A Forced Holiday

Photo courtesy of Dwight Burdette

The government’s acknowledgement of Christmas violates the First Amendment

By Julia Bell

As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder (kind of), Starbucks switches from pumpkin spice to peppermint and from white cups to… red cups.

Every year the famous coffee chain releases special holiday cups with symbols of the season. In the past, they have featured everything from snowmen and snowflakes, to ornaments and reindeer.  Last year, Starbucks chose a controversial design: a solid red cup.  The backlash was immediate: Starbucks was accused of hating Christmas and taking away the spirit of the holiday.

What else could a solid red cup possibly mean?

In response to the design, many unhappy customers started using the name “Merry Christmas,” so the baristas would have to write it on their cup and call it out when their drink was ready. Original.

The red cup controversy captured national attention, but the issue extends well beyond the design of disposable cardboard. Christmas is not the only holiday that falls at this time of year. Yet for some reason, our country treats it as though it is. It’s impossible to avoid. When December rolls around in Dexter, the nativity scene is assembled and a Christmas tree stands tall beside the gazebo.  In school, quiet work time in class turns into a Christmas music sing-along.

The holiday has become increasingly secularized in our culture, but by definition it commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. Despite being a country of religious freedom and equality, Christmas is the only religious holiday recognized federally.  It’s the only religious holiday that requires employers to give their employees the opportunity to observe.

Many argue that America was founded on Christianity and view “Christian” and “American” synonymously.  However, the First Amendment of our constitution states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

America is a land of great diversity.  With great diversity comes a greater responsibility to coexist and respect the beliefs and behaviors that differ from our own.  At a time when America is struggling to unite, Christmas seems to emphasize the divide. It’s no surprise that Starbucks is criticized for failing to acknowledge Christmas when the law of our land requires it.

Top Five Christmas Movies and Music

By Alex Strang and Nick LeBlanc

Right after Thanksgiving dinner is all cleaned up and you’re on the way to go Black Friday shopping, you start to hear songs that have become all too familiar: Christmas songs.  Without missing a beat, the Christmas tunes are released into the airwaves right as the conversation with Grandma on how you need a boyfriend/girlfriend has ended and you begin to leave your creepy Uncle’s house that you barely even know.

Every year, we listen to the same Christmas music and watch the same Christmas movies, but why do we listen to same songs and watch the same movies every December? Well it’s simple; they get us in the Christmas spirit. They make us want to down some eggnog, go spend an unnecessary amount of money on our family and friends, and go chop down a tree and haul it home. So, by the time December 25 rolls around, everyone is in the holly-jolly Christmas spirit.

As a staff, we have created a list of our favorite movies and songs.

Movies

5. A Christmas Story

Released over 30 years ago, A Christmas Story continues to be watched by millions of families each year. The movie follows Ralphie, a young boy who only wants one thing from Santa: A Red Ryder BB Gun. Despite everyone telling him “you’ll shoot your eye out,” he doesn’t give up hope. You will be able to find this on TV everyday in December on many channels.

4. Polar Express

Polar Express This is the most kid-friendly movie on the list. It is a Christmas fantasy where a train picks up children and takes them to the North Pole. Compared to the other movies on the list, this movie lacks the comedy.

3. Elf

Elf has been the most overplayed Christmas movie in the past decade as well as the most popular. As every teacher’s go-to Christmas movie, you might watch it five times the day before you go on Christmas Break. Popular comedian Will Ferrell plays a human elf that embarks on a journey from the North Pole in search of an important person in his life.

2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the funniest Christmas movie on our list. Chevy Chase plays Clark Griswold, the father of a dysfunctional family in this holiday season comedy. Although it is a family movie, we would not say it is family friendly. Despite only a PG-13 rating, this movie is full of crude humour and it may not be suitable for little cousin Jimmy, so parents and relatives alike make sure you have a blanket ready to cover the TV at various parts of the movie unless you want 20 questions afterwards.

1. Home Alone 1

Home Alone follows a boy’s adventures during the holiday season when his large family accidentally leaves without him when they go on vacation.  As an all-time Christmas favorite, this action-packed comedy does not disappoint. What makes this movie so great is that, when we were younger, we all had that fantasy of feeling all powerful, which is exactly how the protagonist, Kevin, acts.  Due to Kevin’s nature and our young age, Kevin was a Hero to us.  The combination of being a Christmas thriller and being filled with nostalgia means if you are going to watch one movie this December, make it Home Alone.

