I am a religious Jewish person, writing for a Jewish website. Why, then, am I writing about how to prepare for Christmas? Let’s face it: We live in a predominately Christian country, in which the majority of people, including those who are not religious, celebrate Christmas in some way. From Thanksgiving (or earlier) each year, we are surrounded by it.
Case in point, I work for a very small company. Everyone here is well aware that I am Jewish. I leave work early on Fridays, I don’t work on major Jewish holidays, and accommodations are made for me at company meals in order to allow me to comply with my practice of kashrut (the Jewish dietary laws).
Still, last December, a co-worker said to me at the copy machine, “You look very Christmassy today!”
I glanced down at my red and black geometrically patterned sweater vest, my white blouse and black slacks, and replied, “No, I don’t.”
He repeated enthusiastically, “Yes, you do!” Apparently, even just the sight of red or green means Christmas to some people. At this point, I didn’t know what to say. I looked at him, waited, and in a few seconds he said, “Oh, sorry.”
Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid this kind of thing in December, any time you venture out from the Jewish community. My practice of wearing a Star of David from Chanukkah through Christmas doesn’t seem to help much. However, there are some things we can do to prepare, to make the Christmas season a little less uncomfortable.
First, if you’re a Coca Cola addict like me, now is the time to stock up. I recommend you buy enough to get you through at least mid-January, maybe more. Do it now, because before you know it, all the cans of Coke will have pictures of Santa on them.
They really are unavoidable; last year the Santa cans were even in the vending machine at the local Jewish Community Center. I have nothing against Santa, but he is a Christian holiday symbol, and I don’t want to display him every time I have a drink. I could cover him with my hand, or use a glass, but with advance planning, I know I can avoid him altogether by stocking up now.
Speaking of Santa, now is the time to make a list, and check it twice. If there is anything you will need to buy at the mall or any other popular shopping venue between now and the end of the year, do it now. Right now. Or, at the latest, this weekend, the last weekend before Thanksgiving.
Include on your list anything you need to buy for friends or family who celebrate Christmas, and anything you need for yourself and your family (coats, blankets, haircuts) for the next six weeks. If you plan ahead, you can completely avoid the long lines and crowded parking lots that are an inevitable part of the December shopping experience. You may miss out on some sales, but if you’re like me and want to avoid the hassle of the season, it’s well worth it.
Of course, with Christmas decorations on downtown light posts, Christmas trees in restaurants and office buildings, as well as Christmas songs on the radio, there is no way to avoid the holiday altogether. So when it all starts to get a little overwhelming, and you want to inject a little extra Jewishness into your life, where can you go? Jewish Rock Radio provides a perfect refuge of exclusively Jewish songs when it seems nothing else will get the dreaded “Jingle Bells” out of your head.
I’m sure there must be more things we can all do to get ready.
What strategies do you employ to help you keep Christmas at bay?
As a Jewish woman, I enjoy the Christmas season. It can be a happy time for my Christian sisters and brothers. I am happy for them. While, it is not my holiday I get the day off!
My gentile friends are not resentful about my special days, nor do I want to be intolerant of theirs. As part of tikum olam, I want to promote good will among all peoples.
The writer seems crabby. Let it go. Tell your Christian friends “Merry Christmas.” I bet they will be moved by your consideration and thoughtfulness. All the better to promote peace and understanding.
I’m behind you 100%, Susan. I’ve learned to live with the fact that we are a mostly Christian nation and Jews are in the minority. And I support my Christian friend’s celebration of their messiah. But I still have issues with Jewish families who put up Christmas trees in their homes for whatever reason.
Hi Susan! I’m sure you meant some of this to be tongue-in-cheek, but I’m with JoAnn above.
You say: “I leave work early on Fridays, I don’t work on major Jewish holidays, and accommodations are made for me at company meals in order to allow me to comply with my practice of kashrut (the Jewish dietary laws).”
So why then should we, a minority living in a country where most of our colleagues, etc, celebrate Christmas allow them to show it, just like we expect “them” to live next to our sukkahs, not assign exams on Rosh Hashanah, etc?
I don’t believe I am the slightest bit intolerant of my friend’s religious holidays, nor do I think Susan is. Even some of my Christian friends, however, get fed up with the “Christmas Everywhere-All-The-Time-In-Your-Face” that businesses push in their marketing.
If you read her post, most of what she is talking about involves the relentless MARKETING of Christmas.
I don’t think I’m resentful of my friend’s holidays. But I do confess I might be resentful of having to listen to entirely Christmas music at the Caribou Coffee when it isn’t even after Thanksgiving yet!
Thank you all for the comments. I’m sorry if it sounded crabby. I don’t feel that way about it. I’m not asking non-Jewish people to change their behavior or practices (except I’d prefer that my co-workers not say my clothing is Christmassy).
The post is about things I can do on my own, without asking anyone else to change their behavior, practices, or enjoyment of the holiday, in order to help make Christmas less intrusive in my life.
Just as others don’t ask Jews to remove a menorah in the town square or a take down a sukkah their back yard, I am not asking others to change anything for me. I am taking responsibility for my own life, and seeking strategies I can employ on my own, without negatively impacting anyone else, to reduce the presence of Christmas in my life. Not because there is anything wrong with Christmas, but it’s not my holiday.
I don’t like all the Christmas marketing but the holiday itself doesn’t bother me. I don’t even mind a lot of the music. There is religious sacred music that is about Jesus and secular Christmas music. I turn the station when a religious song comes on but sing along to secular Christmas songs.
There is religious Christmas music that is about Jesus and secular Christmas music. I turn the station when a religious song comes on but sing along to secular Christmas songs.