“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