Communities should not strip away rich traditions

Every year as December rolls around houses become infused with lights and obnoxious inflatable snow globes. Americans enrage in a debate that cannot be settled. People have their different opinions on whether one should say “Happy Holidays” or greet one another with “Merry Christmas” and every year it seems to me as if the controversy continues to grow. This year, more and more local governments are stepping in and joining the debate during their city wide holiday celebrations. The most controversy seems to be revolving around one question for politicians and city leaders, are citizens attending their town’s “Christmas tree” or “Holiday tree” lighting? Despite pressure from several groups, the White House in Washington D.C. still calls their 26 elaborately decorated trees throughout the season “Christmas trees” according to their official website. However, in Roselle Park, NJ, the mayor and a city council member are in a bit of a disagreement over the naming of their annual tree lighting festival. According to ABC news, council woman Charlene Storey wants the tradition to be altered so that the tree is known as the town’s “Holiday tree.” The mayor, Carl Hokanson, told ABC News that he thinks it should continue to be called the “Christmas tree.” When it comes to this debate, I side with Mayor Hokanson on this argument. As the tradition of Christmas trees in our great nation lives on, the tradition and special vibes one feels as they attend a Christmas tree lighting should not be altered. At Augustana, we honor and celebrate diversity, and the Lutheran college does an exceptional job at being all inclusive when it comes to celebrating different holidays during the holiday season. However, our campus still has an annual “Christmas tree” lighting. We are a community that celebrates one another. I have never heard of anyone being offended by our campuses Christmas tree. In fact this year, I encountered non-Christian and non-Christmas celebrating students honoring the tradition at the Christmas tree lighting. I’ve experienced Christians honoring and celebrating other religions and cultures at other campus holiday events, such as Diwali, a Hindu New Year’s celebration. While I understand where the counter argument comes from and why it is being made, I disagree strongly with the requested change many are hoping for. I believe that towns and communities show their support for diversity and their celebrated values during this season without stripping away the holiday of Christmas from its traditions. Instead of taking away Christmas Trees, towns and communities should build upon their holiday season, and implement more (possibly new) traditions that celebrate each culture’s beliefs. Communities should focus on adding activities and events to the festivals to celebrate holidays like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. It is traditions like Christmas tree lightings that bring meaning to these types of holiday celebrations. From communities around the globe, adding new traditions would call for an even bigger celebration of the inclusive and cultural diversity.