Friday, December 25, 2009

A Hearty "Merry Christmas!", From Your Resident Jew

{this is a reprint of my Christmas Day post from last year; I still like it, it's still relevant, and I can't think of anything better to say. I did add a twist ending, though, just to change things up a bit. So enjoy!}

I like Christmas. A lot.

I grew up in an Italian-Catholic neighborhood, and celebrated Christmas with the families of my friends since I was a little kid. Not "celebrated" in the sense of going to church - it's not my place - but I was always invited over to a friends house to eat, drink, and occasionally exchange a gift. I think Christmas trees are beautiful, I like Christmas specials on TV, and I enjoy getting into the spirit of the season.

So it annoys the hell out of me when I hear people getting offended when they are wished a "Merry Christmas" by someone who good-naturedly assumes they celebrate. The intent of the greeting is good wishes on a special day; even if you do not worship the deity involved, the wish of a "merry" is a positive one; what the hell does it cost to smile, say "Thank you", and return the greeting?

Sometimes people will start to wish me a Merry Christmas, then stutter and stammer a bit when they remember I'm Jewish. It usually goes like this:

"Hey, Jerseynut - Merry...oh, wait, I do you pronounce it again....?"

Me: "it's OK - you can wish me a Merry Christmas!

"But you don't celebrate it - I'm sorry, it still...Hanukkah?"

Me: "Yes, but it's OK. A Merry Christmas to you too ! "

"Can you say that?"

I'll speak for myself: I'll take any good wishes I can get, whether I celebrate them or not. I understand this is predominately a Christian nation, and as a Jew, I thank God that I live here, perhaps the most hospitable nation for a Jew since our beginnings. After thousands of years of being persecuted, tormented, this the best we can do? Complain about Christmas greetings and Christmas trees on public property? To my people I say - get a grip. Thank God for your good luck. And of course, Merry Christmas!

I'll end with an excerpt (that checked out OK on Snopes) from a viral email that I received with a holiday message from fellow tribe member Ben Stein:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat....

UPDATE 12/25/09 11:05 AM:

So I go out this morning to the local Qwiki-Mart, which I knew would be open today. I walk into the store, only to see my friend Amit, our Hindu owner and proprietor, working solo. "Oh, Merry Christmas, good sir!" he bellows out to me as I cross the threshold. "And a Merry Christmas to you, my humble shopkeeper!" I cry back to him. We both look at each other, and burst out laughing. We get the joke, while others would accuse us of a hate crime...

No comments: