This afternoon I was surprised to see that there is a Christmas tree in the "coffee hour" area of the Brooklyn Quaker Meeting that I attend. Apparently Brooklyn Meeting even holds a "Christmas Tree Festival" for our young people where Santa Claus makes an appearance! I find this all vaguely disconcerting and un-Quakerly.
Historically, Quakers have set themselves apart by
not observing any of the traditional Christian holidays. Friends have asserted that all days are holy, and that no particular days should be singled out as more holy than others.
Then there is the crass commercialism and
consumerism associated with Christmas, which is hard to jive with
Quaker values of simplicity and plainness.
In Quaker homes, everyone has to make choices that best reflect their own sense of Quaker values during the holidays. I personally really like Christmas trees and decorations. And if I had children, I would probably put up a Christmas tree and have some form of gift exchange.
But I know other Quakers that don't observe Christmas at all, don't put up a tree, and don't exchange presents. And of course there are Jewish-Quakers, Sufi-Quakers, non-theistic Quakers, Gaian-Quakers, etc who may be off put or offended by central symbols of a Christian holiday within our Meeting.
Other people in the Meeting I talked to were also a bit unnerved by the presence of the Christmas tree. But as someone told me, "I'm willing to let it slide for the more Christian Quakers who feel that the tree is important to them and their children." That is my feeling as well. I'm willing to feel a bit icky during the "coffee hour" if the tree brings cheer to other members of my community.
If someone put up a nativity scene, that would be another discussion altogether.
[IMAGE: "Christmas Tree" by Somerslea, used under Creative Commons sharealike licence.]