Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

It looks like Santa threw up in Julia's school today.

The teachers obviously went into full swing with the holiday decoration thing last night, because we walked into a holiday wonderland when we passed through the school doors this morning. Glittering ornaments adorn a prominent tree and the hallways and classrooms are literally decked with holiday artwork. There are Santas and reindeer and snowmen and trees and angels and bells and stars of Bethlehem and more than a few gingerbread men. Oh, and in the corner of Julia's classroom, there are a small selection of tissue paper menorahs and a little sign that says Happy Chanukah.

The sheer mass of holiday artwork took my breath away, I have to admit. The projects are lovely and creative and imaginative, and it's clear that the children had a wonderful time constructing them. I've actually heard Julia mention many of these projects in the past few weeks, and I know that art has been her very favorite part of the day as the class has prepared for this overwhelming display of holiday largess. I knew it was coming. And yet, I was unprepared. Unprepared for how I would feel about my Jewish child's first "school Christmas."

It all looks familiar, of course. I made more than my share of Santas as a child and sang more than my share of songs about reindeer games as an American public school child, and I always knew that Julia and Evan would do the same someday. But like everything else -- the full days of school and the French classes and the desk work and the handwriting lessons -- it came sooner than I had expected. I never particularly minded all of the fuss that teachers made over Christmas, even though the holiday was not my own. Hell, I grew up and married a Christian guy and I celebrate Christmas with him each year, so who am I to talk? But as I stood there today drowning in tinsel and cotton ball snow, I felt an odd sinking feeling in my gut as I realized for the first time that this is the year that Julia is going to discover that she is a minority.

Last year in school, Julia learned to light the menorah and play the dreidel game. Her art projects involved paper latkes and stars of David. Everyone she knew, save her father, her cousins and a few close friends, celebrated Chanukah. And this year? This year, her class all wrote letters to Santa. This year, there is a small selection of tissue paper menorahs in the corner and a little sign that says Happy Chanukah. I wonder if my daughter is possibly old enough to notice and to understand what it all means. And I honestly can't decide if I want her to or not.

5 Comments:

Blogger denzylle said...

No doubt, your children will always be able to celebrate the traditions of the Jewish holidays whilst they are in London at your synagogue, and at home, but it would seem to be a great shame if Julia's teachers missed a teaching opportunity by not talking about the little display in the corner.

Aren't there other Jewish children or members of staff at the school? I know Chanukah is early this year and, perhaps, starts before Julia's school breaks for the holiday. Will she be invited to tell the other children about the lighting of the menorah or playing the dreidel game? (I've even seen that on 'Teletubbies').

With so many children of different religions in UK schools, teachers are often keen to be inclusive and to teach about other practices. There are teachers' resource packs available for all of the different festivals, and for a range of age groups.

Do you think it's worth asking?

7:24 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I would venture to guess that at her age, "minority" means very little to Julia. The beautiful (and I do mean beautiful!) thing about children so young is that "different" doesn't have the "left out" feeling it can have for older kids - and even adults, at times. For mine right now, different is just different - some kids wear glasses, some kids live with their grandparents, some kids celebrate Chanukah. "Big deal - we're all in it together" is their approach.

But, still. I can imagine the culture shock for you. It would be difficult for me, I know. I hope her teachers truly are doing more than a small display off to the side and that Julia is able to proudly show off the games and songs and stories that make up her heritgage.

8:07 PM  
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2:05 AM  
Blogger Dana said...

Rebecca, you always give me so much to think about.

2:52 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

I have read this post a couple of times now, and have been mulling it over in my mind. M won't experience her first school Christmas until kindergarten next year.

I think that our kids are a little different than we were growing up, in that even though they are Jewish, they celebrate Christmas at home every year too. M gets excited over seeing the Christmas trees and decorations everywhere we go, but she also knows that we celebrate it because it's Daddy's holiday. Like you and I have talked about over the years, it's an interesting balance, and one that's not always easy.

I don't know if the fact that we celebrate Christmas at home will make the "minority" thing at school any easier, or only harder for them to understand.

8:33 PM  

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