Following complaints from parents over Christmas festivities being dropped by a public daycare centre, Catholics have spoken out to criticise what they say has been a trend in municipal kindergartens for some time.
Parents contacted regional German newspaper Hessian Niedersächsische Allgemeine (HNA) when they discovered the nursery their children attend won’t be putting up a Christmas tree, telling Christmas stories, or celebrating Christmas in general.
Teachers at the Sara Nussbaum House daycare centre in Kassel said they will forgo “Christian rituals” so as to accommodate the “diverse cultures” of other children, families told the newspaper.
Asked by HNA for comment, the city of Kassel confirmed that Christmas celebrations had not taken place at Sara Nussbaum House for a number of years.
The city later revised its initial statement after further consultation with the daycare centre, informing the newspaper that Christmas “plays a role” there, in that children do baking and handicrafts at that time of year.
A spokesman for Kassel explained: “There will be no Christmas celebrations, in the strictest sense. Because the majority of children at this kindergarten are not Christian the festival will not be celebrated in the way that it is at other schools.”
Since HNA drew attention to the issue yesterday, Catholics and church figures have criticised the attitude of Sara Nussbaum House towards Christian festivals as part of a growing trend.
Marita Gill, president of a Catholic nursery school, said that while 92 of the 98 children enrolled there have a migration background, they all enthusiastically celebrate Christmas. Ms. Gill said the children who attend St Boniface daycare centre, from 28 different nations, are “rarely so excited” as when hearing Christmas stories during Advent.
Ms. Gill said she often hears that Christian festivals now barely play a role at state daycare centres. She told HNA: “This is our culture, we must not lie [about it] or change it.”
Public nurseries increasingly dropping Christian culture and festivals was reportedly much discussed at this week’s Catholic City Conference.
Conference chairman Marie Louise Labrie opined: “Kindergartens are places of integration. But there is clearly a confusion about what tolerance is.” She said: “One must first recognise their own Christian culture and make sure they then can also appreciate other cultures.”
Asserting that Christmas is not only a cultural marker but also one of faith, Ms. Labrie added: “We should show the Muslim children what we find beautiful about Christmas. Conversely, they can show us in kindergarten what makes their religion special, like Ramadan for example.”
The dean of the Catholic Church in Kassel, Harald Fischer, also contributed to the discussion on Christian values in daycare centres. He said: “Integration does not mean that we hide our Christian values behind alleged tolerance and multiculturalism.”
Saying he feared the topic could be “exploited” by right-wing parties, the dean added: “Muslims are not the problem, but rather daycare centres who hide Christian traditions in anticipatory obedience.”
Anne Janz, the councillor responsible for youth affairs in Kassel, said parents should have taken their complaints directly to Sara Nussbaum House rather than contacting the press. Defending the practice of marginalising Christian festivals, the Green party politician insisted public nurseries make sure to “convey the core values of our Western Christian culture”.
Ms. Jantz said: “We do not conduct religious instruction, instead we have a comfortable discussion of our values of solidarity, charity, sharing, and justice. These Christian values are part of all major world religions.”