The Santa Dilemma

By Michael Imber

Many public schools, especially elementary schools, annually wrestle with the issue of how they should deal with the approach of Christmas.

Some public schools, despite clear signals from the courts that their actions are unconstitutional, continue to behave in a manner befitting a private religious institution. They decorate themselves with crèches and crosses and sponsor pageants and plays that affirm belief in Christianity.

At the other end of the continuum, some schools avoid all notice of Christmas. Teachers are instructed not to teach about the origins or traditions of Christmas even as the school, the community, and the entire nation prepare for their annual Christmas break. The turkeys and pilgrims of Thanksgiving bulletin boards are not replaced with anything even remotely associated with the most celebrated holiday of the year.

Most schools are somewhere in between. They seek to acknowledge the great religious and cultural importance of Christmas without turning the school into a church.

But how should the line be drawn? Is it possible to accurately convey the pervasive significance of Christmas in the United States and much of the world without endorsing or encouraging religious observation and belief? Should commonplace symbols of the season, such as evergreen trees, snowflakes, and candy canes, be found in school lobbies and classrooms?

Should Santa Claus be allowed in school? 

Would you like to continue reading?
Subscribers please click here to continue reading. If you are not a subscriber, please click here to purchase this article or to obtain a subscription to ASBJ.