Parents’ anger as Ontario school replaces Christmas concert with non- denominational February fest
By Matthew Pearson
OTTAWA — Parents have criticized a decision by an Ottawa-area school to cancel its annual Christmas concert and replace it with a non-denominational winter fest – in February.
Much to the dismay of some families, there will be no Christmas concert at Cambridge Public School this year.
Instead, the school — in Embrun, Ont, southeast of Ottawa — will host a holiday-themed craft night later this month and hold a concert in February.
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The school said in a newsletter sent to parents this week that the annual concert is being moved so every student can participate.
“As our school community continues to grow, we welcome more families who do not celebrate Christmas. It is our belief that these students deserve the opportunity to take part in the concert experience too,” says the email, signed by principal Mhairi Rowland.
Nevertheless, traditionalists have balked, saying that the school’s concert was a prime source of Christmas cheer.
“For me and my kids, Christmas is really important,” said Mary Ellen Schellenberg. “I don’t think we should lose out on what we believe in, especially when it’s a small group of people who sit out by choice.”
“If we accept their cultures and beliefs, our culture and beliefs should be accepted as well,” she said.
The mother of three Cambridge students — who also attended the school and remembers with fondness the annual Christmas concert — emailed the principal as soon as she heard about the decision.
Ms. Schellenberg isn’t a religious person, and said people in Canada celebrate the holiday for different reasons. “We can appreciate it without it just being religious.”
Laura Bond said she is shocked by the decision.
For her and her family, the school’s Christmas concert kicks off the holiday season and puts everyone in a festive mood. “It’s just something I thought would never go away,” she said.
Ms. Bond wondered why the concert couldn’t just broaden its musical horizons to include everyone’s traditions. “I have no problem with them putting on a ‘holiday’ concert and celebrating every culture; I would welcome it actually,” she said.
Neither parent is pleased by the school’s alternate plan and say they have no intention of attending the December 15 craft night. “If I wanted to do crafts, we could just do crafts here,” Ms. Bond said.
And while she and Ms. Schellenberg both admit it’s too late to plan a concert this year, they want the school to reconsider bringing it back next year. “I don’t want it to be gone completely,” Ms. Bond said.
A small number of the school’s 206 students don’t celebrate Christmas, the parents say.
That means these children must sit out, sometimes in the principal’s office, while the rest of the students rehearse for the concert — something the principal and staff seem to think is unfair.
Ms. Rowland could not be reached for comment Thursday. But Caroll Carkner, the Upper Canada District School Board trustee for the area, said she supports the school’s decision.
“They’re just taking a different approach,” she said. “They have the children’s best interests at heart.”
Christmas 2011: Ontario school replaces holiday concert with non-denominational February fest | News | National Post
Oh, and Happy Festivus suckers!