Does Christmas music belong in school?

Holiday tunes seen as overly religious

Holiday music can either put students in a festive spirit or create an uncomfortable atmosphere.

Teachers, especially advisers, have leeway to make their own decisions regarding students’ comfort, with some deciding to ban Christmas music.

Math teacher and senior advisor Katherine Linsenmeier is one of those. She explained that some students may feel offended and excluded, since a majority of students celebrate Christmas.

“In a public school it’s problematic because schools are supposed to be separate from religion,” said Linsenmeier.

In her personal time, Linsenmeier celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah, and listens to holiday music. However, she wants advisery to feel safe and inclusive, and to learn tolerance.

“Part of my message to [my] advisery is to recognize that our experiences aren’t everybody’s experiences and that we should listen to what other people say about their own,” said Linsenmeier.

Senior Evan Gross feels excluded when Christmas music is played in stores and at school.

“There are more religions than just Christianity,” Gross said. He feels uneasy when he’s shopping and hears holiday music, but none about Hanukkah.

While some students are against playing religious music at school, others believe in its festive value. Senior Izzy Vratimos, a Linsenmeier advisee, said she wishes she could listen to holiday music in advisery. She celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, and listens to holiday music as a way of joyful celebration.

Vratimos participates in choir opera and swing choir, and said that the majority of the songs in her musical classes are dedicated to the holidays this time of year.

“For two periods a day I sing Christmas music, but then in advisery we can’t even play Mariah Carey,” Vratimos explained.

She also brought up the choir opera traditions of Christmas caroling and performing at the Winter Music Festival.

Vratimos shared how Christmas music,“for the most part, is seen as a winter tradition. It’s not questioned very much since it’s been going on for so long.”

But, “some students have brought [the issue of religion] up before…[saying] they are not represented,” said Vratimos.

Vratimos noted, “They always put in one Hanukkah song to try to be inclusive, but it’s not really. It kind of goes unnoticed.”

As a music teacher, the Department Chair of Music David S. Ladd’s biggest struggles can be regarding choosing holiday music. He said the importance of listening to holiday music, which includes Christmas and Hanukkah songs, with his students.

“We also do music that has Hebrew text,” said Ladd. “We sang ‘Ashira’ this year.”

Songs with secular texts, like “Winter Wonderland” and “Let it Snow,” are more comfortable since they relate to winter but aren’t tethered to a specific holiday.

Ladd believes in the importance of studying holiday music, including Christmas and Hanukkah songs. “It is a part of history, it helped develop music in a certain way.”