It's the season of coming together. But when the topic is the observance of the season itself, you readers are as polarized as states red and blue. Few things I've written have...

Share story

It’s the season of coming together. But when the topic is the observance of the season itself, you readers are as polarized as states red and blue.

Few things I’ve written have generated as loud and disparate a response as Wednesday’s column on the blanderization of Christmas and whether schools should allow any religious celebration.
I confess I helped put a match to a parched Christmas tree by blaming Kirkland schools for “banning” Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

Yes, a staged version of the tale was canceled. But Superintendent Don Saul says the reason was the show was booked improperly. The principal’s comments about the play raising issues of religion in school were misunderstood.

“As far as I can tell, no part of district policy or related, judicially determined guidelines would be violated as the result of a presentation of Dickens’ classic as I know it,” he wrote.

Some Kirkland parents say the district is backpedaling due to recent flaps. In this week’s Lake Washington school newspaper, student president Josh Calvert wrote a column called “Shhhh … Don’t Say Christmas.” He says the district blocked a “Spirit of Christmas” gift drive for the troops because of the word “Christmas.”

Still, I went too far. That “A Christmas Carol” is not banned ought to calm readers who lamented, as I did, that if Dickens is scrubbed then the holidays have been sanitized beyond recognition.

“God help us, every one,” wrote Cody Kerns. “I’m offended … by a tiny minority that is jerking around a nation that quaintly worried, once upon a time, about majoritarian tyranny.”

Others sent stories of seasonal sensitivity run amok — Christmas trees banned, art of Jesus’ manger ripped from the classroom wall, carols cleansed of religious words.

I’m surprised at how many rallied to the secular cause. Nearly half of more than 200 readers who weighed in said schools should avoid the issue.

Imagine, wrote Jonathan Pevsner, that every winter the choir sang refrains such as: “All praise Buddha, I dedicate my life to Buddha, Buddha is the center of my being.”

“If you were Christian, I think you might have a problem with that, eh?” he said. Non-Christians shouldn’t have to worry that schools will “lead the child away from the parent’s tradition, into the religion of the majority.”

Seattle’s Dave Freeman, an agnostic like me, said more religion wouldn’t bother him.

“Let the children express their religious beliefs in school. Let the other children learn from it. Celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa and Hanukkah and Halloween. Put on a religious play for cripes sake! The children will be better for it.”

I agree. I know it breaks down the wall a bit between church and state. But what if it were done with no proselytizing, just experiencing one another’s beliefs?

That would be a school I’d send my kids to — one that helps bridge this divide instead of widening it.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or