Unwrapping the Holiday Social: The Perspectives of Three CHS Seniors
It is finally the annual Holiday Social, the only school hosted event where attendance for every student, no matter their grade, is mandatory. The Columbus High School student body is united in anxious energy to take their seats and celebrate the fact that they somehow survived the first semester. Most importantly though, it is a night where everyone is likely to find something in common with the person sitting next to them. Students are not only able to sit down and share a meal with their peers, but they may even make new friends by the time students join together to sing the Alma Mater.
Maddi Carson, a CHS senior, describes the Holiday social in her own words saying, “As dinner concludes, the plates are cleared, and candles are lit, everyone in the trade center rises to link arm in arm to sing the Alma Mater. As you glance around the room, it is a moment of complete unity demonstrated by every single student, teacher, or administrator.”
A huge theme of the Holiday Social is exposing each person to interactions with new people and embracing diversity. The tables are made up of students from every grade, and the teachers attempt to assign groups of students together who haven’t interacted previously.The purpose of the social is to prepare students for future life experiences and give everyone a chance to make school-wide memories.
The Holiday Social is not only a celebration of student hard work, but also, a celebration of the students themselves. However, how well does the Holiday Social celebrate the diversity of CHS students?
According to Carson, it is exactly this celebration of differences that makes Columbus High School what it is. “The beauty of Columbus High School is the melting pot of people, cultures, and religions that are displayed, and this can truly be shown on such a night as The Holiday Social when the entire school is present."
As Maddi Carson mentioned, the feeling of unity at the Holiday Social is prevalent to any person in attendance. Senior, Spencer Roberts, did have one suggestion to be made for the Holiday Social. When asked about his opinion of the invocation, essentially a before dinner prayer, he stated, “I disagree with the prayer because it is specifically a prayer. In school we have a moment of silence every morning to give religious people the chance to pray while not forcing the prayer on others who do not share similar beliefs. This is not the case in the Holiday Social and often feels very awkward for me and my non-christian friends.”
Christmas in the United States is a Christian tradition that is also celebrated as a secular holiday due to its adoption in many aspects of popular culture. Because of this, there is an undeniable Christmas feel in the air that can be a slight turn off (or not all) to some members of the student body. However, this discomfort is not a result of blatant favoritism for one religion over another. Instead, it is more a product of realizing while all of your peers are in the same room as you, that your lifestyle or belief system may be different from the majority.
Roberts expounds upon this idea by explaining his personal perspective that, “it really only at times that I feel overwhelmed by Christmas such as the prayer and all of the decorations outside of the ballroom. I leave feeling like I am closer to CHS students but that is entirely through the interaction at tables and while waiting for the doors to open...There is a sense of unity but that is almost entirely due to the student body itself.”
Other students though, see no problem in the religious connotations of the invocation. Ishika Samantarai explained, “I mean I don’t really participate in the before dinner prayer because it’s not part of my religion, so I kind of open my eyes and see everyone else doing the prayer. One of the main reasons, I personally feel, they have the prayers because they know majority of students are Christian.”
Almost as a compromise to the statements made by Roberts, Carson expressed her belief that, “The prayer should not include any identifying words or phrases linking the words to one specific religion, in an attempt to eliminate any feelings of one religion being showcased more than another. Going hand and hand with this, the "prayer" could be adapted into more of a moment of peace and statement of gratitude, in order to cater to those who do not identify as religious.”
When asked whether the Holiday Social needs adaptations in any way, Samantarai continued to say, “I don’t think it’s really necessary because Holiday Social focuses more on socializing rather than religious beliefs.”
Maddi Carson, made a similar comment stating, “I have always believed it was a school-wide holiday event, intended to boost camaraderie and develop memories as opposed to focusing on a particular religion, or any religion at all.”
So what is the answer? Should the Holiday Social attempt to be celebrate different religious beliefs, limit traces of religion altogether, or remain the same as how it is?
I guess it depends on who you ask.
Magnet Director, Mrs. Hope Boswell, strongly believes that Columbus High is doing its best to keep the Holiday Social as a strictly secular event. She explained that even the four rotating decoration themes were chosen for this purpose. This year the theme is snowmen, but in the past, it has been gingerbread men, elves, and the Nutcracker.
Similarly, Samantarai stated, “Personally, I don’t think it needs to change because the only religious part of Holiday Social is the prayer. Other than that, every student can identify as one.”
Spencer Roberts however, feels it would be beneficial if some modifications were made to the night. Specifically, “If the social was more winter themed than holiday it would be perfect for all religious and non-religious people. Winter still has strong association with many holidays over many different religions as well as simply being a season to those of us who are not religious.”
No matter who you ask, the Holiday Social is a time to celebrate the students and faculty of the student body. Almost everyone leaves feeling more connected to the students around them… even if it’s only by a little bit. In everyday life, we are all going to be exposed to situations and scenarios that may not be representative of all people, but these are the moments where we must be most sensitive and accepting to those around us. Hopefully listening to the experiences of others at the holiday social will teach us one thing: It is just as important to know and understand what makes us alike as it is to celebrate and accept what makes us different.
As put by Maddi Carson, “It is truly events such as the holiday social that make me feel as though I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”