Merry Christmas – No Reciprocity Required

“Have a joyous Christmas.”

“Thank you and Happy Chanuka. Well, I guess that’s over now but I hope it was happy, I mean…”

I’ve had a few awkward conversations such as this one over the past few days. In my daily life I regularly interact with Christians. From the woman who leads the exercise class I attend to the checker at the local supermarket wearing a reindeer pin, many around me are celebrating a special, religious occasion.

They often know that I am not. For some reason that leaves them tongue-tied when I offer timely greetings. If you think about it, that makes little sense. When the coffee barista knows that it is my birthday because I am using my “free happy birthday” card, she wishes me good tidings on that day. I feel no compunction to say back, “and a happy birthday to you too.” That would be rather ridiculous.

When the postal employee who has been out on maternity leave returns to work and I offer congratulations, she doesn’t respond with, “Congratulations to you as well.” Since my ‘baby’ just got married, that would be rather disconcerting.

Yet, when I wish a merry Christmas to so many who know I am Jewish, they often have trouble simply saying, “Thank you.” I understand this. Our culture has drummed into the minds of too many that equality is all that matters, even at the price of common sense.

Christmas is a federal, legal holiday in the United States because our founders were Christian. If, as a nation, we continue on the current path it is conceivable that the move to revoke its special status will gather steam. Just as I see the increasing number of store openings on Christmas day as a troubling sign, I would view that as a sad and ominous portent.

I hope my Christian readers had a truly uplifting day, and please know that my Jewishness is in no way threatened by your celebration. I expect the real threat to the freedom to observe my own traditions to come when and if Christian culture ceases to influence the United States. 


7 thoughts on “Merry Christmas – No Reciprocity Required”

  1. Dear Susan:
    Yours is a very thoughtful and conciliatory message and it is much appreciated. I have never considered that when I wished someone a Merry Christmas I was somehow insisting the object of my expression should somehow embody the emotion I feel in regard to my observation of the Christmas Story. It has never been my intention to enforce my views on anyone. My wish of a Merry Christmas is simply a desire that the object of my communication might be imbued with Peace and Love throughout the year. Christians talk about the mystery of scripture and we spend time delving into its true meaning. I believe this is an important point in defending against spurious attacks. It is a mystery. We seek understanding and therfore wisdom but we are a loving people so we wish that others might experience the blessings we have experienced in our pursuit of knowledge of God. This is why I appreciate you and your Musings and Rabbi Lapin and his Thought Tools. The extent of your love and caring is evident in your expression. So, Merry Christmas and Happy Chanuka, and God Bless.

  2. Thank you for your generosity! Christmas is such a happy occasion. When I wish people a “Merry Christmas!”, I am not trying to evangelize. I am simply sharing my joy. Thank you for not taking my greeting as a personal affront.

  3. Dear Mrs. Lapin, having but my own feelings as a guide, I can only imagine how you must feel as an ‘outsider’ in a world that has long had a different religious orientation. Thanks for forgiving those of us who do not know how to respond. Sometimes it is for good reason.
    Some members of your faith carry their religious ethnicity like a chip on their shoulder. When someone wishes them a “Merry Christmas” they readily reply “I’m Jewish” with caustic fervor that can sound accusatory or withering, just like “Leave me alone!” There is no reason to take it ill. I wish these folks were like you and the Rabbi.
    You wouldn’t take it ill. You realize that we are all in this together, and that we people of faith have much more in common than we have differences. We are all very blessed that you build bridges and teach us the hidden nuances and secrets of Ancient Jewish Wisdom. Please keep it coming!
    All the best in 2013!

  4. I just finished spending hours and hours preparing a Christmas Party for our multi-faith family. Everyone just seems to know that we wish them happiness..Mormon, Baptist or Jew. For someone to be confused when wished well is puzzling to me, but I may be blessed with exceptionally understanding company. All the best to you Susan, today and every day!

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