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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis should open up to Christmas

Published: December 5, 2014
Section: Opinions

After Thanksgiving, and unfortunately even earlier, after Halloween, society turns to the next big holiday: Christmas. The holiday commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, the day that, according to Christian belief, God came into the world to save mankind. Other holidays are celebrated around the same time: Chanukah memorializes the Second Temple’s reclaiming by the Maccabees and the miracle of the Temple menorah’s single night oil allotment lasting eight nights. The Winter Solstice notes the season’s changing and the increase of daylight. Kwanzaa is a weeklong holiday celebrating African-American identity by honoring unity, self-determination and purpose, among other ideals. Brandeis does not recognize any of these holidays, other than Chanukah, with an organized event. A few years ago, a huge laser light show played in the Shapiro Campus Center for the Festival of Lights. There were no Christmas or Kwanzaa parties, with barely a sign they existed. Brandeis must acknowledge and celebrate Gentile holidays. The few holiday spirits here isolate these holiday minority groups on campus.

Signs of other holidays on this campus are not tolerated. Last year, Dunkin’ Donuts played Christmas music and hung decorations. Yearning for some Christmas spirit, I enjoyed it until the music disappeared. I asked about its absence; having worked for a big box retailer, I knew Dunkin’ Donuts did not control its own store’s music. The manager mentioned that they had to remove it “because someone threatened [to sue or complain.]”

There is no other mention of Christmas on campus, and so far this year, I am not optimistic. Yet Chanukah events are funded by Student Events. I enjoy these events and candle-lightings, and we should have them. What irks me is that I cannot have a Christmas tree or a nativity scene up in public, yet my roommates can have a menorah. All happiness is private; since holidays are public, this tries to have a cake and eat it too.

The holiday schedule put out by the Department of Student Activities is not holiday-themed in nature, instead a pure hodge-podge of coincidental and holiday irrelevant events. The first event, the tree-lighting at Copley Square, is off-campus and has no Brandeis-sponsored transportation. Silent auctions, pre-scheduled Tringo, music class recitals and talking to strangers are not holiday events. Examples of such would be visiting Santa, carolling, ugly-sweater showoffs and cocoa parties—events that make one think of the yuletide season. The events offered by Student Events being holiday events is like labelling Adam Sandler’s “Eight Crazy Nights” a Christmas movie because it takes place in December. Student Activities took already existing events and put them on a nice poster, claiming them all to be holiday events. As comedian Debra Wilson once quipped on Mad TV, “Just because you put syrup on a piece of toast don’t make it a pancake!”

You may be wondering about my lack of including the performance of Handel’s “Messiah” with the kosher Christmas cookies and carols; alas, the event is not holiday-themed. Firstly, all Christmas cookies are kosher by nature. If you buy mass-produced packaged cookies from a chain store, more likely than not, the company would have asked a rabbi to certify the process and ingredients as kosher. Secondly, Student Events does not fund nor sponsor the event. The Catholic Students Organization organizes the carolling and the music is provided by Brandeis ensembles, doing so for a class grade. Thirdly, Handel’s “Messiah” is not a Christmas work, but an Easter work appropriated to Yuletide. The oratorio was first sung and played on April 13, 1742. This was about two weeks after Easter Sunday, and since the Easter season lasts for 50 days, the oratorio would have been meant for and played in an Easter context. The famous “Hallelujah” chorus commemorates the end of the Passion, when Jesus died. Brandeis is basically playing “Taps” for a birthday party. Overtime, people erroneously performed it outside of the Easter season and assumed it to be a Christmas event. It is not and must never be considered one.

So why does Brandeis host the event? This is a saccharine “love all and everything” event before finals and not a Christmas celebration. This is further proved by last year’s pamphlets making it a political event: Apparently, the event is not religious, despite all of it coming from the Bible, but a social justice celebration. Taking Brandeis’ own words, this beloved tradition destroys any Christmas spirit, and is meant to inspire whatever social justice is. Christmas cheer cannot be extant, apparently, without some false political message.

Holiday cheer on campus does not exist due to finals, and the few examples of it are squashed. Finals occur during Chanukah this year and before all of the other holidays. One cannot have a party for the season. Quiet hours are enacted three days prior. The assumption is we are all good students and spend day and night holed up in the library making sure we all do well enough to make the dean’s list. Even good students need study breaks. Also, to put it nicely, not all Brandeisians possess the foresight to study in advance. It would be nice to have a Christmas party during finals, but due to the Department of Community Living’s moratorium on events after Dec. 8, we must celebrate our holidays in silence.

All-in-all, it sucks not being able to have a Christmas celebration on this campus. I am a senior, so I am relieved to say it will be my last one. In the world outside of campus, the Christmas season becomes sullied. Yet we all need a little Christmas, as the song goes, to make stresses such as finals melt as the snow on the campus does. And if someone does not celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Chanukah or any other holiday, that is fine. The experience means more to the believer or the celebrant. I wish you the best holiday you celebrate this year. Feel free to wish me a Merry Christmas if you see me.