Merry Christmas (No Reply Necessary)

“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 babies are all grown-up and 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. 

 Reprinted from December 25, 2012

30 thoughts on “Merry Christmas (No Reply Necessary)”

  1. Dear Susan,
    Your insight as usual is right on! I used to say “Happy Holidays” during holiday season. I think PC culture got to me, no matter how seemingly unaffected by it I thought I was. This is exactly how propaganda works – you hear it everywhere, and on some level it gets to you, whether you acknowledge it or not.
    This year I started to say – “Merry Christmas!”, and I noticed how different were reactions to my greetings: some graciously accepted it and wished the same to me; some exhaled – the secret code was received – you can relax now and say it; some were visibly unhappy and said Happy Holidays back to me, emphasizing my unfortunate ignorance…
    I sincerely wish happy new year to you – Susan and Rabbi Lapin, and to all your followers! I hope many more people will join us – conservative common sense warriors. I hope it will be enough of us to claim this beautiful country back to where it started – Judeo-Christian values, personal freedom and responsibility, strong families and communities! Amen!

  2. Susan, you’ve written a wonderful article. During December I greet people with a wish for a merry Christmas.

    I always make an effort to wish my Jewish customers a Happy Hanukkah. Most of them appreciate it. Last year one of my customers told me he is Jewish when I wished him a Merry Christmas. However, this year when I wished him Happy Hanukkah he told me he isn’t Jewish & celebrated Christmas. To say the least I don’t appreciate him having a laugh at my expense. I felt sad he could not accept my heartfelt greeting.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Der Tee–
      Fervent Christianity makes Secular Fundamentalists feel awkward just as serious Judaism does, especially to those Secular Fundamentalists who are of Jewish ancestry. Don’t let it worry you. People should be grateful that anyone wishes them well.

  3. I am a Christian who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, or Easter, or Halloween, because I believe in following Christ’s examples. He only kept God’s Holy Days. The Bible warns of following pagan ways to try to worship God. I have never had a problem telling someone who wishes me a Merry Christmas, that I don’t celebrate Christmas. But, I certainly don’t get angry about it. It doesn’t bother me that people do what they believe. But I don’t feel the need to get involved in it, in any way. In fact, I feel it would be wrong for me to do so.

    1. I think I hear what you’re saying, Marian. You are coming from the perspective of one Christian to another about a theological difference you have. So, you’re not wishing someone a Merry Christmas even though you don’t celebrate it, comes from a very different place than where I’m coming from.

  4. Once upon a time I was hired by a man who was raised in South Asia as a Muslim. Back near the beginning of that era when religious minorities started to walk around with a huge chip on their shoulders at Christmastime, employees used to walk up to him to ask whether the holiday of Christmas offended him. He sent them all away nonplussed with his reply that ‘Christ must have been among the finest men who ever lived, and we are raised to honor Him as a prophet. I am happy to celebrate His birth with the Christians.’ Their jaws dropped and hit the floor. Happy New Year to you and your families!

      1. Thanks. With all the intolerance promoted and MAGNIFIED by the Media, still tolerance and even respect for the beliefs of others pops up unexpectedly to flabbergast us all!

  5. Susan, may our G-d bless you richly on this day and in the future year to come.
    I’m in total agreement with your comment to L.J. As a conservative Christian I can not understand how a Christian could go-a-long with the Democratic platform.

    1. Mark, while there are always outliers, polling shows conclusively that church/synagogue attendance is one of the best predictors of how people vote. Unfortunately, the schooling and cultural bent of the country, along with the failure of many elected Republicans to understand what is going on, makes it an uphill battle to present the conservative side to the general public and especially to younger people.

  6. People complicate things quite often. There are many cultures, traditions and religious observers in this world, and America is dominated by people who think that we are free to worship and to observe our myriad faiths without the Government’s involvement in it. Americans make laws to reflect both majority views and minority views, but we are free to make them or to make changes to them. Time will tell if the next generation will choose wisely or foolishly; they might choose to govern themselves or they might choose to be governed. There is also hope that people will learn moral wisdom from you and Rabbi Daniel Lapin! I like to share your teachings with others, but we now live in a place more skeptical of people who happen to be Jewish. There are Jewish people living here, too, and many of them are quite secularly inclined. There are a lot of Beto stickers on cars and in front of homes around town!

