News about the ban on gingerbread men, gingerbread cookies and gingerbread-themed songs at the school in Laxå in central Sweden spread like wildfire on social media.
Now it looks like the school has backtracked, with the municipality suggesting it was probably a misunderstanding.
According to the local Nerikes Allehanda (NA) newspaper, 10-year-old Mio Simic was told by a teacher that he could not be a gingerbread man in his school’s annual Lucia celebration, a tradition that rivals Christmas in terms of the significance Swedes place on the holiday. It is celebrated in honour of the Catholic Saint Lucia on December 13th.
Schools mark the occasion with a morning procession where girls usually dress up as Lucia, donning white robes and wreaths of candles, while boys dress up as gingerbread men (pepparkaksgubbar), star boys (stjärngossar) or gnomes (tomtar).
Mio’s mother, Jenny Simic, told Nerikes Allehanda that her son had come home from school one day and told her that he would not be allowed to dress up as a gingerbread man.
She called the school to see if it was true and was told that there would, indeed, be no gingerbread references as some may take offense.
“I said, well then my son won’t participate. He won’t support some Ku Klux Klan procession – because that’s what it looks like when they all come in with white hoods and white dresses,” said Simic.
“We are talking about children here. If everyone wants to dress up as Lucia or as gnomes, then let them.”
She later sent an SMS to Mio’s teacher to see if the ban still stood. She received the following response:
“I know what you think and what you’re writing. Unfortunately we have no gingerbread men or songs in our procession! We cannot offer gingerbread cookies because of allergies among pupils.”
Simic thought this was just a “rationalization” and not the real reason for removing gingerbread cookies.
She said a ban is counter-productive.
“Should you remove these things from a traditional celebration in order not to offend? Well then you could turn things around and ask: Why are we removing it? Aren’t brown people like us, or what? Can’t they participate?”
After speaking to Marghareta Zetterlund, head of the children and education committee at Laxå municipality, the Expressen newspaper reported that it was all a misunderstanding.
Zetterlund told Expressen that the school’s pupils and teachers had decided together which songs would be included in the celebration.
“The gingerbread man song was not chosen and so the teacher said then we won’t have any gingerbread men,” said Zetterlund.
Asked by NA to confirm this, Zetterlund said it was not exactly a misunderstanding but that the teacher in question had not reflected properly on the fact that some children may still want to dress up as gingerbread men, even if there would be no songs about the cookie.
Zetterlund had not seen the teacher’s SMS to Jenny Simic and could not confirm whether or not potential offense-taking had been cited as a reason for the gingerbread ban.