Here is a Christmas tale that you might find hard to believe, reading about it in 2004. It is about Christmas time in the early 1950s, at the William B. Hanna public elementary school in Philadelphia.
Every year when December came around, we sang Christmas carols in our twice-weekly assemblies. We sang “Joy to the World,” and “Silent Night,” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and the other carols that were well known to every girl and boy, as well as to their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.
But that’s not the part that’s hard to believe. Everyone knows that American children used to sing Christmas carols. Here’s the fantastic part of the tale: My mother, an atheist from a Lutheran background, and my father, an atheist from a Jewish background, never raised any objection to our singing these carols that celebrated the birth of Jesus. And as far as I know, neither did any of the Jewish teachers at that school, of whom there were several.
In fact, we sometimes sang those carols at home, with my mother playing them on the piano.
There’s more: The bible was read at those school assemblies all year long, usually a psalm. My parents did not object, though I believe my mother asked the teachers not to have me read. And more: We sang hymns. I remember the wonderful voice of the man who taught fifth grade booming out the Lord’s Prayer. I remember singing “Holy, holy, holy…blessed trinity.”
I asked my mother what Blessed Trinity meant. She told me it meant Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. That’s what Christians believe in, she said. She didn’t believe it because she didn’t believe in God at all. But she didn’t mind my knowing about what Christians believed, or singing their songs. Since most people were Christian, it would be kind of odd not to know anything about them, like living among a tribe of Indians and never wondering what their rain dances meant.
My parents were communists before being left-wing meant that you had to be offended at everything. They appreciated good music and art and literature, and therefore did not hate the culture that had produced them, which was a Christian culture.
In another article, Don Feder tells why he, as a Jew, supports Christian America.