Christmas trees on campus disregard religious sensibilities


With Christmas around the corner, should Christmas trees be adorning the halls of BCIT?

"Christmas tree" or "Holiday spruce"? You decide.
“Christmas tree” or “Holiday spruce”? You decide.

Walking through the halls of building SE2 at Burnaby Campus, one cannot help but notice the proliferation of Christmas trees that have begun to pop up. Making my way to the offices of The Link, located above the Great Hall, I counted five trees. I didn’t think much of it, in fact I only realized there were Christmas trees up when it dawned on me that I was not a Christian and became unsure of how to feel.

Should I be offended by the outward display of Christian tradition?

I was reminded of an episode of The Simpsons in which Ned Flanders, as temporary school principal, says a prayer during his morning announcement. Upon hearing it, Superintendent Chalmers exclaims, “A prayer in a public school? God has no place within these walls!”

Typically, a Christmas tree is adorned with an angel at the top and tiny mangers depicting the birth of Christ hanging from its branches. But I didn’t see any angels or any mangers if my memory serves well.

I spoke to two students who told me they were Hindi. I asked how they felt seeing Christmas trees in their school, which they pay good money to be in. They both shrugged and told me they didn’t mind. In fact, they both admitted to exchanging gifts with family on Christmas Day, though not celebrating the actual holiday.

Unfortunately, I did not get a response from BCIT in time for the article, but I’d like to know whether or not they put up the trees knowing full well they are Christian symbols and if the concept of religion popped into their heads. I also wonder whether people think of Jesus Christ when they see a Christmas tree. I don’t, but as an atheist perhaps I’m not the best example.

[pullquote]Has Christmas shifted from a religious holiday to a cultural event?[/pullquote]If there’s one thing about Christmas, is that it sells. You go to Starbucks for a coffee in December and you’ll get it in a cup with a Christmas design to it. Who doesn’t like Coca Cola’s Christmas commercials with the polar bears? There’s not a trace of religious symbolism in any of these highly successful marketing campaigns but people eat it up.

People love Christmas and it stirs their emotions with happy thoughts of family, presents, and chestnuts roasting by an open fire. To put it bluntly, Christmas has become less and less about Jesus Christ.

Has Christmas shifted from a religious holiday to a cultural event? After all, it is a national holiday whereas other religious holidays like Yom Kippur are not. The very fact that Christmas is indeed a national holiday makes it okay for Christmas trees to be put up. Everyone has the day off, which affords them the perfect opportunity to celebrate the holiday. One could argue that by making Christmas a national holiday, the federal government is saying, indirectly, to Canadians that everybody celebrates Christmas.

If BCIT is going to put up Christmas trees in halls where Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and atheists walk, they need to consider these people’s religious sensibilities — or lack thereof. You either celebrate all religions or none of them. No, I’m not offended personally by Christmas trees being hung, but I can safely assume there are those who are.[hr]

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