Christmas Decor at PPS: A Jewish Perspective

The commercialization of Christmas is prominent across American storefronts, advertisements, workplaces, and schools. Minority religions are often lost in the holiday rush; as decorations go up, the focus is shifted to Christmas. In schools across the country, Christmas trees, wreaths, candy canes, and red and green decorations line the halls. This Christo-centric school system alienates students of minority religions. Given that many Americans view Christmas decorations as secular, the separation of church and state reaches a grey area when the ‘holiday season’ arrives.

Cleveland is not exempt from the Christo-centric system as Christmas decorations are involved in winter activities. We urge schools to follow the PPS guidelines and regulations surrounding holiday decorations. Page two of PPS’s General Counsel Board Secretary Jolle Pattersons’s email to building administrators titled “Religious Issues” states, “…we strongly advise against display of Christmas trees. However, if Christmas trees are displayed, we recommend that they are accompanied by symbols of other religious faiths.” Additionally, on page three the document states that “placing holiday decorations that feature religious symbols in hallways or on office walls, windows, counter tops, etc., would likely be viewed as government endorsement of religion, which is prohibited in a school setting.”

What this would look like in terms of school decoration reform would be including decorations for all seasonal holidays rather than just Christmas. However, this presents a new issue of which holiday seasons are decorated for–days of religious and cultural importance exist throughout the year, not just in December. Even if other holiday decorations are included alongside Christmas ones, the lack of minority holiday decorations other times of the year sends out the message that minority holidays are only important if they coincide with Christian ones.

Commercializing holidays of religious significance under the guise of inclusion is not an effective solution, but the status quo brings a focus on Christianity to public schools. A simple solution is the eradication of holiday decorations in schools, so that all students may feel included in their community.