Jingle Bells Aren’t For Everyone

By Oscar Wolfe

Being in a minority can be difficult. Especially in December, when you don’t celebrate Christmas. It’s pretty easy to feel left out when everyone is super excited about a holiday that you have never celebrated. At my former elementary school, there was a “winter” concert every December. It included songs such as Jingle Bells, Jingle Bell Rock, Frosty the Snowman, and Winter Wonderland. While the teachers called it a winter concert, everyone knew that it was a Christmas concert.

When I was in fourth grade, I asked the principal if she would consider adding a Hanukkah song to the concert. She said none of the songs in the show were religious—they have no actual references to Jesus or Christianity. However, I would like to point out that I Have a Little Dreidel does not have any religious references either. You may be thinking that a dreidel is a “Jewish” toy. But in actuality, a dreidel is just a top with Hebrew letters on it. You may now be saying that the Hebrew letters make the dreidel Jewish. But the religion of Judaism and the language of Hebrew aren’t the same. Saying that Hebrew is Jewish would be like saying that Arabic is Muslim, Japanese is Shinto, Chinese is Buddhist, or that English is Christian. Therefore, the song I Have a Little Dreidel is not Jewish in any way.

But if this song is not Jewish, then why am I suggesting it? Well, while it is not a religious song in any way, it is much more familiar to the Jewish kids. By adding this song, the concert would be made more inclusive. I know that there are many other minorities that attend the school that may not feel represented, and I’ll bet that they have songs they’d like added to the concert too. A public school concert should not be exclusively about Christmas.

I wasn’t asking for this almost completely fun tradition to be taken away, nor was I even asking for any of the current songs to be taken out. I simply believe that minorities should be represented. The first step could be to add I Have a Little Dreidel.

Now that I’m in seventh grade, there’s no Christmas concert at my school. But I am having some of my Christian friends over this weekend to celebrate Hanukkah with me, so they can learn more about Jewish holiday traditions. This openness to other cultures is what keeps our modern globalist representative democratic society functioning.

What do you think? Share your opinion in the comment section below.

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6 thoughts on “Jingle Bells Aren’t For Everyone

  1. Well said, Oscar. Yours was a great suggestion and I’m sorry it wasn’t adopted! It would have been a nice benefit for everyone!

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  2. Oscar, as someone who has spent the last 24 years putting on winter concerts, I respectfully disagree with what you have written. Although I don’t know all of the songs you have been asked to sing, the three you mentioned are not Christmas songs, they are winter songs. None of them have any reference to anything Christian or Christmas based. They are the same as singing songs about Autumn Leaves or Spring Flowers. Singing I have a little Dreidle is singing a song about something very specifically meant to be a symbol of a Jewish holiday. It is not the same as singing a secular seasonal song. Now if a concert has music such as Silent Night or Oh Holy Night with specific religious references (which in my opinion should not be included in a public school concert) then it would be inclusive to have other songs about holidays during this time of year, but the educator should look for beautiful and meaningful selections and they are out there. With that being said, I personally believe there is no need to sing either type of music at these performances. There are many wonderful songs about peace, joy, community, and light, and they are universal subjects. One last thing, when we throw in a Chanukah song to a Christmas concert, it gives the incorrect impression that Chanukah is as important in Judaism as Christmas is in Christianity but it isn’t. Thank you for being open to other viewpoints. This is a subject that is discussed very frequently among music teachers and many people disagree with everything I have said. Open discussions let us share differences and learn from one another.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your opinion. However, while dreidels may be commonly associated with Judaism, they are not exclusively Jewish. Also, I totally agree with what you said about Chanukah not being the Jewish equivalent of Christmas. The reason that I suggested it for this concert is because it is so close to Christmas, not because of its religious significance.

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