It’s the most wonderful time of year, for people who celebrate Christmas. Even though being Jewish doesn’t preclude me from being swept up in the sparkly magic of the season, there are some frustrating things about the holidays when you celebrate something other than Christmas. It’s not my holiday, and I’ve always felt like I was somewhat of an imposter participating in all the Christmas-centric stuff; like the office secret Santa gift exchange, or helping friends decorate their trees.
There are some perks, though. I never had to worry about where to spend the holiday. Given that my husband’s family is Christian, we just always celebrated with them. As a kid growing up, I was always invited to other people’s Christmas Eve and Christmas Day festivities so, in a way, I kind of had the best of both worlds. But there were some years where the celebrations didn’t look like a scene from a Hallmark movie. I’ve done nothing on Christmas, and on more than a few occasions. Yes, we’ve done the “going out for Chinese food” thing, too, which does nothing to shatter the “Jews on Christmas” stereotype. It’s frustrating that any activity on Dec. 25th that doesn’t "honor the Christmas holiday," is perceived as “other.”
Even in a city as diverse as my hometown of New York City, Christmas rules the month of December. So when you celebrate something other than Christmas (or choose not to celebrate anything at all), you may experience some holiday frustrations, like the ones I know all too well:
It’s Assumed You Celebrate Christmas
People who celebrate Christmas are definitely the majority in this country. However, I'd like to point out that it’s 2016. There is no reason why adults (kids get a pass on this) should assume that Christmas applies to everyone.
I’m fine with you wishing me a “Merry Christmas," if you truly think I celebrate Christmas (and these days, being married to a Catholic and raising half-Jewish, half-Christian kids, I do). But if you don’t know for sure, please default to “Happy Holidays.” You offend nobody when you say that. Trust.
All The Best Holiday Specials Are About Christmas
There might have been a good Chanukah special, but the most popular ones have been those that put Christmas front and center. I’ve had fun rediscovering the Grinch and Rudolph specials with my children, and since they do celebrate Christmas, due to their father’s side of the family being Catholic, it’s a more inclusive experience for them than it was for me watching as a Jewish kid.
People Send You Christmas Cards
You’re rolling your eyes, I know. However, imagine getting a greeting card for a holiday you totally don’t celebrate. How would you feel if you received a very specific “Happy Chanukah” card around this time of year, even though you celebrate Christmas? It just feels impersonal.
So yes, I appreciate that someone is thinking of me during this time of year. I just wish they would think a little harder about the message they’re sending, so it’s more appropriate.
Hanukkah Gets Unnecessarily Elevated...
Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is not usually considered the most important holiday for us Jews. Passover and Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are much bigger deals. However, since Chanukah falls on the calendar very near to Christmas, it gets sucked into the holiday season vortex and the next thing I know, I’m seeing Disney-fied dreidels and blinged out menorahs being peddled at big box stores next to the Christmas decorations. Where’s this love during the Jewish New Year?
…Or Feels Like A Leftover Holiday
In businesses’ efforts to make it appear they treat all consumers equally, some Chanukah and maybe a few Kwanzaa items are thrown into window displays or commercials, but they’re just the back-up singer equivalent to the star that is Christmas this time of year.
Ugly Christmas Sweater Envy
I love me some ugly Christmas sweaters. They have become the most fun icon about this holiday. But since I’m Jewish, I would feel a little weird actually wearing one. I know it wouldn’t mean I’ve suddenly converted to Christianity, but I don’t feel qualified to throw one on and march out my door. (And ugly Chanukah sweaters aren’t a thing. Not yet, anyway.)
There's A Dearth Of Non-Christmas Wrapping Paper
If you’re looking for all the snow-related designs that are belief-agnostic, I have purchased all of them. Snowflakes, snow "people," mittens, gingerbread houses; I hunt down any wrapping paper that is wintery, yet devoid of overt holiday iconography.
I Feel Like A Fraud Singing Christmas Carols
Christmas music is beautiful. However, a lot of it has religious meaning, and it’s hard to sing the words, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come,” when you don’t subscribe to the belief behind the lyrics.
I mean, there is nothing wrong with singing beautiful music, but it has always made me feel a little weird to do so when it’s in celebration of a religion in which I don’t believe (but that pretty much goes for all religions, since I’m non-practicing of anything).
My Kids Are Constantly Asked What They Want Santa To Bring Them
Not only are my kids non-believers, but Santa isn’t the only entity capable of giving this holiday season. Let’s stop perpetuating the myth that parents aren’t the ones shopping, wrapping and exchanging to bring some cheer. I like my children knowing that their parents are thinking of them, and to be thanked for our thoughtfulness. More importantly, I value the idea of happiness being couched in giving, and not receiving.
The Well-Intentioned, Yet Insensitive, Schoolwide Santa Visit
My kids attend a very ethnically and culturally diverse public school in Queens. However, despite the huge Middle Eastern student population, the dominant holiday appears to be Christmas. School communication always includes all kinds of celebrations, but it has been Santa Claus making the rounds to classrooms in the lower grades.
As delighted as the children were to be gifted with peppermint pencils and reindeer stickers, it feels markedly small-minded to have just one cultural icon representing the entire holiday season when it comes to spreading the joy. Yes my kids loved it, but they also asked me, “What about the people who don’t celebrate Christmas?” Hopefully schools and other institutions will wise up and lay off the Christmas-centric iconography, to make people of all cultures feel included in the celebrations.