When people these days complain about political correctness, it's often got racist undertones. But though I'd never co-sign Bill O'Reilly's war on Christmas concept, I did experience something that came close in the '90s.
At my private Minneapolis, Minnesota Catholic junior high school, of all places, I was part of school play, Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol. You may have heard of it. Only it would have better been called, simply, A Carol, as all Christmas references were stripped bare.
It wasn't my first strange experience with these types of thing. In fact, my winter pageant years ran right through the middle of these odd, Clinton-era Christmas experiments. They included:
- My preschool's A Dinosaur Christmas production, where we dressed up as papier mâché thunder-lizards and sang about Rudolph and Santa (which, in retrospect, was pretty awesome).
- My junior high's December in Our Town production, which spotlighted different winter traditions, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Las Posadas, but sadly no Wookie Life Day. This was also cool as it's allowed me to name-drop Kujichagulia, the day of self-determination, whenever anyone talks about Kwanzaa.
Oh, and did I mention that our neutered version of A Christmas Carol was a musical adaption? It's from something called That's The Way It Is, Mr. Scrooge. No footage (that I can track down) remains of my school's performance, but here's one I found on YouTube of another school doing it. As the synths indicate, it's been around since at least the '80s.
Our production was nowhere near that adorable, but I do remember we rehearsed and prepared for months. Even though I was just in the chorus, our choreography — which focused mainly on dancing with folding chairs — took forever to get down. The plot itself mainly focused on raising Scrooge's self-esteem; one weird choice was the decision to hire a middle-aged actor to Scrooge. So, in the end, there were 35 pre-teens in gaudy sweaters advising this adult actor on how to improve his life.
And to be fair, there isn't a whole lot that's particularly Christmas-y about the original story, except for that it takes place at Christmastime. But ours didn't. In fact, come to think of it, it may have been performed in the spring; I can't exactly remember, but that's when my school usually did their big musicals.
In any case, the night of our big production, in my school's auditorium, went off without a hitch. My mother seemed to like it. Still, my music teacher left the school at the end of this year, so we didn't get to follow-up with Scrooge II: Scrooge Harder.
Still, it's increasingly rare for schools to offer a proper music education, so I'm grateful to have been involved in the production, Christmas-y or no. And I'm also grateful that Bill O'Reilly wasn't there to put it all in context for us.
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