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CHS Girls varsity soccer, courtesy of CHS Yearbook
CHS Cut vs. Uncut Sports
January 29, 2024

Diversifying the Future of CHS Celebrations

Festive+lights+adorn+a+pine+tree%2C+a+traditional+Christmas+symbol
Festive lights adorn a pine tree, a traditional Christmas symbol

In light of another holiday passing by, Camas High School (CHS) Principal Kelly O’Rourke worked to create a student-driven group to recognize and celebrate a more diverse variety of holidays in the upcoming year and the years to come.

Recently, O’Rourke sent out an email to teachers calling for fewer Christmas-focused decorations and instead focusing on “wintery” decorations to remain still festive. O’Rourke also asked for a staff advisor to help create a student group to make the school festive throughout the year.

A “Happy Holidays” banner hangs in the CHS main commons

“I think we all enjoy the holiday season, so the point is not necessarily ‘let’s be a grinch,’ and take [all Christmas themes] out,” O’Rourke said. “I don’t think we should back off from celebrating [Christmas], but I think, going forward, we need to look at what we could do to diversify that area [in order to recognize holidays celebrated by different groups].”

Before coming to CHS, O’Rourke worked at Desert Oasis High School (DOHS) in Las Vegas. At DOHS, which is nearly double the size of CHS but is similar demographically, O’Rourke saw a student group who took it upon themselves to celebrate different holidays all year round.

“[The group] wasn’t run by adults, which is nice, [instead] driven by kids who managed to map out the school year and tried to add a little fun to it,” O’Rourke said. “For example, in December, during Mexican Independence Day, they decorated the school, brought in Mexican dancers during lunchtime and filled the hallways with color.”

O’Rourke emphasized that much of what made the group so impactful was its student-led nature.

“What we don’t want to do is make [forming a group] contrived … you make it student-driven, get the kids involved and make it a fun environment,” O’Rourke said.

A vital issue with holiday celebrations that may require delicate navigating to solve is the separation of church and state.

Festive lights in a CHS classroom

“If you look at it, there’s a definite difference between church and state … it’s very clear in the law that you’ve got to keep religion away from education,” O’Rourke said. “We know that Christmas is technically a religious holiday, but we also know that there’s a secular side [with] Santa, reindeer and elves. That piece of it kind’ve moves to a secular celebration.”

CHS junior Francis Kilman, who celebrates Christmas, has his take on schools representing holidays.

“I don’t think it matters. It’s just school. You take tests and hang out with friends. I don’t think school should force any holiday on anyone,” Kilman said.

Some students disagree. 

“I don’t think enough emphasis is placed on Christmas,” sophomore Max Yoshida said.

“I think an appropriate amount of attention is placed on Christmas during the holiday season, given the [demographics],” junior Connor Yee said.

O’Rourke mainly focuses on holidays not represented and celebrated throughout the school year. While Christmas gets a large celebration at CHS, other holidays slip through the cracks.

When asked if their holiday was represented at CHS, sophomore Aditi Manjunath, who celebrates Christmas and Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, gave two answers.

“[Dwali is celebrated less than Christmas in CHS because] there’s a smaller population of Hindus. I mean, [CHS is] a primarily white school, so it makes sense,” Manjunath said.

So far, O’Rourke said that several staff members have stepped forward and are working to build a group of students to oversee festivities for the 2023-2024 school year and beyond, naturally incorporating a variety of cultures into CHS holiday celebrations.

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James Beck, Staff Writer

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