December 24, 2002


I'M JUST A JEW... A LONELY JEW... ON CHRISTMAS: Now that the great James Lileks has graced us with his masterful takedown of the anti-Christmas brigade, I guess it's my turn to weigh in on the same topic. Here we go: Lileks slams those who bash Christmas on Marxist grounds, but of course most of the anti-Christmas feeling I've seen in my life has come from the Jewish side of the aisle. My mother, after all, was raised as part of the only Jewish family in Watertown, South Dakota, and to this day (somewhat understandably) she can't even look at a Christmas tree in a shopping mall without seething.
Like every other American Jew, for one month out of each year I am subjected to a majority of the people around me observing a holiday that I don't celebrate. And no, Hannukah's never been much of a consolation, especially in years like this one when it ends before Pearl Harbor Day. I do have fond memories of family Hannukah parties and my grandma's latkes, but let's get real: Adam Sandler could write a new Hannukah Song every year for the rest of his life, and Hannukah still wouldn't make a dent in the Christmas juggernaut.
But I must say: each passing year, Christmas bothers me less and less. Maybe it's being in New York instead of Minnesota, with a more diverse population that's more tolerant and understanding of other cultures- nobody in New York seems like they're completely clueless about Judaism. Perhaps being older I realize that Christmas is a happy time for those who celebrate it, that they mean me and other Jews no disrespect, and it's not right for me to rain on their parade. I consider it a matter of tolerance and pluralism going both ways: if we're going to ask Christians to be tolerant of Jews on the High Holidays (to give us the day off from work, etc.), it's only fair that we be tolerant of their holiest days.
I don't consider it an affront to me as a Jewish person when someone tells me "Merry Christmas," or if I'm in a public place that's decorated with Christmas trees. If I were pressured by others to celebrate Christmas, if people regularly used the holiday as an excuse to try to convert me, or if I was hounded by a co-worker to decorate my office with Christmas stuff (as happened to a good friend of mine), that would be another matter entirely. But none of those things have ever happened to me. And I've never come into contact with anyone like Mr. Garrison either.
And while we're on this subject, the standard PC greeting, "Happy Holidays," has always sounded so generic and artificial and insincere to me. Rather than subject people to that, I prefer to meet them, get to know them, and wish them joy in whatever holiday they observe. Because if you don't know the person, what do you care whether they have "happy holidays" or not?
So for those of you celebrating Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, or (of course) Festivus, have a wonderful and meaningful holiday. Remember, if someone celebrates a different holiday than you, they're almost certainly not doing it just to exclude you. And to those of you Jews out there, enjoy the movie and Chinese food.

Posted by Stephen Silver at December 24, 2002 12:28 AM
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