How my family missed out on a holiday milestone

Her daughter's school didn't do a Christmas concert for the second year in the row, and Hanukkah-celebrating Lisa van de Geyn is miffed.

untitled6 Addy and Peyton. Photo: Lisa van de Geyn

Follow along as Today’s Parent contributor Lisa van de Geyn weighs in on parenting issues and life with her two young daughters. Stay tuned for occasional posts from her husband Peter as he shares parenting stories from his point on view.

For the past few years in this space, I've written about our family's Christmas and Hanukkah (or, Chrismukkah) traditions — you know, things like lighting our menorah, decorating our Christmas tree, celebrating Christmas Eve with friends, eating latkes at my parents', etc., etc.

Last year, I was desperately hoping to include a new tradition: a kindergarten Christmas concert. But there was a whole extracurricular stoppage at schools in our area, so we found out that a concert wouldn't be happening. I was crushed.

Imagine my excitement this year, then, when I started hearing about friends' kids' schools in the area getting a holiday show of some sort. I started driving by other schools and seeing their "Holiday Concert for Parents on December 18" notices on their outdoor bulletins. I also started getting inundated on Facebook with moms and dads excited about their kids' upcoming performances. I started getting giddy.

Last Tuesday, when I picked Addy up from school, I eavesdropped on a couple of mothers who obviously have kids in older grades, and there was mention of not having a concert because some had opposed a Christmas concert because it would exclude other religions and holidays.


Now, I can neither confirm nor deny those accusations after sticking my nose where it didn't belong, but if it's true, this Jew has a statement to make: OY VEY. AND BAH HUMBUG!

Look. My kid goes to public school. Yes, there are lots of ethnicities, nationalities, religions and religious holidays to consider. (In fact, Addy came home last year wishing me a Happy Kwanzaa.) But, as both a Jew, and as an even more visible part of the "Excited Parents" group, I feel robbed from the experience because the school feels the need to be completely politically correct. (That, or I feel bad that I lose out as a parent — and my kid loses out on performing — because the powers that be haven't come up with a simple solution to be more inclusive for these events at our school.)

If I may, when I was a kid — in the same board of education that Addy's in — we never missed a Christmas concert. For many years, the only time Hanukkah was mentioned was when we learned the good 'ole "Dreidel Song" (classic), and when Mrs. Goldman (my mom) was invited each year to come in and make, fry and serve latkes to whichever lucky class I was in. She talked a little about Hanukkah, but mostly made the gross potato pancakes (I'm not a fan, though all my Christmas friends and teachers devoured them) served with sour cream and homemade apple sauce. I was VERY cool, and it was VERY cool to be Jewish on that special day every year.

But when it came to the our Christmas concerts, my parents never missed one and, actually, looked forward to them — not because they're closeted Christ fans, but because they wanted to see their kids on stage. Though there was nary a Maccabee, a menorah, or even a lousy stinkin' piece of Hanukkah gelt to be seen, they enjoyed nights filled with kids singing carols being accompanied by the band; candy canes, Christmas trees with twinkling lights as far as the eye could see; a likely mention of the Baby Jesus and that overbooked inn; a visit from the jolliest old guy himself; and that one time in grade five when we performed The Nutcracker (I was one of the flowers in the "Waltz of the Flowers", and — thank you very much — was one of four or five flowers whose very large pictures appeared above the fold in the Toronto Star to promote the show).


My (long-winded) point is simple: Who cares if they're called Christmas concerts and kids sing Christmas carols — they ARE Christmas carols, after all! You don't deck the halls with boughs of holly at Hanukkah — that wouldn't be kosher — it's just a catchy tune. (Much like the Russian song Addy's class did in June last year. Not a clue what it was about, but it rocked.)

And who cares if there's a Christmas tree in the foyer at the school — there should be. (Throw a menorah up there, too.) And furthermore, they're called Christmas trees. It's insulting to me (as a Jew and a relatively intelligent person) when they're referred to as "Holiday trees." (What are "Holiday trees?")

At the same time, please, for the love of Santa, or Hanukkah Harry (or whoever you believe in), please refer to my menorah as simply that: a menorah. It's NOT a candelabra.

Sadly, I'm sure I'm missing other events folks celebrate around this time, but my fingers are starting to throb as I punch my poor keyboard typing this.

It's OK to call things what they are. And isn't it better to get to see your proud little five-year-old onstage doing hand actions to "Silent Night" or "Away in a Manger" in a Christmas concert than to not get to experience it at all?


Next year I'm asking Santa (or the principal — whoever I get to talk to first) for a concert. Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or just a song and dance to celebrate winter. Anything.

Anyone else's school not do a concert this year? Were you as worked up as I am?

This article was originally published on Dec 30, 2013

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