Eau Claire needs to chill out with the Christmas celebrations

Intense celebration of Christmas in Eau Claire does not foster an inclusive environment


Photo by Clara Neupert

A speaker attached to a lamppost in downtown Eau Claire plays Christmas tunes.

Eau Claire is in full Christmas-mode. The evidence is easy to find. Local businesses have tacked up wreaths. A large pine tree looms on the corner of Barstow Street and Eau Claire Street. The lights in Phoenix Park twinkle brighter than my hopes of getting a degree in four years.

Hearing Christmas tunes float through the air from the speakers in downtown Eau Claire, I wonder what it must be like for someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas. As someone who does celebrate Christmas, it’s difficult for me to do, but I can imagine being constantly enveloped by a holiday I don’t willingly celebrate.

Go ahead and call me Scrooge, but I think Eau Claire needs to chill out with the Christmas. This aggressive celebration of a traditionally religious holiday in public spaces does not foster a diverse and inclusive city.  

Don’t get me wrong: Christmas is very merry; I’m not cutting down the holiday itself. Every individual — whether a person or private business — has the right to celebrate (or not celebrate) whichever holiday they choose. (Thanks, Constitution). But when city organizations center every wintertime event around Christmas and play Christmas music over public speakers, this diminishes the diversity of Eau Claire.  

In data collected in 2010, City-Data.com found that 55,646 residents of Eau Claire County said they practice a religion. Of these residents, 1,744 practice religions other than Catholicism and mainline or Evangelical Protestantism. The data also showed that 43,090 residents said they practice no religion at all.

By looking at the data, it makes sense to me that there is an abundance of Christian Christmas events in Eau Claire, from a Christkindlmarkt to an event titled “Christmastime in the City.” After all, Christmas-celebrators make up the majority of Eau Claire County.

But for the nearly 44,000 residents of Eau Claire county who don’t necessarily celebrate Christmas, finding a city-wide winter event without Christmas undertones is hard.

After President Donald Trump’s travel ban last year, many Eau Claire community members joined together to join the “Welcoming City” movement, a movement that inspired many cities to publically declare they welcome immigrants and people with different background with open arms.

A community that labeled itself a “Welcome City” should be more respectful of the diverse, non-Christian background that comprises about 44,000 residents in their county.

This respect can be created in two ways: First, by creating some community events that are entirely secular, and, second, by amplifying the celebrations of different religions. After all, inclusivity is not achieved by squeezing the “Dreidel Song” in after “Do You Hear What I Hear” on the Christmas playlist.

To create community events that are secular, there can be no religious undertones. This means no mention of Santa and no presents. Bah humbug!

Amplifying the events of non-Christian religions can be achieved by city event calendar curators expanding their horizons. Once larger media publications get the word out, people of all religions and backgrounds will be able to find a place to celebrate and enjoy the winter season.