Music

5. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas by Michael Bublé

This Bublé classic gets the listener hype about snow that is related to Christmas. The reason why this song is not higher on our list is because more often than not, the weather feels like Easter on Christmas; thus, the song is rather misleading.

4. Little Saint Nick by the Beach Boys

Similar to the song in the five spot, “Little Saint Nick” is a Christmas classic.  However, this song also has a major downfall to it: Saint Nick is not little. While the song provides a good tune, as a staff it was difficult to rank this song higher due to the misinterpretation of the most important character related to the Christmas season.

3. Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Michael Bublé

Being one of the most iconic christmas songs means that it has been featured in hit Christmas movies like the Polar Express. The major downfall of the song is that it highlights the downfalls of a seemingly jolly holiday.  For example, the song says “he sees you when you’re sleeping.” While the staff recognizes that the fact that Santa stalks us in our sleep is a part of the holiday, we feel the negative, creepy aspects of the holiday could’ve been left out.  In addition, you shouldn’t need to threaten the kids within the song to get them to behave. If it is needed, maybe the kids need better parents.

2. A Wonderful Christmas Time by the Beatles

What happens when you mix one of the greatest bands of all time and one of the most celebrated holidays in the United States? A subpar album.  Nevertheless, within the album is a song that has been welcomed during the Christmas time from 95-year-old Grandma Gertrude to five-year-old little Timmy. The Beatles have managed to create a popular Christmas song that goes along with the sound of ‘70s that has actually lasted, which makes this song even better.

1. All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey

The Squall chose Mariah Carey’s song to take the number one spot because of the heavenly tune alongside the modern, pop style. While the old fashion songs are welcomed, having your ears blessed by Ms. Carey’s voice is a good shake up from the typical Christmas tune. We also feel that when she says “All I want for Christmas is you,” she is talking to the audience, and more specifically us.  The loving gesture that Mariah extended to us during the love-filled holiday is appreciated. As a staff, we would like to thank you Ms. Carey; we feel less lonely now.

Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I’m sorry I have taken a couple years off from writing. Maybe if you had a Twitter account or cell phone I could hit you up with my wish list. I know you are always watching, so if you do see this and have a Twitter follow me @DHS_Squaller. Okay, let’s get down to business. Most of the presents I am asking for this year are going to be pretty tough to wrap. I understand that you are a really busy man, but I would really appreciate if you could let me go out with a bang for my last Christmas living at home.

1. This year I have been in a bit of a dry spell; with New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day only a couple months away, I could use a girl. If you are as old as people say you are, then you have kept Mrs. Clause for a while. That’s impressive. Just along with this girl maybe some tips to make it last? (If you have some extra time). Of course, I don’t expect her to be wrapped, so maybe just have her slide into my DMs or something like that.

2. Next, I know I said most of it was going to be hard to wrap, but there are a couple little things I would appreciate if they had a nice bow on them. (I know the other two things that I am asking for are pretty hard, so here are some easy ideas I would love and almost expect to be under the tree when I run down stairs suited up in my onesie). The first thing is a new Mercedes. I know you have the hookup with Mercedes because you’re always in their commercials. Also I think if I walked into my backyard and there was a nice big pool and hot tub combo I would be pretty excited. Finally, the last thing I would take with a bow on it would be a cool-looking jet. I’m not too picky on how big it needs to be. Just make sure my family can fit in it comfortably. I know these are going to be easier for you to get than the other two so just help a brother out; I am only really asking for six things this year, so like, c’mon.

3. Along with everything else, could you go into my PowerSchool and just set all my midterm and final test grades to A’s. I made it through three years of midterms and final tests, so how about this year you come through with spreading some joy. I would be a whole lot more joyful if I didn’t have to take those tests.

4. Lastly, college tuition. As you know, college tuition is expensive. Scholarships help some, but if you could just pay the whole thing, that’d be great. I know this is a pretty easy one; just mail them a check for my tuition bill. You could also just drop it off in my stocking and I could take care of it too.

