I wonder what words we use now, compared to what we used to? Being a member of a Christian Society would mean that we remember Christmas as the Day when Jesus was born. But being a member of a secularised society means being careful with religious connections of any kind, at least when being a teacher. So… we might say Winter Break instead of Christmas Holiday… In Sweden I’d say most of us still say Christmas Holiday, ”jullov”, although not all of us would cherish the memory of Jesus. I suppose some children grow up innocently thinking that we celebrate Christmas because Santa comes…?
Easter… we celebrate Easter because we need an excuse to eat eggs and have fun searching for candy in an egg hunt? I noticed last spring that instead of calling our typical Easter flowers ”Easter lilies” they had a new more neutral name; ”Spring lilies” and I suspect the reason why was that they wanted to be able to sell those flowers to ANYONE, not just the people who celebrate Easter… How clever!!!
Whatever we DO believe in, we risk to forget the reason. If we don’t communicate with our kids and remind them of reasons for our traditions or holidays, then they will grow up not knowing. But, having said that, I still think respect is a beautiful word in our vocabulary. If I teach a group of students, I’m not supposed to promote any religion in particular. So how would I then share the Swedish way of celebrating Christmas, without hurting people who have another belief? How can I possibly not at all show my own belief? Do I need to be a non believing person in order to be trustworthy? I don’t think so. I think I need to communicate the official Swedish viewpoint at the same time as I can be true to myself by not negotiating with my own belief. SO… If I meet people of different beliefs at work, I tend to be the ”cushion” in between different viewpoints. I try very hard to tell my students that whatever you believe you are free to do so, since Sweden is a society where there is no longer a state religion. You can choose for yourself to believe or not and if you believe, it’s up to you whether you’re a Buddhist or a Moslem or if your God is Jahve. And when you neighbout has another belief than you do, then just leave your neighbour in peace. You, yourself, have the same opportunity to choose, don’t you? I think the very choice to decide for oneself, is one of the best laws here in Sweden.