Calling a Christmas tree a “holiday tree” is like calling a Hanukkah menorah a “winter candelabrum.” Generic names for well-known holiday symbols don’t truly honor diversity. Instead, they “airbrush out” the meaning of experiences, traditions, and symbols that are part of people’s lives and cultures.
Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn recently pointed out, “…In their own day, the 13 American colonies were among the most religiously diverse places on Earth. Yet for all the frictions and flaws, the understanding they bequeathed us in the First Amendment helped shield America from the disastrous religious wars that plagued Europe, not to mention the ones still causing bloodletting in the Middle East.”
By preventing the federal government from imposing or prohibiting religious beliefs and practices, the framers of the Constitution not only defended the rightful freedom of hearts, minds, and souls, but also Americans’ ability to keep traditions and celebrations associated with faith.
American tolerance shouldn’t be understood to mean we can’t celebrate openly or say the word “Christmas” in public. It’s a quirky postmodern phenomenon to be timid about naming the season of good cheer. Authentic respect for our various beliefs involves honoring the truth about the origins and meaning of our traditions and learning about each other. Let us take a moment to remember our freedoms as we gaze at our Christmas trees this holiday season. A Merry Christmas to all!
Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director and Director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland program at Cascade Policy Institute.