Happy Holidays! Is being politically correct important? – Pro

Around the holidays, people become more concerned with being politically correct; instead of hearing “Merry Christmas,” it’s now more common to hear “Happy Holidays.” Although some people don’t think being politically correct is a big deal, it’s important to view the issue from different angles.

By Kaitlin McDonagh

INDEPENDENT EDITOR

  Around the holidays, people become more concerned with being politically correct; instead of hearing “Merry Christmas,” it’s now more common to hear “Happy Holidays.” Although some people don’t think being politically correct is a big deal, it’s important to view the issue from different angles.

  In a school where students predominantly celebrate Christmas, most people don’t bother to acknowledge other holidays. This is because there is a lack of variety when it comes to religious denominations.

  Because of this lack of diversity, students don’t know a lot about other religions. Learning about other winter holidays is important because it makes everybody feel included. With fewer people who celebrate other holidays, such as Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, more people are likely to feel left out when other students talk about Christmas.

  In order to prevent others from feeling bad, it’s important to be mindful of others’ religions. It’s fine to say “Merry Christmas” to people who celebrate the holiday, but it becomes awkward when the person’s religion is uncertain. To avoid this mistake, it’s easier to say “Happy Holidays” to everyone, regardless of whether his or her religion is known or not.

  Not only does this stop awkward encounters, but it also shows that other holidays and religions are accepted. When somebody says “Happy Holidays,” it shows that he or she is making an effort no to offend anyone.

  To many, it may seem ridiculous that people are offended when their holidays are ignored. In order to understand their feelings, it’s important to step into their shoes; how would it feel to essentially be ignored during the holiday season? There’s so much hype over Christmas that nobody pays attention to other holidays.

  Some people still believe others shouldn’t make a fuss if their holidays aren’t widely acknowledged. The fact of the matter is people do feel offended, whether one agrees with it or not. When somebody feels this way, it is important to make him or her feel comfortable; whether one thinks he or she is overreacting is a different issue that shouldn’t matter.

  Essentially, it comes down to this: it’s important to make the largest number of people feel as appreciated as possible. Without being politically correct around the holidays, it’s impossible to do. By putting aside personal opinions and acknowledging other religions, the holidays will be a happier time for everyone.

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Common Christmas traditions based on pagan practices

Traditions like placing a star on the top of the Christmas tree, eating a chocolate “Yule log,” and the use of candy canes as decorations have been passed down for centuries, but their actual meanings at the start of their ceremonial use have been lost to many with time.

By Nick Bouwer

INDEPENDENT EDITOR

  Traditions like placing a star on the top of the Christmas tree, eating a chocolate “Yule log,” and the use of candy canes as decorations have been passed down for centuries, but their actual meanings at the start of their ceremonial use have been lost to many with time.

  A star or an angel is often placed on the top of the Christmas tree not because it “looks nice” or “completes the picture,” but because it is to represent the the host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the nativity.

  The tradition of placing an evergreen tree in one’s home at Christmas started in Germany in the 16th century.

  With roots in pagan beliefs before the birth of Jesus, the tradition was mainly in celebration of the winter solstice.

  According to the website All Things Christmas, the German priest Martin Luther was the first to embody the tradition of the Christmas tree as it is known today as the symbol for the tree of life in the Garden of Eden.

  Not long after Europeans began using Christmas trees, special decorations were used to beautify them.

   Candies and cookies were used predominately in this decoration process, and straight white candy sticks were one of the major confections used as ornamentation.

   During the 17th century, craftsmen created the white sticks of candy in the shape of shepherds’ crooks to represent the shepherds in the nativity scene.

  The candies were used as bribes for children to keep quiet during ceremonies at the living crèche, and the tradition spread throughout Europe.

  According to the website Enzine Articles many families today also enjoy a chocolate cake at Christmas time most often made in the shape of a log known as a Yule Log.