I know most of these are hard to gift wrap, so you don’t have to wrap them. I mean, I’m 17 now; I don’t need to unwrap them. Just put a bow on anything that you can put a bow on, and for the other stuff you can just make it happen however you want. I know the presents I am asking for are unconventional, but they didn’t make just anybody the big guy in the suit. No, they made you Santa because you get the job done. So, I’m counting on you to pull through with this one.

Yours truly,
Caden Koenig

The Santa Lie is a Necessary Evil

Despite knowing the sad truth, Christmas can still be a magical time

By: Ben Daugherty

Almost every person I’ve talked to has believed or still believes in Santa Claus. Parents everywhere perpetuate this lie in order to achieve the “holiday spirit”. The same parents that teach their kids to never lie, are lying to their kids’ faces to get them to look forward to Christmas. Santa seems all fine and dandy until one day: the day you find out Santa isn’t real. The day you find out that you’ve sat on some random dude’s lap at the mall for nine straight years.

I found out Santa wasn’t real when I was eight, and Christmas has been gradually worse ever since. Finding out about the lie that is Santa was devastating.

I vividly remember the day it happened. I was at my grandparents house waiting for the “real Santa” to arrive, as I always did. That particular year, I realized that Santa was either my brother or he was fake.

After sitting on his pillow-stuffed lap, I realized my brother definitely wasn’t Santa. It then hit me; my brother’s below-average Santa costume was as real as it would get, and that magically fat man would not be coming down my chimney that year. I was devastated.

Deliberately lying to your children is wrong on so many levels, but the Christmas lie seems to be a special case where lying is acceptable. Without it, the magic of Christmas would be lost.

You can say that you’re looking forward to giving, but you’re truly either looking forward to getting gifts or seeing Santa. The magic of Christmas isn’t lost when you find out Santa isn’t real. Sure, you spend a few weeks, months, or years wondering if you can ever trust again; however, once you get over that, you begin to pass the magic on to younger generations.

The same goes for the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Great Pumpkin, and others. Just because you don’t believe anymore, doesn’t mean the magic is lost.

For people with younger siblings or kids, the Christmas spirit lives on through them. Some of my fondest memories have revolved around Christmas. Whether it was seeing family members I don’t normally see or sitting on Santa’s lap at my grandparents house, Christmas has been nothing but good times.

Christmas is all about family. It is a holiday that brings families together.

Seeing my younger cousins’ faces light up when “Santa Claus” walks through the door of my grandparents’ house, puts a smile on everyone’s face. If all it takes is one white lie to bring an entire family together, I’m in.

Everyone dreams of a white Christmas anyway.

Evolution of Christmas Lists

As your desired gifts increase in price, make sure your appreciation increases too

‘Tis the season to get out the pen and paper, and to put your thinking cap on to come up with what to want Santa to bring you this year.

There were easier times, times when our lists would max out at $250, full of little gimmick toys that cost around $20 each. It was much easier for both us, and our parents’ wallets.

I remember being five or six, making my first Christmas list, filling it with things such as a Furby, the new Nintendo DS, and some more Pokémon cards. At no point while I was making the list did money, or the amount of gifts I was receiving cross my mind.

When I was nearing my 10th birthday, I became more interested in video games and things that were slightly more expensive. Along with that, I became more conscious about how many gifts I was receiving.

Nowadays, our lists have been whittled down to one, maybe two, things that are far more expensive. Most of us don’t realize how spoiled we actually are due to the fact that we get, and have gotten, everything we ask for.

English and speech teacher Krista McDonnough said that if her kids really show interest in something she will get it for them, but she doesn’t like to get them everything they want, and prefers to surprise them with gifts.

“When I was little, I remember focusing on one “big” present (big at the time being a baby doll) and being excited to get that present,” McDonnough said. “Nowadays, sadly, my kids are becoming more obsessed with how many gifts they get. Even if I were to get them one awesome toy, they would be a little upset because it was only one toy.”

So, when you’re writing your Christmas list this year, you should put some thought into what it takes to get you what you want. After you unwrap your presents on Christmas morning, make sure your parents know you appreciate all they do for you.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy Kwanzaa.

