Holiday Things I Wish Gentiles Understood

(Original post date: Wednesday, December 19, 2007)

1. Most Jews don’t feel bad because we don’t celebrate Christmas, and we don’t decorate our houses for Christmas because we don’t care to, not because we’re somehow punishing ourselves.

If one more person asks if I decorate for Christmas and then, when I explain that I don’t because it’s not my holiday, reply, “You know, you could put up Christmas lights… it’s not really religious,” I’m going to puke. I KNOW I could put up Christmas lights. It’s not that I’ve been sitting around my whole adult life thinking, “Gosh, it’s too bad Jews aren’t allowed to hang lights on their houses, because it’s really pretty.” And I KNOW that it’s not religious. I’m not a moron. I just don’t get the urge to hang them up at my house because it’s not my holiday. I take it back. I ‘m not going to puke. I’m going to say, “No way! Are you serious?” and then burst into tears, wailing, “All those wasted years!”

2. The majority of American Jews are neither offended by Jingle Bells nor thrilled that the chorus has made sure to sing one Hanukkah song.

Most of us hate the dreidel song once we’re out of preschool, and we’d like people to stop singing it, then pointing out that they’ve sung it, and then waiting for us to be all appreciative. Please understand this… no matter how many times it’s sung, it’s still about a spinning top (one that’s used to gamble, BTW). The song doesn’t hold any special meaning. In fact, if not for the fact that non-Jews keep adding it to their “Holiday” concerts, it’d probably be something you had to learn in Hebrew school, possibly sing to your grandparents once a year until your bar/bat mitzvah, and then forget about until your own kids were in Hebrew school. Now it’s become this symbol of misguided inclusion. Oy.

3. Most of us are NOT offended if someone wishes us a Merry Christmas.

We are well aware that MOST people in the US celebrate Christmas, and generally people are only trying to be polite or share their own excitement about their upcoming holiday. I’m at the point that when someone I hardly know (or don’t know at all) asks, “Are you ready for Christmas?” I just say, “Yes, and you?” Most often, people are just being polite and would MUCH rather talk about their own Christmas-preparation meshugas, anyway. It only becomes an issue when people you know well insist you MUS T celebrate it somehow, or send religious Christmas cards every year, and it’s not an inside joke.

For instance, I had a friend who, in jr. high, sent me a Christmas card. When she realized I was Jewish she was embarrassed and apologized. I let her know that it was no problem, and that I’d thought the card was pretty. The next year she sent me another Christmas card w/a note that read, “To my Jewish friend who likes Christmas cards! Happy Hannukah!” It became a yearly ritual, one that made me smile every year.

In another instance, however, I had an adult friend who sent us a very religious Christmas card one year, and who then called to ask if I’d gotten it, if I’d liked it, and what I was doing for Christmas…. with NO trace of humor. I said, yes, it was beautiful, but did she know that I was Jewish? She said yes, but she thought it captured the true spirit of Christmas. Did I really just IGNORE the whole holiday? I explained the whole idea of being “not Christian,” and she seemed to get it. The next year I got another, even more religious (of the “Hark! Our savior is born” variety) card from her. The following September, I sent her a High Holiday card and then called to see if she liked it. When she said it was beautiful but then confessed that she was confused because it really wasn’t her holiday, I said I knew, wished her a good yuntif and shana tova and hung up. Guess what? I got a generic “holiday” card that year.

4. We don’t care if your neice or brother-in-law or college roommate was Jewish.

Like I said earlier, I generally just answer a Christmas question with another one. Sometimes, however, it’s more appropriate to be more forthcoming. Surprisingly often, people are all embarrassed and feel they’ve said something insulting. In response, they blurt out that they know, or knew, another Jew. “OH!,” they exclaim, “My college roomate’s boyfriend’s half-uncle was Jewish!” I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with that information. Say, “Oh, good, you’re not a biggot?” The next time someone says, “Oh, my neighbor is Jewish,” I’m going to look all sad and say, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Let’s see what they do with that. Or even better: “Really? My neighbor is an schmuck.”

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I guess that’s all for now. But I’m reserving the right to complain some more. It’s my blog and I’ll bitch if I want to.

Adios!

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