Growing up in the United States, Boxing Day was a quaint, distant, British custom. Now living in Australia, Boxing Day is a welcomed public holiday based on a distant, British custom – and one which provides an opportunity to consider thinking “outside the box.”
Through the last years in Australia, Christmas Season has given me new perspectives on the ‘boxes’ in which Christmas and culture is placed in my new world, down-under. A primary-school principal in a Northern Perth Suburb assured me that “Christmas is Australian – not a Christian holiday.” Neighbours and their relations emphatically tell me “I’m not religious – Christmas is all about family and being together,” or “it’s a season of love for everyone.”
Hmmm, I wonder…then why is the federal holiday called “Christmas”, not “Family-Together-Love Day”? Why did the primary teacher (who refused to allow my daughter to explain Passover to her Pre-primary class because “religion is not allowed in the school”) have a nativity scene and books with baby Jesus in the classroom and conclude the class concert with Christmas Carols? And what did she teach my little girl, her Jehovah’s Witness classmate, and the rest of the class as the two non-Christmas Children were separated from their classmates as the songs were rehearsed and performed?
In truth, I see Christmas in its complexity, while I can appreciate it in its simplicity. I’m happy for my family’s clarity in [Jewish] religious identity which enables us to be comfortable, happy guests when invited to the Christmas celebrations of others in homes, classes or community gatherings. So…what is this “Box” I imagine getting out of on Boxing Day?
I believe today, much of our society believes multiculturalism is “good” yet assumes that those of “other” cultures should none-the-less follow the dominant cultures’ ways in dress, language and celebration. I hear others laud “tolerance” of other cultures, but I don’t want to be tolerated – I want to be respected with and for my culture and ways. We are all raised within the confines and boxes of particular education and experience – but can we move out of our original packaging? What will it take for us to lift the treasures of our cultures from their particular boxes and make space for them all to be displayed, admired and cherished, each one for its unique beauty? I don’t know – but undoubtedly a first step must be thinking outside the box – and beyond boxing others in.