Part of the fundamental learning process in school is the educational programming of children in history, economics and religious studies to thrive in adult life. Something to reflect on as students and teaching resources merge once again as school re-opens after the recent holiday that has a growing contrary structure.
And it’s back to school for millions of students and around 450,000 teacher resources as the UK educational world fires back into life. The return to school is a welcome relief to many after the excesses of the Christmas break have waned and the dreary January weather has taken the edge off the school holiday. The roads become busier as parents battle once more with the school run and other road users add that extra 10 minutes to their commute. And thousands of children will be reminded, constantly, that the GCSE exams are looming up in the spring.
Christmas, that wonderful time full of good will when we also learn of the vagaries of religion. The 2011 national census figures revealed only 45 per cent of the UK population are Christian, yet the country as a whole engages in the pursuit of a religious holiday that the statistics suggest 55 per cent of the population don’t believe in. Local government striving to be politically correct defer to the use of the substitute term “Happy Holidays” to offset any irritation to non-Christians celebrating Christmas. Ironically the gesture overlooks the fact the word, holiday, stems originally from Holy day. We live in contrary times embodied in the by the realisation there are more non-believers celebrating a religious festival than the Christian minority. But the story doesn’t stop there of course.
The precise date of Christmas day being lost in time was subsequently and arbitrarily selected to coincide with a pagan festival centring on the winter solstice. Up till then it was lumped in with Epiphany on 6th January. Presumably the government around fourth century thought it a good idea to hold a holiday in the depths of the long dark winter as means to cheer up the populace and plumbed for 25th December. Clearly we also need to ignore the 13 days difference between the Gregorian and Julian calendars. Whatever. Whether everybody was then forced to take a week’s holiday as now would be shear conjecture! The modern trend is for the majority of modern employers to shut down for around a week; partly to save operating costs, partly to reduce the impact of annual holiday entitlement being taken during the summer months and partly because everyone else is shut down. Unfortunately it creates a huge imbalance to the economy.
Personally it was welcome relief to experience an alternative Christmas for the first time last year. The pressure to indulge in the de-rigour excesses of food and retail hype overcome by a trip overseas where Christmas is celebrated on a less commercial basis. A visit to the supermarket was devoid of the need to buy stock in volumes which normally would last a month. The sunnier climate boosted the spirit offsetting the need to offset the gloom of dark winters with an overindulgent enforced holiday. And it avoided my pet Christmas hate with the complete absence of TV adverts featuring English spoken in whispering French accent urging the sale of perfume.
Perhaps we can look forward to a department in the European Union dreaming up a new centralised policy on the specification of Christmas. Perhaps not, as the celebrations of this supposedly common holiday vary widely throughout Europe. Holland celebrates the arrival of Saint Nickolas aka. Santa Claus, or Father Christmas on December 4th. whilst he arrives in Belgium on the 6th December. Presents are given on Christmas Eve in France. But lo, as the saying goes, the EU has kicked off with some proposals to outlaw the Dutch ancient tradition whereby Saint Nickolas is supported by Black Peter (Zwarte Piet) rather than the Elves who accompany Santa Claus in the UK. Poor old Black Peter has to go. Stemming from their distant colonial associations the inclusion of Black Peter, traditionally played by a white male with a blackened face, bright red lipstick, Afro wig and large gold earrings could cause upset to those who believe it is designed to insult rather than occupy a space in tradition. The role of the character to hand out sweets to celebrate Christmas in this time of generosity must go presumably to be replaced by a transsexual lesbian. Next on the agenda is the UK pantomime tradition where Prince Charming is played by a female and the ugly sisters and the Dame by men.
But watch this space mind when we are required to avoid the Elves in case we make an inadvertent reference to their diminutive stature. In these days of political correctness, children in school will be met with barrage of things they must surpass in adult life. Some of the magic will go; replaced by a sanitised world where tradition is lost; overwhelmed by regulations that entirely negate the purpose. But then they could invent a new holiday to cheer us all up again.