  Originally a pagan tradition as another celebration of the winter solstice, a Yule log was a tree branch, typically oak, for its slow burning properties.

  When the log fire expired, a piece of the log was kept for luck and as kindling to start the next Yule fire, when the next winter came along.

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Humanities week provides fun, interesting performances

Looking back on the 10-day Humanities Week, students praise librarian Sue Krause for her hard work organizing the program.

By Kyle Marsh

INDEPENDENT EDITOR 

  Looking back on the 10-day Humanities Week, students praise librarian Sue Krause for her hard work organizing the program.

  “I think she did a great job. She really put together a program that was very interesting that let the school see a wide range of the humanities,” senior Christine Walder said.

  “She did a great job choosing the performances. Everything was so engaging, and people looked forward to all of the performances,” senior Isolde Decker-Lucke said.

  Humanities Week hosted various authors including Ha Tran, author of “Empowered by Hope,” an account of her escape from the Vietnamese Civil War. She moved to America with her husband (from an arranged marriage) and two children; she said she “never stopped fighting.”

  Other authors included Mike Tougais, author of “Survival Lessons: Triumph over Adversity,” and Eric Jay Dolin who wrote “Fur, Fortune, and Empire” and spoke to the sophomore class about the history of the fur America.

  Krause also selected performers such as the Navy Rock Band, Ayla Brown, and African Drummers.

  Others included the speed painter “Art Hero,” slam poet Taylor Mali, and film directors Noah Hutton and Josh Fox.

  Hutton and Fox discussed their respective documentaries “Crude Independence” and “Gasland,” which explore the issue of gas drilling in America. Fox’s Gasland was nominated for an Academy Award, according to Krause.

  According to various students, the Navy Band, Brown, Tran and Mali gave the most interesting performances.

  Senior Olivia Dumont particularly enjoyed the Navy Band. “I think it gave a new perspective to people that were considering the military as a career path. They were so fun and exciting,” Dumont said.

  Krause agreed. “They were the nicest men, and I just loved the way they interacted with the kids.”

  Brown, former Boston College basketball star and American Idol finalist, sang and spoke the next day.

  “She had a good story of success, but it would been more influential if she didn’t just talk about herself the whole time,” Decker-Lucke said.

  “Her whole presentation lacked a message… ‘You can applaud for that,’” senior Maddy Huleatt said.

  The next day Tran spoke about her escape from the Vietnam Civil War.

  “She was so inspirational. I thought her story was very touching,” senior Corey Bradley said.

  “Her genuine care and generous heart was shown in the way she spoke,” Dumont said.

  On Friday Dec. 3, slam poet Taylor Mali performed his poetry. Most students found the act comical.

  “He was hilarious, but a few of his comments were border-line inappropriate for high-school students,” Walder said.

  “Taylor was so intelligent to be able to do what he does. He was a dynamic speaker; I love the way his voice commanded the audience,” Krause said.

  Teachers had mixed opinions about Humanities Week.

  “I think it is good for students at our school to have a variety of educational experiences. However, it was difficult maintaining momentum in my classes due to the frequency of the assemblies. But, Mrs. Krause did a great job,” math teacher Richard Brown said.

  “It was a big disruption. On the other hand, I thought it was great that students were able to be exposed to things that they often do not in school,” math teacher Stephen Levinson said.

  History teacher Lauren DuBois said, “I think they did a good job trying to alert teachers so they could adjust accordingly.”

  Levinson agreed and mentioned the scheduling was well organized.

  Principal James Lee said that Humanities Week changed to a two-week program after scheduling issues arose from last year’s one-week event.

  “Within the next few weeks, we will meet with Mrs. Krause and the department heads to see if some other structures will work better for years to come,” he said.

  Overall, Krause said she was happy with the outcome of Humanities Week.

  “I enjoyed booking it and putting it all together. When the students take time to come over to me and thank me, it’s a nice feeling; I am so happy they all enjoyed it,” she said.

