Augustana should keep calling it "Christmas"

It’s December, and you can tell by looking around campus that Christmas is approaching.
Since Augustana is a Lutheran college, there are recurring conversations about the role of Christianity in relation to non-Christian students. On one hand, we have debates about whether we should have a Christian Traditions graduation requirement. On the other hand, we have people casually referring to “holiday trees” and “winter break.”
Let’s be honest, it’s Christmas break. (Just look at the academic calendar.) And we can call the pretty trees around campus, with their pagan roots, “holiday trees,” but they’re being used as part of a Christian celebration here. It is honest to call these things what they are. It is not necessarily exclusionary to do so.
Augustana as an institution wants to be “diverse,” and Augustana as a community wants this diversity to be genuine and dealt with appropriately. I don’t think this goal is well-served by veiling Augustana’s Christianity with language, especially when we expect minority religious and cultural groups to put on events. A friend of mine noted that at the Muslim Student Association’s annual Eid Dinner, we spent our most important holiday teaching non-Muslim students, while current Christian holiday events are mostly celebratory and assume familiarity with the religion.
It would be more inclusive to shift the tone of some of the Christian holiday events to be more educational, and thus allow all holiday events to be rewarding through both education and celebration. It should not be on minority students to invite others to learn and thus give the appearance of vibrant diversity; it should also be on Augustana to be both honest about its heritage and genuinely welcoming by not assuming that students are familiar with Christian holidays.
Veiling the language of Christmas also does nothing to fix the actual structure that causes difficulties for non-Christians. A majority of students are either Christians or “nones,” giving them little conflict with the “secular” schedule based on a Christian calendar, for example. So, in the case of Christmas recess, calling it “winter break” simply suggests that there’s no favoritism involved. Instead, being honest about why we have break when we do (regardless of how well it also matches up to other holidays in some year) and thus making clear how Christianity is accommodated by default, makes it easier to argue for having a more flexible schedule or for taking other holidays off.
One response to this might be that we shouldn’t have public religious expressions at all. But, while I can’t speak for others’ experiences, my life has been enriched by the varied religious experiences at the college, including Christian celebrations. I’m not a christian, for the record, I just love the idea of Augustana as a vibrant place where everyone can express their religion and be as celebratory (or mournful) as they want, inviting others to share in that if they’re comfortable. This is why I love seeing our Diwali, Hanukkah, and other events… but it’s also why I love seeing the Christmas decorations secretaries bring in to decorate their department offices.
There are certainly things I think Augustana could do better regarding non-Christian students. For example, I wish there were regular interfaith services and that the Christian Traditions rule was more nuanced. But as Augustana looks to handle diversity better, I think it should continue to own its Christian heritage as it always has, while adjusting its attitude to be one of welcoming and educating rather than assuming familiarity.