Christmas made more special by the people in our lives

by Jim Lang

Each Christmas I think of my great-aunt Virginia.

My family, like all families, had its own set of festive holiday traditions. My favorite was always visiting the home of my aunt Virginia, or Dee Dee, as we affectionately called her.

Christmas with Dee Dee was an event as as large and as special as Dee Dee’s spirit and generosity.

Each Christmas my great-aunt opened up her home on Christmas Day for virtually everyone on my dad’s side of the family to visit, laugh, reminisce, and, of course, eat. Dee Dee’s house was always a place of joy for me — my sister and I spent countless hours hiding, playing, and stomping through that house as children — but somehow, that place was even more magical at Christmas.

I still hold so many fragments of memories from that house close to my heart — a fiery red engine as a gift; an intricately carved set of golden angels set on her white mantel; the organ in her living room that invited far too many badly-played Christmas songs from eager kids; separate tables for the kids and the adults in her dining room at meal time; the sight of Dee Dee in her apron; and her incredible Christmas tree that, to this day, sets the standard in my mind for all trees.

Dee Dee absolutely loved Christmas, and somehow, her love made each holiday and that house even more joyful for all of us, too.

I was blessed so have someone so special in my life at such a young age. To this day my memories of Dee Dee make Christmas especially meaningful to me.

So, Merry Christmas to the many incredible people in my life. May your Christmas Day be filled with special moments with the Dee Dees in your life.

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Hoosier educators can finally fight the WAR ON CHRISTMAS!!

by Jim Lang

Well, Christmas came early for Indiana teachers and our students.

After years of budget cuts and education legislation and rhetoric that would make Ebenezer Scrooge proud, one state senator is poised to finally address the most significant problem facing Hoosier schools today … the WAR ON CHRISTMAS!

First, you may notice I have capitalized the WAR ON CHRISTMAS! We all know this is necessary, as a WAR as significant and pervasive as this one requires extra EMPHASIS, as well as excessive use of EXCLAMATION POINTS!!

According to an article in the Indianapolis Star, state senator Jim Smith, R-Charlestown, will introduce legislation in January that would “preserve Christmas traditions in Indiana schools.”

Specifically, the legislation will protect public school educators who want to celebrate Christmas. As Smith said in a press release, Christmas is under attack, and Hoosier teachers fear acknowledging Christmas traditions in our classrooms because of potential lawsuits.

I think I speak for all educators when I state that this is a true CHRISTMAS  MIRACLE!

After years of budget cuts, school closings, program cuts, larger class sizes, an increased  emphasis on standardized testing, less local control of our schools, an increasingly convoluted teacher evaluation system, growing child poverty in Indiana, and education “reforms” that marginalize teachers’ voices and defy all current research and best practice, the good senator has swept in like Buddy the Elf to address my greatest frustration as a teacher and fight for my right to hang shiny ornaments on a plastic tree in my classroom.

Finally, we educators are once again empowered to fight the WAR ON CHRISTMAS! in our classrooms, just as our founders who sought religious freedom for all intended for us to do.

Imagine the immediate changes that will result if this legislation is passed.

Suddenly, for the first time ever, public school music programs (that haven’t been cut due to decreased funding) can FINALLY! invite the public to listen to holiday music at Christmas concerts.

Elementary art teachers (whose programs haven’t been cut due to decreased funding) can FINALLY! fill those three leftover minutes after standardized testing by letting the little tykes draw a Christmas tree, Santa Claus, or the Baby Jesus.

Educators can triumphantly wish our students a MERRY CHRISTMAS! or HAPPY HOLIDAYS!, confident that we no longer risk the danger of sacrificing our “highly effective” status, losing our twenty dollars of merit pay, or being fired or imprisoned as a result.

As Smith points out, “Christmas is under attack in a way that no other cultural traditions are.”

As a public school teacher who has watched school closings, program cuts, budget cuts, benefit cuts, larger class sizes, education “reforms” that have re-routed public tax dollars to private schools and failing charter schools, and a devaluing of the teaching profession by Indiana governors and legislators through their rhetoric and policies, it truly warms my heart that we have a legislator who is so willing to fight for a tradition that is so persistently under attack.