This is a guest post by Nina Badzin. Nina lives in one of the few houses on her street not sparkling with Christmas lights from November through January. And she doesn’t mind. She blogs about the writing life, marriage, and motherhood at ninabadzin.com. Follow her on Twitter.
Every December Jews across America complain about their neighbors’ Christmas decorations, Christmas music – Christmas everything. And every December I hear fellow Jews boast about responding to a salesperson’s “Merry Christmas” with “Not everybody celebrates Christmas.” Or, “I’m Jewish.” Or, “I celebrate Hanukkah.” Our disdain is embarrassing. It’s wrong. AND IT HAS TO STOP.
Because We Sound Ungrateful
We Sound Hostile
I suppose Jews who trash Christmas think they’re defending Jewish rights, or freedom of religion, or separation of church and state. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be a Jew living under “in God we trust” America than the secular, communist former Soviet Union, the Godless Nazi Germany, or even the staunchly secular Europe today. So what if you can’t stop humming Jingle Bell Rock. Yes, it’s terribly annoying, but I bet you’re not worried about the KGB sending you to the Gulag for whispering “Israel” or wearing a Jewish star.
We Sound Confused About Freedom
Speaking of religious freedom, this little nugget of American goodness extends to Christians too. If we can put an eyesore of a Sukkah on our driveways, then certainly our neighbors have earned the right to a blinking Nativity scene or some elves. Our Jewish identities should be defined by pride and knowledge in our Judaism, not by the fact that we’re not Christian.
And guess what? In good old America we’re also free to ignore our Jewish identities if that’s how we choose to roll. Last time I checked I didn’t see the word “Jew” on my birth certificate or my passport. We’re free to engage in Jewish life as much or as little as we please. But those of us who aren’t interested in religion shouldn’t begrudge people who find comfort in theirs.
We Sound Jealous
I’ve heard Jews worry about their children feeling left out of the Christmas hoopla. Here’s the unfortunate truth: If you don’t celebrate any FUN Jewish holidays, then yes, the month of December will always feel like that day in junior high when you looked longingly at the cool kids’ table during lunch. I don’t care how many giant dreidels we insist they put up in the malls: Hanukkah will never compare to Christmas. If we sincerely want our country to decorate public institutions for OUR big holiday season, we should be advocating for enormous shofars in September. Although that would probably scare people – especially Jews.
Let’s forget the tit-for-tat decoration argument and face the jealousy issue head on. If you’re a twice-a-year Jew, I suggest finding cheerier ones than Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. How about Simchat Torah and Purim – two holidays that encourage getting a little shickered? (Take that egg nog!) Try Sukkot next year, the closest thing we have to decorating a Christmas tree.
We Sound Narcissistic
We all benefit from Christmas in America. I find a day off to eat Chinese food and see a movie about as merry an experience as I can imagine. I see nothing wrong with being gracious and saying, “Thank you,” when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas. There’s just no point in walking around feeling offended all the time. Can’t we relax already?
When we launch into the “I’m offended by Merry Christmas you better say Happy Holidays” routine, it feels like we’re making everything about us.
And that isn’t being very neighborly, now is it?