Santa is not the real spirit of the season

Disclaimer: If you are under the age of 12, please do NOT read this.

I ran downstairs on Christmas morning, seeing presents under the tree and filled stockings.  I frantically searched for the magical present that would be all mine, the one that would say those glorious words: “To Noah, From Santa.”

But once I found it and began to open it, I realized what it was. What it had to be. Clothes.

What 12-year old wants clothes for Christmas?  I looked closer at the handwriting on the tag.

Suddenly, it dawned on me.

It was the exact same handwriting as my mother’s.  I looked up at her suspiciously, and at that moment, she knew I was getting closer to revealing the secret all parents try to keep from their children as long as possible.

“Noah, we need to talk,” my mom said.

“No. If this is about the birds and the bees again, I don’t need to know anymore.”

But then she broke the news to me, and it all made sense.

How can a fat man travel around the entire world in one night? How could reindeer carry that fat man all night, let alone fly? And how could that fat man, the fat man that so many continue to believe in, fit down a chimney without getting stuck?

Let’s say Santa is 6 feet tall, even though people who live in colder climates are usually a couple inches shorter. There are 6 billion people in the world.  No man on this planet could ever consume that many cookies in a lifetime, no matter how big and tall he is. But somehow Santa does it in one night.

So why do parents continue telling lie after lie to children, making them believe in Santa Claus? Shouldn’t we avoid lying to kids? If we keep this big of a lie going for so many years, all we’re doing is setting a bad example. We’re saying that lying is OK.

I’m not saying that we should end all the usual Christmas activities like getting a tree, making egg nog and trying to lure that one girl, who we all know is way out of my league, under the mistletoe.

But we can get in the holiday spirit without the big man in a red jumpsuit. I’m perplexed about why he’s even relevant to the season.

So when should we stop believing in Santa? The answer to that is that we should never have believed in him in first place.   I’m sorry, faithful parents and children, I just want to stop the heart-breaking moments children have when they find out there is no Santa Claus.

Running downstairs with the same Christmas spirit is not affected by knowing that the tags on the presents say “From, Mom and Dad.”

Expensive gifts may be the way to go

Gift giving between significant others during the holidays is more complex than you would imagine.

Being a guy, I realize that the gift most men would love more than anything is the gift of not having to buy a gift.  But that just won’t happen.

So, guys, maybe think of these things when buying a gift for your special significant other.

Don’t do the following: buy a gift that you want more. In other words, don’t get your significant other Grand Theft Auto. Don’t get them something from the dollar store.  You might enjoy buying something cheap, but I guarantee they won’t like it.

Do the following: What you really want to do is listen and hear what they actually want and then buy the knockoffs because the real deal is probably too expensive.

For example if they wants Uggs, buy Fugs which will still tell her that you care as well as save you a ton of money.

Candy might be a great gift for an anniversary or Valentine’s Day, but on a holiday like Christmas it’s not that great of a gift.

As much as I hate to say it, an expensive gift is the way to go for the holidays.  It shows that you care. And if your gift is better/ more expensive than your significant others, it makes them feel bad.

Also if you don’t know exactly what your significant other wants or you just weren’t listening when they said it, you can never fail with good old fashion jewelry.

At the end of the day, something that comes from deep in the heart and even deeper in the wallet shall set you free from gift giving worries.

Holiday meals can be a huge health problem

Families gather. Sleigh bells ring. Chestnuts roast over open fires.  But is there something not-so jolly about this holiday season? How about the excessive eating habit that is somehow always associated with this time of year?

The excessive overindulgence is even pictured in the symbolic images of the holidays we celebrate this time of year: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and every other religious holidays. 

For Halloween the tradition is to go from house to house with the purpose of  acquiring as much candy as possible.

For Thanksgiving, we celebrate by literally eating a ton of food, (stuffing, ham, pumpkin pies) and at the end we eat a giant turkey. Also for the whole following week after Thanksgiving, Americans stuff their faces with leftovers.

For Christmas we celebrate “Santa Claus,” a fat dude who brings gifts through the chimney.  In return we feed him cookies and milk.

Sure, the holiday season is fun, but it can be dangerous to your health and is a huge cause of obesity for common Americans trying to get in the holiday mood.