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Music Theory class performs with African drummers

The last Humanities Week presentation to the whole high school was Wednesday, with African Drummers Jackie and Regina Kamwendo. The two drummers were very upbeat and involved the students with their music and dancing by having them dance with them and clap along to the beat. They called up members of Donna O’Neil’s music theory class to help them drum while students went up on stage and danced along with them. At the end, high school principal Jim Lee presented librarian Sue Krause with a bouquet of flowers. The flowers were a thank you for setting up Humanities week and all her hard work putting it together.

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Students show their talent at winter concert

Thursday, December 16, at 7:30pm the MERHS Chorus, A Cappella group, and Band performed at the annual Winter Concert for family and friends. The Chorus performed first and opened with “Ding Dong! Merrily on High” and ended with “Carol of the Bells.” The group sang a total of four songs and was lead by Chorus Director Donna O’Neil and accompanied on piano by Thomas Smoker. The A Cappella group, Soundwaves, gave a wonderful performance of three songs, their hit being “Fa, La, La, La.” To close the concert the high school band performed six songs under the direction of Joe Sokol. The band performed songs such as “Do You Hear What I Hear” and “Great Movie Adventures.”

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Young adult author hosts workshop for middle school students

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Hornets sting Vikings in season opener

The Hornets boys basketball team faced the Rockport Vikings on Tuesday, December 14 at 6:30 pm. For both teams it was the first game of the season and fans from both sides were there for support.

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Sound Waves perform at Jingle Bell Walk

The Jingle Bell Walk is a small parade that starts in Manchester Harbor, and ends at the Community Center. The parade has taken the same route for years, and ends with activities such as meeting Santa, a petting zoo, face painting, and hot chocolate and cookies.

The MERSD a cappella group Sound Waves have performed at many events this holiday season, including the Jingle Bell Walk, the HEART Holiday party and the Council on Aging luncheon.

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VIDEO: Middle school students dance and drum

 Jackie Kamwendo, an African drummer, and his sister Regina, a singer gave an excellent performance during Humanities Week Fall 2010. In addition to performing, Jackie and Regina talked about the village from where they came in Malawi, brought hand-made instruments from their village, and described the music and dance traditions of central Africa.

Middle school students were invited onstage to join in.

MS Students drum and dance with African Drummers from MEMO on Vimeo.

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Students prepare, fundraise for band performance at Olympic Stadium, Montreal

Band director Joe Sokol and the high school band are preparing for a weekend performance at the Olympic Park in Montreal, Canada.

By Morgan Kennedy

INDEPENDENT STAFF

  Band director Joe Sokol and the high school band are preparing for a weekend performance at the Olympic Park in Montreal, Canada.

  On March 18, 68 members will represent the band on its sixth trip to Montreal. According to Sokol, the band will leave Friday morning and arrive in Montreal in the early afternoon where they will immediately report to the Olympic Park for a 40 minute set.

  During their public performance, the band will play six to eight pieces including “Eagle Mountain Overture” and “James Bond Returns Medley.”

  Junior Emmett Snyder, an alto saxophonist, is looking forward to performing in Canada.

  “I’m pretty excited about it. I don’t see any reason to be nervous,” he said.

  Following their show at the Olympic Park, the band will dine at a French restaurant in Old Montreal. They will rise early on Saturday morning for sightseeing and shopping, followed by a museum trip in the afternoon.

  Live music, line dancing, and sing-a-longs at a Sugar Shack will entertain the group on Saturday night. Students will see animals at the Biodôme de Montréal before heading home on Sunday.

  The weekend costs $435 per student and includes everything but lunches. Band members are working to raise money through fundraisers. They recently completed a Yankee Candle fundraiser, from which some students earned enough to pay for their trip and then some.

  “I raised over $500 from selling candles,” junior alto saxophonist Alden Burnham said.

  According to Sokol, the trip will be cultural, educational, and a great experience for the students.

  “It’s everything that we would want on a trip,” he said.

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