It’s Hard to be a Jew on Christmas

I am interrupting today’s scheduled post, and instead I am gifting you my thoughts on Christmas.

For many years of my childhood and throughout adulthood, I have found myself struggling with how to respond when somebody wishes me a “Merry Christmas!”

Should I say that it isn’t my holiday?  Or tell them that I am Jewish?  I used to wonder.  Religion is such a small part of my life, and yet it sometimes defines me too much.

Then, at some point in my early twenties, I resigned myself to respond, “Happy Holidays!”

But that’s silly, because clearly their Holiday is Christmas, and just because they got mine wrong, doesn’t mean I should fail to properly acknowledge theirs on purpose.

Spending my childhood in Jewish day school, I was taught to shun all things Christian (eg. a cookie from a kosher bakery is not “kosher” if decorated for Christmas).  But as an adult, I realize that would pretty much mean disassociating myself from all things American.

It is possible to be Jewish and still have a Christmas tradition.

For many, Christmas is still a religious holiday.  But it is also a holiday that the U.S. government acknowledges, leading most business to close and enabling everyone – Jewish, Christian or otherwise – to celebrate, as the British say, a holiday.

It is a free day off, and who doesn’t want to celebrate that?

To me, Christmas is a day to get together with those closest to you to see a blockbuster film of your mutual choosing (after hours of negotiation and eventual compromise) and consume a meal of some sort of Asian cuisine.

It is an American Jewish Christmas tradition.

I don’t spend weeks preparing, baking or decorating.

I don’t spend my holiday bonus on gifts.

I don’t have to bitch about those freaking pine needles getting in to EVERYTHING!!!

But I will wear red and make merry,

and I will wish it back to anyone who wishes me,

Merry Christmas!

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