I have six kids, all who have either gone through or are going through the Dartmouth Public Schools system. My oldest is Keith, a 2015 graduate and my youngest, Elena, is in the second grade.

Every year since 2005, my wife and I have attended the music recitals when our children are participants. We are very supportive and often bring friends and or extended family. This year, the performances were terrific, the kids played their instruments better than most expected and the fifth-grade chorus was fine, too.

But unlike in many of the past performances, there were no signs of Christmas. No decorations, no army of Santa hats worn by the student performers (as was always the case), and no classic Christmas songs sung by the choir, either. The horns played one Christmas song, "Good King Wenceslas," amid five secular tunes, as did the string section, of which my Nina was a part. Technically, there was a song from Frozen 2 which mentioned the words "Christmas tree" that the fifth-grade choir nailed, but the meaning of the song is that Christmas isn't required. Interesting choice.

But aside from that, this concert could have taken place in April or July in Soviet-held East Germany in 1971 and none would have been able to tell the difference. Especially given the bare stage, the failing, problematic PA system, and bare walls without so much as a sheet of paper with a candy cane or Christmas tree created from any of the 700 crayon-and-watercolor-armed art students in the immediate proximity.

If this is the course for today's Dartmouth School Music Association, it calls for a bit of pushback from those of us who can't understand it.

As long as I've been attending, we have all sat in the audience and sung along to Christian or Jewish holiday songs mixed in with a few secular songs that are simple enough for the fledgling musicians and young singers to perform. Until last night, it was an integrated part of the holiday tradition around here.

Apparently now, the word "Christmas" can be as divisive as the Pledge of Allegiance in this "new" America. Well, I'm not ready for it. And I don't believe I'm alone.

Also, as my father-in-law observed, "I bet none of the Christmas objectors turn away their Christmas vacation paid days off." Well, I had to include that. Also, I had to cite him if I want any more of his pancakes.

I saw Muslim children in the choir and their families, just like ours, taking great joy in their child's participation. I met one of the families out front and they were very nice. I presume some Hindu and other religions were represented on stage. I don't believe for a moment that they would object to the school program doing what it has always done. I'm sure they're ok with allowing other people to be ok with the message offered in Christmas, and enjoying some of the season's anticipated holiday composition found in Christmas songs.

Are they really afraid of offending people? Do people call or write stating that they will be attending and would be deeply offended at the site of a cut-out Christmas tree or hearing a rendition of "White Christmas," "O "Holy Night" or "Run Run Rudolph"? Or are the planners simply projecting how they themselves, want the Christm--err, holid--err, December concert to evolve away from these things held dear to most of us?

In the past, I have raised thousands of dollars for the DSMA fundraising through my band's concert. I still would. The directors, teachers, and volunteers are amazing. The results are impervious to criticism. They produce national and even world champion performers annually. I'm not out to offend, I'm out to say I'm offended. Not just for me, but for most who attend, who perform, and I'm sure, for some who teach and volunteer these brilliant children.

Even if someone moved here from another place to join what it is that we've built, what we've accomplished and what we hold valuable, should we cower to demands that we abandon the few moments we look forward to in between battling our tax obligations, aging, sickness, responsibilities, and problems to watch our young beloved kids take part in something we've loved and know they love?

Sometimes it's okay to tell those who see things differently that we aren't hurting anyone and that we enjoy some long-standing traditions. Now, we ought to feel obligated to make them feel welcome to participate, including adding their cultural enjoyment into the event, but they are free to ignore the Christmas season events if they so wish.

Know why they can ignore it? Because we all have the freedom in the United States to do what we choose to do, so long as we are not infringing on the rights of others. That's what we've built. That's why our ancestors came and hopefully why so many continue to come here.

Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at ken.pittman@townsquaremedia.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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