05 December 2014
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
The holiday season is upon us, and has been since early September when I started seeing strings of Christmas lights and holiday wreaths being sold at our local big-box store. I like my holidays kept separate, but even a Scrooge like me must admit that we are now into full-blown retail-enhanced holiday madness.
My library has not escaped this onslaught. Our Christmas picture books, which for most of the year are carefully hoarded on a special shelf accessible only to librarians, have been put on display. There are at least twelve tinsel trees scattered throughout the stacks. The endcaps are full of books about gift-giving, crafting, and cooking. Someone even created a "book tree" topped with an origami star made out of weeded book pages and surrounded by twinkle lights.
But what about the other traditions? We are instructed to say "Happy Holidays" to patrons and fellow staff, which is great since it allows me to wish everyone a wonderful season of giving and anticipation of the new year without having to guess which religious tradition they may choose to follow. And I do live and work in a large cosmopolitan metropolitan area. I am surrounded by nearly as much diversity as I saw when I lived and worked on the island of Guam. But my library seems to be drowning in Christmas, and even our holiday books are mostly, if not completely, Christmas-themed and not celebrating Hanukkah or Bodhi Day or Kwanzaa or even Christmas as celebrated by those in the Eastern Orthodox religion. There are so many beautiful cultures and celebrations we are missing, and that makes me sad.
My younger sister's birthday was Wednesday, and when we were kids, there was a rule in our house that the Christmas decorations did not go up until my sister had been able to celebrate her birthday. My mom wanted to make sure that my sister's day was a special one and didn't want it to be swallowed up by Christmas. And now I'm trying to figure out how to do the same in my library, to acknowledge the different traditions and cultures of my various patrons without letting their special days be swallowed up by the behemoth that Christmas has become.
For those of you in public libraries, how do you do this? Do you put up no holiday decor, or only secular decor, or do you find a way to celebrate all winter holidays?