For the entire month of December, and as of lately November too, shopping malls, grocery stores and homes are hit with a whirlwind of Christmas trees, multi-colored lights and gleeful snowmen.
For most Americans, this is to be expected. Most never think twice about the cheery (or sometimes disgruntled) ‘Merry Christmas’ shouted whenever you enter or exit a store.
However, this is not every American’s experience. Although 93 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, only 80 percent of American identify themselves as Christian and there are Americans who do not according to a 2008 Gallup poll.
For the seven percent who do not celebrate Christmas, December can be the bane of the calendar year. The repetitive onslaught of Christmas music, sung by the latest pop queen, the ravenous shoppers who are ready kill for the latest Tickle Me Elmo and the Salvation Army bell-ringers who never quit ringing their bells, even to ask you for money can be overwhelming, to say the least.
For those who not only don’t celebrate Christmas, but also celebrate another December holiday, such as Kwanzaa or Chanukah, the overwhelming feelings turn into downright frustration. Despite the diversity in our society and traditions, there is an absence of it in our media, television and stores.
At the Ypsilanti Meijer, there are at least five aisles dedicated to the Holidays. Tucked back into one of these aisles is a small cardboard stand dedicated to Chanukah. The stand includes some Chanukah candles, some kitchen utensils and a few menorah options, mostly dedicated to helping children learn about the holiday. From what I could tell there wasn’t anything for Kwanzaa.
And it goes beyond just what is available in stores.
In grade school, children grow up having Christmas parties, even if their families don’t celebrate it. The television channel ABC Family airs ’25 days of Christmas’ as well as a countdown to the ’25 days of Christmas.’
Very rarely do commercials depict menorahs or kinaras.
Cashiers always wish you a ‘Merry Christmas,’ not a ‘Happy Holidays.’ Anyone who has watched TV in the past month knows that “Christmas costs less as Wal-Mart.”
And the list goes on.
There is a discrepancy, to say the least, in how our society views the Holiday season. I am not suggesting that we ignore Christmas because there are other holidays, just that we as a whole try to become more aware and more sensitive to the fact that not everyone celebrates Christmas.
Part of what makes our society in particular so unique is that we have a plethora of different peoples, cultures and traditions within our borders. We owe it to ourselves to learn all we can about other traditions and embrace them, instead of making them feel like outcasts because they don’t trim a Christmas tree.
So this Holiday season, think about the month from a different perspective, and embrace our differences. Wish strangers a ‘Happy Holidays’ and question the lack of diversity December holds. We are a diverse society and it is time we started acting like one.