Jan 232005
Authors: Ben Bleckley

Over Thanksgiving, John Hickenlooper, Denver's mayor, suggested that the "Merry Christmas" sign over the Denver City and County Building be replaced with one stating "Happy Holidays."

On Dec. 2, after a community uproar, Hickenlooper said, "Over the past several days, it has become clear to me that there is strong community sentiment to maintain the 'Merry Christmas' sign, and I am glad to oblige.

"My intention was never to disrespect or slight anyone or any religious tradition. I apologize to anyone who may have been offended or mistakenly felt I was being anti-Christmas."

One would think individuals would be more offended by a sign addressing only the hegemonic religious tradition and ignoring all others. It was admirable that the mayor listened to his constituency, but also disappointing that he gave in so easily.

At the risk of sounding "anti-Christmas," wasn't the United States founded on the idea of religious freedom? At least, that is what those liberal educators are teaching in grade school. The mind is so malleable at that age.

In fact, the Puritans at Plymouth Colony ran religious deviants out of town, where they most likely froze to death.

So despite the fact that our nation does not have an official national religion or tongue, the majority should determine the norm. Muslim individuals should convert to Christianity just like Spanish-speaking immigrants should learn English. The best way to describe it is like a mandate that gives Christians the right to say Merry Christmas to complete strangers in stores, some of which may be members of the Jewish faith shopping for Hanukkah.

There is nothing wrong with saying "Merry Christmas." It really is a very nice and thoughtful thing to say. But if one was a Christian living in a Muslim-dominant country, and while Christmas shopping the cashier said, "I hope you have a very meditative Ramadan," it would feel slightly odd.

And unfortunately, even those who think they are being culturally sensitive by saying "Happy Holidays" – including this columnist – are not really hitting the nail on the head.

In a Dec. 12, 2003, article in the Collegian, Kayla Brummett, then social committee chair of Hillel, said that Hanukkah was the seventh most important holiday of the Jewish tradition.

Easter is the most important holiday of the Christian tradition, followed by Christmas, said Chuck Schuster, a doctor of divinity and senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Fort Collins.

So while Christians are celebrating the birth of their savior, Jews are celebrating the least of their high holidays. And when Yom Kippur comes around, it is hardly noticed by the average American citizen.

On such holidays, when Jews shouldn't be working, or during the month of Ramadan when Muslims are going to be fatigued from their fasting, school remains in session. This injustice even a small child can comprehend.

"It's not fair," says Anna Dworkin, a second-grade student at Bauder Elementary School and member of the Jewish faith. "(Hanukkah) is a holiday for (some) people . . . but you get other holidays like Christmas (off)."

Sandeep Sabra, president of the Indian Student Association, said he almost missed Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, since there was hardly any recognition of it in the United States.

"In India, the streets are full of people, all going to get presents," he said. "We just had a gathering of friends."

Americans do not need to recognize every holiday of every other religion. But it would be nice if our institutions were more conscious of holidays requiring a reprieve from labor and if all us Christians maybe took some time after the Christmas season to ask, "What would Jesus do?"

Ben Bleckley is a junior English major. His columns run on Mondays in the Collegian.

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