanted a fun, silly, non-Christian related play at your children’s public school, then it certainly wouldn’t involve shepherds, kings and angels.

      “…I got excited that my twins might be in an actual nativity play this
      year! Visions of angels and shepherds danced in my head. Of course they
      still do nativity plays at church!”

      Oh! An *actual* nativity play….rather than, what, exactly? That’s certainly not a reference to a fun and cute holiday play.

      “The songs are from the same politically correct set of faiths.”

      Riiiiiight. Other faiths besides Christianity are “politically correct.”

      If your intent was that you’d rather have a play than a holiday music show…..then this entire article was an epic fail. High five on the page views, though! (sarcasm)

    • Venessa

      The others did a great job pointing out why so many of us read the article a certain way. Maybe Mommyish needs more editors? Or you could forward the article to a few of your friends to see if they get a different point of view.

    • Aimless

      If 20+ commenters are “misunderstanding” the point, just maybe the problem is in the article you wrote and not our ability to interpret it. If you are not advocating for a Nativity play in your kid’s public school, then I am REALLY unclear what the point of your piece is.

      You start out by rhaposidizing over the parochial school pageants of your youth, move right into complaining about the boring, inclusive holiday concert at your kids’ public school, with its “politically correct” Hanukkah and Kwanzaa references, which you characterize as “a nice little non-offensive holiday thing I guess, but it’s nothing compared to a bunch of kids dressed like shepherds and kings forgetting their lines and falling into the curtain.”

      If your point is that religious school pageants are better than public school holiday shows . . . you are comparing apples to oranges and again, what’s the point? At my kids’ religious school this year, we fried up latkes and lit a giant menorah and sang traditional Hanukkah songs – should I complain that their public school didn’t offer something similar?

    • chickadee

      I agree with all of the comments made here so far, and I’d like to add a couple of others — you use the phrase “politically correct,” which is frequently used to sneer at concerns or objections raised by marginalized groups. You privilege Christmas over other December holidays that you apparently do not see as equally valid as Christmas. You draw a parallel between your children’s holiday concert and the South Park episode that takes the valid issue of exclusion to a ludicrous conclusion.

      You needed to include clearer qualifiers and explanations if you really wanted to make your point, since it just sounded like public school needs to get with the parochial program.

  • Sara610

    If you want your kids to be in a Christan-centric play, then send them to a Catholic school like the one you went to. Or put them in the Christmas pageant at church and prioritize that if it’s so important to you. If you want your kids to have that experience, there are plenty of other places that they can get it. But don’t send your kids to a public school and pass up the opportunity to have them participate in the church pageant, and then bitch about the fact that their holiday performances weren’t Christian enough for you. Our choices have consequences. You chose to send your children to public school, and you chose to prioritize other experiences over the pageant. Neither choice is bad in and of itself, but it’s disingenuous to then turn around and complain about the consequences of your choices.

  • Shea

    What a whiny, privileged article. So because the holiday concert isn’t solely about Christmas, you feel that it’s pointless? You do realize that just about everything this time of year is centred on Christmas, and it’s hardly at the South Park level to acknowledge that there are in fact other holidays celebrated around this time of year? If you can’t stand to see Hanukkah and Kwanzaa acknowledged, send your kids to Catholic school, where they won’t have to deal with the fact that other holidays happen in December, and you won’t be subjected to the total Christmas buzzkill of the dreidel song at the holiday concert.

    As for the dark pants and skirt/white top combination, I’m pretty sure the school isn’t trying to squash the Christmas spirit out of kids by mandating a dress code that excludes Santa sweaters. That basic dress combo is standard for concerts, from elementary school all the way up to professional orchestras. I remember dressing that way for holiday concerts myself as a child in the 1980s.

    You really need to check your privilege. As a Christmas-celebrating atheist, this article makes me cringe.

  • Jess

    I am a practicing Catholic and my children go to Catholic School.
    Guess what? They still have songs about Kwanza there.
    It’s a celebration of diversity NOT about being politically correct- my kid’s fantastic school teaches them that there are a lot of different cultures in the world and God loves everyone equally.
    Sure they do the whole nativity scene- obviously it’s a central part of the concert- but they certainly don’t miss out other cultures. My kids love the extra parts- it’s what makes the school concert different from the Christmas Eve mass at church.

  • ally

    Yet another non-christian here saying: GUESS WHAT? I don’t give a fark if the passive cultural Christmas stuff is all around me, but shepherds and baby jesus at an elementary school? Wanting/expecting as much is plain dumb. You want that, take your kids to a religious school of your choice. This belongs on STFU parents.