“I’m not allowed to say, Merry Christmas at school,” she said. “It’s harder than it sounds. You grow up saying it, it’s part of you.”
She’s an elementary teacher in Middle Alabama. I can’t tell you her name, so I’m going to call her, Murdess—since I love that name.
I had a hillbilly aunt named Murdess Delphinia. She used to sign stationary with: “Dietrich, M.D.” Everyone got a kick out of that.
Anyway, Murdess—not my aunt—usually begins rehearsing her Christmas pageant in August. It takes months to teach kids how to dance and sing.
On the second week of December, her class performs in a musty gymnasium for several hundred parents.
Her students come from all backgrounds: African, Korean, Mexican, Hindi, Islamic, and average suburban Southerner.
Because of this, the school had outlawed Christmas. Sort of.
“There’re all sorts of Christmasy words I can’t say,” Murdess went on. “Can’t talk about mangers, wisemen, shepherds, or even Santa.”
Some consider Saint Nicholas a symbol of Christianity.
There’s also a list of blacklisted songs. “Silent Night,” was first to go. Also: “Noel,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.”
The authorities decided Murdess should call her production, “The Winter Festivity Concert.”
And instead of using characters like Saint Nick, they encouraged her to use one named, Mister Winter. A jolly young man with a brown mustache, who stuffs children’s stockings with hand sanitizer and recyclable water bottles.
Murdess followed the rules. Her children sang songs nobody’s ever heard. She paid tribute to Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, and read a passage from the Quran for her Muslim students.
At the end of the production, she sent her children to their seats. The lights dimmed.
And she recited:
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were so afraid.
“But the angel said unto them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news, tidings of great joy.
“‘Today in the city of David a Savior hath been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This shall be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.’”
Murdess received a standing ovation, from Mexicans, Muslims, and Jews alike. Even young Mister Winter applauded. For five minutes, they clapped.
And then she sang, “O Holy Night.”
“I wasn’t being rebellious,” said Murdess. “I’m not even religious. But Christmas trees, Santa Claus, that stuff is a part of MY heritage. I’m a Southern American.
“If we’re NOT gonna talk about other cultures, then so be it. But if we’re gonna honor other cultures and religions, then shouldn’t MY ancestors matter just as much as yours?”
Yes, I think they should, Murdess.
Merry Christmas, and God bless America.
Judy - December 20, 2016 2:13 pm
I LOVE IT!!!!!
Kay Keel - December 20, 2016 11:34 pm
Splendiferously fantabulous! My hat is off to you Murdess…and to you Sean!
Mary Ellen Hall - December 21, 2016 4:26 am
I LOVE THIS & I SO AGREE!!!