Xmas cries of conscience

December 26, 1997

HINDU and Sikh children worry less about celebrating Christmas than some youngsters who are devout Christians, according to research.

In-depth interviews with young people from different ethnic groups in the West Midlands found no resistance among young Hindus and Sikhs to the idea of joining in the Christian festival.

But some children brought up in a strict Christian household were uncomfortable about commercialisation and secularisation.

The findings come from research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Leverhulme Trust, at Warwick University's religions and education research unit, directed by Robert Jackson.

Eleanor Nesbitt, a senior research fellow and lecturer in religious education at the unit, said: "We found that there was no resistance to celebrating Christmas. People were happy to have a festival and special programmes on television.

"The strongest reservations came from some devout Christian children who found a tension between enjoying their presents and being told it was frippery. It can be the most convinced Christian who is the least comfortable with Christmas."

Her findings contradict arguments that Christmas is a burden on non-Christians. Dr Nesbitt said non-Christians often adapt Christmas celebrations to their own traditions. For example, they sit down for a family meal on Christmas day but do not eat turkey.

One family she interviewed worshipped the figure of a baby in their shrine at Christmas just as they would worship the figure of baby Krishna on Krishna's birthday in August.

While many said they would have liked a national holiday on their own religious festivals, they were happy to make the most of the Christmas holiday.

Dr Nesbitt said teachers should be fully aware of other religions and perhaps introduce a build-up to festivals like Diwali and Eid in the same way as for Christmas.

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