Whoever would have thought that manger scenes and mall Santas could become a topic of contention in America? That saying “Merry Christmas” is becoming taboo in some circles?
I spent the first decade and a half of my life in America. Most of my neighbors were Christian, not Jewish. They put up Christmas lights on their houses and had Christmas trees. Some of them even went to midnight mass on Christmas eve. The stores were full of Christmas music and decorations and so were the streets.
They were pretty.
I never imagined it would be necessary to discuss this. It seems so bizarre but as this has become such an issue I, as a Jew, would like to say to Christians everywhere:
For God’s sake, just say: “Merry Christmas.”
Your holiday doesn’t threaten my identity. If this time of the year makes you feel more Christian that’s great. You being more Christian doesn’t make me feel less Jewish.
It would be nice if you could remember that I also have a holiday at this time of year. It’s called Hanukah (and has nothing to do with Jesus). For those that don’t know, one wishes Jews a “Happy Hanukah.”
To Christians who wish me a “Merry Christmas” I always answer: “Thank you. My holiday is called Hanukah but thank you.” The PC police might see wishing someone the wrong holiday wishes as inappropriate, racist and an attempt to subjugate a minority to the majority culture. I see it as a well-intentioned mistake. Really, it’s not a big deal.
If you can’t remember that I have a holiday and that it’s different from yours, you know what? That doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t need your recognition in order to know who I am. It would be nice but it’s not necessary. What you do doesn’t change my identity, my history, my rituals or traditions. I will remain me and you can remain you.
If anything, as a Jewish person, what I’d like to ask of Christians everywhere is to use this time of year to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Do you remember what it is you are supposed to be celebrating? It has nothing to do with presents or lights or food.
Who gets the best stuff has nothing to do with the promise that everyone, no matter what they have done in life, can find redemption. Having enormous family meals often has very little to do with love or gratitude.
As a Jew, I’d like to ask Christians everywhere not to focus on what Jews or Muslims or Sikhs or Buddhists or whoever think of your holiday. Instead focus on what you are doing with your holiday. What are you teaching your children about Christmas?
If you are teaching them to be more Christ-like, that’s the best thing I could ask for. The ideas of hope, loving your fellow man, having compassion for others etc. are eternal. I don’t have to believe in your Savior to recognize that those are good things to teach. I don’t have to be Christian to hope that you will teach your children to be Christ-like or to believe that we’d all be better off if you did so.
I would like to point out that there is a real War on Christmas and it has nothing to do with Starbucks deciding to print “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” on their cups. Or if the cup is red or green.
The real war on Christmas is happening in the Middle East, in Africa and in China. It is a war on Christians who have pledged to follow in the footsteps of the Nazarene: Jesus of Nazareth (whose Hebrew name was Yehoshua or in English, Joshua). It is a matter of life and death, not a matter of holiday decorations.
Home in Iraq marked with the symbol of the Nazarene