December 15th, 2011

The Annual Christmas Conversation

I meet new people every year, and thus every December I get to have this strange conversation about my Christmas feelings . Sometimes I have to have it multiple years with the same person, as my confusing viewpoint is hard to remember. Perhaps I’ll just immortalize this in the blog, and then send people the link when they ask…

Ok, I won’t really do that, as people mean well and I am something of a special case–folks are right to be confused. Let me take you through it step by step:

1. I am Jewish.
2. I love Christmas.
3. I do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah.
4. I do believe in the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity.
5. I like tinsel, cookies, carols, indoor trees, and time off work.
6. I attend Christmas parties, concerts, and other festivities, and enjoy them very much.
7. I do not represent anyone other than myself and, somewhat, my weird family. No one should use me as example when they are saying it’s ok to insist that non-Christian folks participate in Christmas festivities because, “Christmas is for everyone!” or “It’s really a secular holiday now.” It actually isn’t secular unless someone (like me) chooses to celebrate it in that way.
8. I am a secular Jew. Religious Jews–and religious other sorts of people–would likely have a much different reaction to Christmas stuff than I would. Or maybe not. The only way to know how anyone feels about anything is to ask that person specifically.
9. I am respectful of all cultures, including Christianity. I understand how devout Christians might find it off-putting if I told them I was taking an interest in their holy day merely for the music, cookies, tinsel, and hugs. I try to avoid invitations to truly religious occasions, even though they often have the best singing. I will not be hurt if I am not included.
10. I appreciate respect in return. I don’t do a lot of traditionally Jewish things, but no one gets to decide that I’m “not really Jewish” on my behalf.
11. Hanukkah is a pretty awesome holiday, but it is not a Christmas equivalent. It’s relatively minor in religious importance, though it’s been elevated in cultural significance due to closeness to Christmas on the calandar.
12. It’s fine to wish Jews Happy Hanukkah, but it’s also fine not to if you don’t know when it is (hint: it’s on the lunar calandar, so not the same dates every year) or what it celebrates (see Wikipedia link above). If you want to ask me about Hanukkah feel free, but you don’t have to.
13. One reason I love Hanukkah because it’s one of the only instances of a double “k” that I know of, and I think it looks neat.
14. Hanukkah tinsel exists, but it is really hard to find.
15. Sometimes I wear tinsel in my hair.

So…does that clear everything up?

6 Responses to “The Annual Christmas Conversation”

  • Kerry says:

    I love the way you insist on annoying *everybody* for the sake of tinsel. Except me. I totally get it. And that is why you are my friend (in addition to Shake It by Metro Station).

  • Julia says:

    I love this post! Mainly because I’m Jewish and I love Christmas too! (minus the tinsel, I’m with you all the way) I especially like the carols, christmas parties and, of course, the opportunity to wear as much red as my heart desires (actually, I do this all the time, so it really has nothing to do with christmas, just that in December nobody asks me about it…). And I totally agree with you that Hannukah is great but SO NOT the equivalent of Christmas! I love Hannukah for many reasons, including the fact that it’s one of those words that you can’t misspell because everybody seems to have their own spelling…In any event, Happy Hannukah! Merry Christmas:)

  • Rebecca says:

    Thank you, Julia! I have never met another Jew like me in this respect–I’m thrilled! Happy everything to you, too!

  • Jeff Bursey says:

    Rebecca, I was raised in a Catholic-United Church family, but when my parents got married about 63 years ago my father had to sign that bit of paper saying the children would be raised Catholic. We had Christmas, but it always seemed a tense time, tenser as I got older.

    When I married in 1987 it was to a Bahá’í, so since then (though the marriage ended four years ago) I’ve been on a different calendar internally. Though I never became a Bahá’í, I prefer the Faith to the ones I knew growing up, which means Christmas has been out of my home life for about 25 years. I help others celebrate it, as well as Hanukkah, but as you can see, the explanation for ‘what I do’ at this time of year is complicated. Mostly I say I do nothing and leave it at that. If it gets me called a heathen (just about a week ago, actually), then there it is.

    Thanks for your post, and see you tomorrow night.


  • Rebecca says:

    Dear Jeff, I can’t believe someone would call you a heathan–in these days of closing churches and generalized “spirituality,” those who think they know the only right way, well, they’re not as rare as they should be, I guess.

    Anyway, I’m glad to know even if one is Christian by birth, these questions aren’t super-simple. And it was nice hanging out with you the other day!!!

  • Jeff Bursey says:

    NIce to see you too, Rebecca. And MS as well, of course.

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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