Why Christmas Trees Don’t Belong in Libraries

P.N. Hinton

Contributing Editor

Born into a family of readers, P.N. gained a love reading as a sort of herd mentality. This love of reading has remained a life long passion, resulting in an English Degree from The University of Houston in Houston, Texas. She normally reads three to four books at any given time, in the futile Sisyphean hope of whittling down her ever growing to be read pile of no specific genre.

Christmas trees shouldn’t be displayed in libraries. 

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll embellish a bit more on the why. But first, story time! 

When I was younger, I worked in a daycare. For most of my tenure there, I was the lead toddler teacher. My first December in that role, I was told that we had to teach about other winter holidays. This was to help ensure that all the kids and their families felt represented. And of course, I was on board with that.

Most super conservatives would like us to believe that this demand for diversity is a new thing. But this was over 15 years ago. That means that this desire is not a new thing, a trend, or a symptom of being “woke.” Frankly, diversity representation should already be ingrained into our society. We shouldn’t even have to make this a  concentrated effort. After all, we’re a melting pot, right? 

Furthermore, one of the core items in the Bill of Rights in America is freedom of religion, which, as an aside, also includes the absence of it. By that logic, one religion should not be given preference over another. But that isn’t the case. Instead, we’re experiencing yet another fanatical drive towards making this country a Christian-centric one. Multiple politicians are trying to push laws that are based off of their personal religious beliefs. And that doesn’t sit well with me at all. That is why I intentionally started with that simple yet incendiary and divisive statement. 

Now, before we proceed, let me state that for the majority of my life, I have identified as a Christian. Presently, it’s more complicated, as I am in what is known as my “deconstruction” phase. So, I am not currently identifying as one anymore. That said, even when I was more involved, there was internal conflict.

Years ago, someone at the church I was attending was exceedingly disrespectful when they mentioned how schools used “Winter Break” rather than “Christmas break.” Because, of course, they viewed it as an attack on Christmas. It’s not because there are a handful of other December holidays. I still feel disgusted whenever I think about it.

The fact of the matter is that not everybody celebrates Christmas or puts up a tree. We’ll skip the fact that the Christmas tree was appropriated from the Pagans and their Yule Tree. It is now so synonymous with the Christian faith that it’s hard to separate the two. You know what is supposed to be separate, though? Church and state. 

That means that anything symbolic of a specific religion should not be prominently displayed in a government building. Libraries are funded by the government; therefore, that separation should extend to those buildings. And if a Christmas tree aligns with the Christian faith…you see where I’m going here. 

I’ve been in countless libraries over the years. And while I have seen book displays highlighting Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, I’ve never actually seen a menorah or kinara display as prominently as a Christmas tree. If we had equal real estate for the other religious symbols then there wouldn’t be an issue. But we don’t; it’s always just the one. And it’s not just Christians that make up library patrons; everyone should feel represented there, especially since this is not an experience that they have with other government-related entities.

I know that a lot of feathers are ruffled right now, but, given the topic, that was unavoidable. Because here’s another harsh truth that we also have to reconcile with: When libraries were originally founded, they were not for everyone. I’m going to say that again; when libraries were originally founded, they were not for everyone. If you were were anything other than Christian, white, and heterosexual then guess what? You were purposefully excluded.

Thankfully, this is mostly no longer the case, and librarians have made numerous strides towards making libraries a safe space for everyone. Because many libraries and librarians know the problematic roots, they are willing to do the work and make sure everyone, no matter who they are or what they believe, feels represented when they walk through the library’s doors. However, there are still some hateful people out there trying to combat this. This is fairly obvious when one just looks at the recent wave of book bans. Notice how none of the challenged books focus on Christian, white, and straight characters? 

I digress. 

In terms of whether or not Christmas trees have a place in a library? My answer at this present moment in our timeline is “no.” I know that many people may view this as just another attack, but it’s not that. The fact of the matter is that this is one of the things that, due to being imbalanced for so long, is going to require overcorrection. If all religious symbols were given this consideration, then display them all. But they’re not, so it stands that if all of them aren’t displayed, then none of them should be.