Religious wars hit close to home

Update: I read that the school concert went ahead, with Frosty the Snowman replacing the modified Silver Bells as the token non-religious song on the programme (Frosty makes no reference to any religious holidays).

Both of my children attended Elmdale Public School here in Ottawa from junior kindergarten to grade six. Now, my kids’ alma mater has triggered a nation-wide moral panic by changing the line “it’s Christmas time in the city” to “it’s festive time in the city” in the song Silver Bells for a grade-two and -three concert.

I’ve already gone on record saying that it’s OK to wish me Merry Christmas — I’m as proud of my Christian background as some of my friends and neighbours are of their Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu backgrounds — but that’s not what this was all about. The primary choir was already singing songs about Christmas and Hanukkah, and the choir leaders decided to add an additional song that was non-religious. I think that the existing non-religious songs Jingle Bells or Winter Wonderland would have been fine, but they decided to take Silver Bells — an otherwise secular pop song about shopping downtown in a city — and replace the word “Christmas”. Silly? Probably. An attack on Christmas or Christianity? Hardly.

The real attack on Christmas and Christianity

Here are some people who might need help understanding the idea of Christmas and Christianity:

  • the school parent(s) who decided to take this to the media
  • the newspaper columnists who made a primary class holiday concert into a national culture battle
  • the talk radio hosts who urged listeners to go after the school and ended up putting the lives of hundreds of small children at risk
  • the hundreds of people who called or e-mail messages of hatred (and a bomb threat) to the nice women working in the school office

According to the Christian New Testament, Jesus didn’t have anything good to say about people like this — he far preferred the company of prostitutes and tax collectors to the religious self-righteous. If you are religious (any religion), pray, meditate, or just hope that their hearts can still be opened this season.

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5 Responses to Religious wars hit close to home

  1. DeanG says:

    +1. Sanity before Sanitization.

  2. Scott Hudson says:

    While I do not support folks making threats of any nature, especially on an issue like this,
    I must say that I AM sick and tired of the lack of tolerance FOR Christians and Christianity.
    The media and atheists are more than happy to point out the hypocrites who do not practice
    what they preach (which is fine, but don’t condemn ALL of Christianity for the fallen few),
    and they shout about how intolerant Christians are.

    Unfortunately, the Atheists quickly forget
    their own hypocrisy and intolerance when they force THEIR view of the world on us. This is a
    perfect example of atheism run rampant, when they change words in traditional songs
    to try to wipe out any thought of Christ, Christianity or Christmas. There needs to be
    tolerance of Christian ideals, just as much as Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, and yes, even Atheism.

    Merry Christmas! Peace on Earth and good will toward men.

  3. david says:


    Don’t forget that (a) the school choir did sing Christian Christmas songs as well, with no lyrics changed (as well as Hanukkah songs), and (b) Silver Bells is a pop song from a 1950s movie soundtrack, not a Christian hymn like Silent Night or Away in a Manger. I also did not see any mention in the news that atheists were involved.

    Most of the people I’ve met who are over-sensitive about mentioning Christmas are Christians themselves, not atheists, Jews, Muslims, etc., as I mentioned here. If there’s a war over Christmas, it’s a civil war within Christianity, not a war between Christianity and other religions or philosophies.

  4. John Cowan says:

    Silver Bells is moderately important, though, because it’s an *urban* secular Christmas song, otherwise a rare breed. With the overwhelming majority of North Americans living in cities, it’s important to have a song or two representing the urban Christmas experience.

    Besides, the movie it comes from, The Lemon Drop Kid, is loosely based on a Damon Runyon story, and so the city in question is The City, the Big Apple, one of the most multicultural places on, or rather off, the continent, and my own city to boot. (Though I certainly admit that Toronto is very much in the big leagues here.)

  5. david says:


    Sadly, while Silver Bells still represents your experience in NYC and mine in Ottawa (and Toronto, earlier), walking along a downtown street past decorated storefronts is hardly typical of the U.S. or Canadian shopping experience any more. Even malls — where you still at least pass other people walking between the Gap and Radio Shack — are dying out, in favour of big boxes where you drive from parking lot to parking lot (assuming that you’re not ordering online).

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