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Part 2 – Do you participate in every religiously-connected school celebration?

I have a pretty inclusive belief system, being a member of the Baha’i Faith. I don’t mind my children being exposed to all the varying religious traditions and celebrations the world has to offer. But this last egg hunt at school, the week before Easter, did make me think about just how oriented around the Christian Faith school holidays and celebrations are.

Schools have ‘egg hunts’ not ‘Easter egg hunts’, from what I can tell. They have ‘Holiday Parties’, not ‘Christmas Parties’. Jesus Christ is never mentioned, as far as I know, or isn’t supposed to be. My fifth-grade teacher did mention Him a bit and pulled out a Bible a few times while lecturing us on being good people but she got talked to about it, I do believe.

I think schools walk a line of political correctness in not mentioning the religious aspects of the celebration.

But this makes me ask then, why celebrate Spring with an egg hunt at all?

Why did my kid come home telling me that Santa Claus only brings presents to good children, not ‘naughty’ ones? (That’s a concept that annoys me greatly, but is kind of off this main point).

Why is it okay to use these concepts to celebrate the seasons and breaks from school when they are linked closely to Christianity?

Now, it is true that many Christians do not necessarily relish the thought of religious observances they take seriously being watered down to Christmas trees and egg hunts, either. I guess my feeling is– if it is a tradition tied to religion, and that religion isn’t *actually* being taught or discussed, *why* use it?

Is it laziness on the school’s part? It’s easier to just have an egg hunt because children expect that and little plastic eggs and candy with bunnies on it are on sale at every store in town?

Why not do something to celebrate spring? Why not have a lesson about planting and bees and pollination? I’m positive that there are physical activities and games that could be fun for kids, cheap for schools, easy for teachers and educational– ones that don’t revolve around traditions that no one discusses the reasons for anymore, and when schools aren’t supposed to push religion at all.

Again, I say this not because I personally have a problem with my child learning about the religious traditions of all– but she isn’t doing that. And it’s not the school’s place. And some parents might not want them to participate in the egg hunt or “holiday” party that revolves around presents and christmas trees, and that is their right. I’m torn between seeing these things as American cultural holidays (I have an agnostic friend who still gives Christmas presents) and that it’s not a big deal, but I think when it comes to school it’s an issue worth examining. It doesn’t have to be a big deal to *me* to celebrate Christmas, as an American holiday, picking and choosing the parts I want to pass down to my children, the religious parts verse the pagan/seasonal parts vs the material American parts. But to do it in a school is different.

It’s my job to have an ongoing conversation with her about the values and beliefs that I want her to be exposed to.

I remember covering a story 3 or 4 years ago. A local doctor had put together an event for global education for elementary school kids, and several hundred kids took a field trip to the event to view and present tables on whichever area of the world their classroom had focused on. He talked to me about how he believes children have to learn about the entire world to have a shot at being successful in this world– it’s completely unavoidable in today’s world not to work with or meet people with different cultures and languages, he said.

I think this extends to religions. It doesn’t hurt our children to know at least a little bit about them. I have some other Baha’i friends, and a Jewish friend, who have done a lot more than I have in having their child’s classroom discuss and have activities based around their religions and the other children always enjoy it.

I don’t think the solution to this is to do less, I think it is to do more. But schools are not going to do more unless parents ask them to, and they’ll only do it in that child’s classroom. That’s why I think fall, spring and winter celebrations should have to do with the seasons and what activities and lessons can be derived from that. And discussion of religious traditions, inclusively, could be done all around the year.

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Part 1 – What to do about the food?

Back during Azita’s “holiday party” at Christmas time I always meant to make a post about the difficulty of every celebration involving food for a mom of a kid with food intolerances. I volunteered to bring the cupcakes, which I thankfully legally can since I have a kitchen certified by the state and sell my products at a local store. Remembering from my own parties at school, I guess I thought it would be some physical activity and one treat or two and maybe a movie, so bringing the cupcakes would pretty well ensure that Azita mostly got the same experiance as the other kids.

I was floored when I got there. The cupcakes were hardly even noticed. Pizza, candy, snacks, junky-type “juice”. It was a buffet of gluten, dairy and artificial flavors. One mom brought oranges, which remained unopened.

Oy, what would have been wrong with some cupcakes and orange slices? It was a junk-foody, decadent party even for adults. Even more frustrating was the fact that the teacher called me at 6 pm the night before to tell me she’d be bringing pizza– so that necessitated a trip to the health food store to get Daiya cheese and to make a crust, right at dinnertime and just before bedtime. Super convenient for us.

True, we could have just not sent pizza for her and let her sit there while everyone ate there hyperactivity-inducing treats, but that’s just not how I roll. I want my kid to relish the fact that she eats in a way that will nourish her body. At this point, while she is 5, I think that includes making sure she doesn’t feel left out. As she ages, I think there will be times that she just don’t have what others have and is okay with that.

Fast forward a few months, and I get a letter home from the school asking to bring eggs filled with non-chocolate candy for the egg hunt at school.

It specifically details store-bought wrapped candy. Yet another school-related activity where we are giving our kids the message that it has to revolve around food. I wasn’t going to send artificial food for anyone’s child, and so I sent eggs with organic Vitamin C drop from yummy earth, and a bag for Azita to trade the candy she gets in her eggs, and she was very cooperative and happy with that plan.

It just strikes me though, the way candy is specifically asked for. There are dozens are spring celebrations that could revolve around activities and art and play, not sugar. There are dozens of spring celebrations that could revolve around spring itself, and not a secular activity tied to a religion not every child shares, but that is for part 2.

What struck me, really, was that I went to a egg hunt for a playgroup I’m a part of. The organizer had suggested stickers and toys be in the eggs as well.

Out of 8 moms or so that brought eggs, I think only two brought candy (and I was one of them, but only because I had all the Vitamin C drops and have had way too much morning sickness for any extra store trips for stickers– though that was my original plan).

The eggs had bracelets, plastic bugs (Ada’s favorite), dinosaurs… and the kids loved it. It *didn’t* revolved around artificial junk in any way shape or form. Why can’t schools be like that?

I know change only happens if someone raises their voice and asks for it, but I’m feeling pretty unlistened to by the public school system at the moment. With the rise of food allergies, these schools need to get on the ball. Seriously.

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