    1. LJ, as studies show, the more religiously observant a Jew is the more likely he or she is (in the current climate) to lean to the conservative/Republican spectrum. Sadly, most Jews know little of their authentic faith and for many, their religion has become secular humanism as represented by the Democrat Party.

  7. Thank you Susan. I am so thankful for the foundation laid by the Jewish faith. Without God’s chosen to carry forth the 10 Commands, the history of tradition, and the culture of Israel, there is no Christianity. I am a Christian and give thanks and praise.

    1. Unlike Europe, Joan, America’s founding Christians acknowledged the Judeo-Christian base of their beliefs. That has made for a successful country. Sadly, many want to destroy that basis.

  8. I SO agree with Art!! If everyone would stop being “politically correct” and start just being nice, life could be so much more pleasant. If someone wishes me Merry Christmas or Happy Chanuka or Blessed Solstice or Happy Kwanza or the generic Happy Holidays, I don’t automatically assume they are trying to insult me or my Christianity; I appreciate that they are wishing good things for me, because I believe the God that I worship listens to those wishes.
    Usually when anyone wishes me a happy holiday in whatever form, I have been saying “Thank you, and to you as well”, but based on your post here, maybe I need to rethink that. (I’m not sure I’ll change, but I’ll think about it. ^_^ ) I always come away with something to think about from your posts. Thank you for being there!

    1. There is certainly nothing wrong with “and to you as well,” Wanda, but I personally feel that we lose by using the generic. Society keeps pushing Christians to be embarrassed at their religion, and while you may not be, it is just wrong that someone should be worried about being offensive when wishing someone else a good Christmas.

  9. I like to remind people that all Christians are first of all Jews, although most of them don’t know it! “You mean all those people in the Bible are Jewish?” Yup! Our country was founded on Judeo-
    Christian principles, and we tolerate other religions only as long as their behavior is pretty much in line with those principles, meaning that you don’t go around beheading people, etc. Certainly many Jews are quite willing to join to whatever extent in a birthday party for a nice Jewish boy! The more we understand Judaism, the better we can understand Christianity. I think it is lovely to note that in holiday rotations, Jews are quite willing to substitute for Christians during the Christmas holidays, and Christians return the favor for the High Holidays. There is a huge difference between freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Atheism is a religion, and entirely too many people would like to make it the state religion and cram it down everybody’s throat. It is so nice to hear from you and the Rabbi at regular intervals and put some of this back in balance. Hanukkah (however you spell it) is a lovely holiday, but we really don’t need to confound it with Christmas in order to appreciate either one. Greetings of the season, which as you point out is not the same as congratulations on whatever.

    1. Deb, you have clear what so many do not. Not only tolerating, but even respecting other religions, doesn’t mean that as long as something is a “religion,” anything goes. There are some behaviors that cannot co-exist with other. You are right, that it is lovely to see people of different religions stepping in so that others can have their holidays off. We can thrive together as long as there is a common denominator of culture and behavior.

  10. When I worked in Saudi Arabia for 5 years it was illegal to celebrate Christmas, Valentines, or Easter… I am a Christian and during Ramadan it didn’t bother me to say, “Ramadan Kareem” or “Eid Mubarak” (If I remember correctly)… I was surrounded with folks who “fasted” during daylight hours, so I usually didn’t eat anything in front of them. I was a guest in their country and just wanted to be courteous. I think that’s what’s wrong here… we need to quit overthinking all this “correctness” and just be gracious…

    1. Art, you sound like a gracious man. I think in the United States there has been much confusion between ‘freedom of religion,’ which is a basic principle of this country and recognizing that the country’s foundations were built on Christianity. Moving away from those foundations threatens the freedom of religion of everyone.

  11. I am obviously Jewish, although you cannot say I wear my Judaism on my sleeve I do wear it on my head in the form of a kipah and have experienced the same awkward conversations the past few weeks. People are only trying to be considerate to me, so I should not feel uncomfortable, but as Jew living in exile I am grateful to live in a Christian country that allows the practice of my religion and that is more than enough consideration.
    A Jewish Guy

  12. Dear Mrs. Lapin:
    Thank you for your common sense thoughts and the reminder of how important to think before we speak!

    1. Ruth, I just feel so badly when I see people struggling to figure out what to say and it is really very simple.

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