Santa’s transcript

He may be a slow learner, Santa Claus has earned mostly A’s and B’s over the centuries at North Pole University, according to a transcript released by National Student Clearinghouse.

Santa passed courses in Reindeer Behavior, Quantum Mechanics Time Travel, International Business Logistics and Behavioral Science: The Naughty vs Nice Debate to complete a bachelor’s degree in business administration and adolescent behavior.

His only C’s were in a beard-trimming elective and a course called Avoiding Grandmas and Other Pedestrians. He took a P.E. course on weight management pass/fail and managed to pass.

Have a merry Christmas — or enjoy the Chinese food.

A Jewish parent’s guide to Christmas specials



Dahlia Lithwick offers a Jewish parent’s guide to TV Christmas specials.

In her generation, Jewish kids were permitted to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Year Without a Santa Claus. Their children also can watch them.

Jewish parents avoid Jesus, Santa (and Rudolph), saints and resurrections (including Frosty), Lithwick writes.

“Perhaps my favorite e-mail laying out a Unified Theory of Jewish Christmas Viewing drew the line thus: ‘claymation and puppets, esp. from Europe = yes; cheap animation and pop music, esp. from US = no’.”

Yet “apparently all Jewish children are permitted to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas,” even though it ends with Linus reciting Luke 2:8-14: “Fear not: For behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you.”

 . . . there’s something about that poor schlump of a Charlie Brown and his inability to get into the spirit of Christmas (much less receive a single Christmas card) that speaks to the Jewish people. Indeed, if there is a more profoundly Jewish line than Linus’ “How can you take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem?” I have yet to hear it.

Many Jewish kids watched the Grinch every year, because the Boris Karloff version was “a classic.”

But dig a little deeper and what surfaces is a universal (and discomfiting) sense that the Grinch is a fundamentally Jewish show because the Grinch himself is a fundamentally Jewish character. I got one e-mail that concluded, “Who is more of a Grinch than a grumpy old Jew?” And a Jew with a heart problem no less?

The Year Without a Santa Claus clearly violates the “No Santa” rule, and yet is considered Jewishly acceptable, she writes. Perhaps Jews like to see Christmas under threat — even if it’s saved in the end, Lithwick speculates.

I didn’t watch Christmas specials as a kid or a parent, except for Charlie Brown. Well, I did love Menotti’s opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, if that counts.

When a classmate disses Santa

“Santa isn’t real,” a third-grader told his classmates — including Jessica Lahey’s son. What’s a mother to do?
“Well, that’s just crazy talk,” she said.

That night, he appeared in the living room in his pajamas. “Part of my brain tells me I believe in Santa, and part of my brain tells me it’s the parents,” he said.

“Santa is real because he lives in our hearts, and the magic of Christmas is still alive because Ben gets to help it live on in his little brother, Finn,” she said.

“I wish I didn’t know,” Ben said, as he went to bed. But he returned from school the next day with plans to help his little brother write a letter to Santa.

We all moved on. Well, Ben moved on. I wanted to tie his truth-telling classmate to a medieval torture device. Instead, I spoke to Peter’s mother and gave her some casual, friendly feedback that although I completely understood her family’s ideological stance on Santa Claus, for the sake of her younger children’s classmates, they might want to keep their family’s reality within their family, particularly around the holidays.

A week later, Ben walked into the kitchen with a very odd look on his face — knowledge mixed with some smugness — and declared, “Hold on. If you guys are Santa, then that means you are also the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.”

Now the little brother is 11 and putting “this ‘Tooth Fairy’ thing” in air quotes. The era of credulity is over.

My Jewish family celebrated a secular/pagan Christmas. I still use the felt-on-cardboard Santa tree-topper they got 60 years ago. (My father said a star was too religious, but Santa was OK.)

When my much younger brother was in second or third grade, our father asked: “So, David, what do you think of this Santa thing?”

“Well,” said David. “I like to go along with the gag.”

He’ll be visiting with his family — including a six-year-old daughter and almost four -year-old son — so we will be a Santa-believing household.

Carnival of Homeschooling

On Golden Grasses, the Carnival of Homeschooling looks forward to Christmas.

Nutcracker field trip is back on

The Mouse King dances in the Joffrey Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker in Chicago

It’s a Christmas miracle! An elementary school PTA in a Boston suburb will not cancel its annual trip to see The Nutcracker.

Someone complained children would see a Christmas tree on stage, reports WHDH. Other parents complained when the PTA decided to end the optional trip.

The Nutcracker does indeed have religious content, notes Reason.

Everyone in the ballet is celebrating Christmas, a Christian holiday commemorating Christ. Same thing happens in A Christmas Carol, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, White Christmas, Black Christmas (a slasher movie) and—heck—Handel’s Messiah.

. . . How about all those Renaissance paintings of Mary and Jesus? Should the PTA ban trips to the art museum?

“Kids can be exposed to ideas and cultures different from their own”  without feeling offended. Or they can decide not to go.

Snowfall vs. the Grinch

A portrait of Mr. Noble by one of his students.

Arthur Noble II was in “full Grinch mode” on Dec. 23. A Head Start teacher with Teach for America in Chicago, he had to work through the holidays so parents could work. He missed his family. Determined not to teach, he turned on Dora the Explorer. Then it started to snow.

We watched the snowfall in silence until Ella, a precocious Ghanaian three-year-old, started telling a story about holidays at home: “We don’t have snow at Africa where my family is, but we all go to church and eat together.”

Two Mexican students chimed in excitedly about staying up late for church, and a Nigerian boy proudly broke out in a church processional.  A student from Spain bubbled over about her grandpa, who loved her all the way from his village, and showed me a letter full of hearts she had been working on intently during Dora.

Gianny said with a growing toothy grin, “Dude! My uncles are gonna watch football and take me fishing. I like fishing, and they always teach me how!”

Then Rihanna hugged my shin, “Don’t be sad Mr. Arthur. You can come to my house … my mom makes chocolate cake for my uncle when it snows. She is the best cook and you are just sweeter than piece of chocolate.”

His preschooler family “laughed and shared stories of love, family, and snow for the rest of the day.”

Christmas cheer raises scores

Christmas cheer raises test scores, concludes Brookings’ Matthew Chingos.

He crunches PISA data to show that scores are higher in countries where Christmas is a public holiday. (First step: Exclude Shanghai.)

That’s confirmed by NAEP scores on fourth-grade math performance from 1990 to 2013, which show test scores rise and fall with holiday cheer (measured by consumer spending in November and December).

Standardizing the NAEP scores and putting the spending index on a logarithmic scale implies that if we could just have about 30% more holiday spirit, our students would do as well as those in Finland!

Brilliant, writes Jay Greene. And the reason why “random-assignment and other research designs that more strongly identify causation are so important.”

Rudolph’s revenge

All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names.

A Klingon Christmas Carol

A Klingon Christmas Carol is a holiday tradition at an Illinois community college.

When Christmas trees attack

Kilgore (Texas) High’s media department filmed a holiday prank.