Hearts are not merry in Marshfield, Massachusetts. Despite loud public outcry over changing “Christmas Break” on school calendars to “Holiday Break” the school board by a 3-2 vote made the change anyway. It has been a hot-button issue in the community for several months.
After a debate that was at times somewhat heated, the School Committee voted 3-2 on the name change Tuesday, Sept. 9. Committee members Dennis Scollins and Richard Greer voted against it, favoring the traditional name for the break.
The topic was put on the agenda after a parent emailed Superintendent of Schools Scott Borstel and asked whether the break’s name could be changed to “winter vacation,” noting that the phrase Christmas break was slightly archaic.
Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, said that changing the name of the break has been happening slowly throughout the state in recent years.
“It’s been a trend over the last several years to secularize the winter break, the same way ‘Spring Break’ used to be ‘Easter Break,'” he said. However, Koocher said it’s generally not a big point of contention, and that his organization doesn’t regularly track which districts make the name change.
“Christmas is the legal name of the holiday,” Koocher noted, adding, “For whatever local reason, people have been making adjustments.”
In his remarks at the School Committee meeting, Scollins also noted that Christmas was a legal name for the holiday and said it was personally important to him to continue calling the break Christmas vacation.
“People are very comfortable with the word Christmas,” he said.
Greer agreed with Scollins, noting that it’s been called Christmas break for a long time and that it was a holiday Marshfield residents had historically celebrated.
Nancy Currie at first said she would vote to stay with Christmas, but changed her mind after hearing Shrand’s points on the matter, including that Shrand’s children had been teased in school for being half Catholic and half Jewish.
Chairwoman Marti Morrison said that from a practical standpoint, it made sense to keep Christmas in the name, since the holiday is the “only reason” that the break takes place at that time. However, she joined Currie and Shrand in voting in favor of the change.