I want you guys to know, I think Christmas is awesome. In fact, since I come from a family that bailed on most (ok all) of its Jewish tradition upholding, we celebrate Christmas. Not because of that business with the manger and the star and the mystery of whatever myrrh is. Mostly because I grew up in an Eastern European country, where four decades after the Holocaust, if you weren’t invested in your Jewish heritage, you were more than fine not advertising it. Mostly, though, I think my parents wanted to protect my brother and I from feeling uncomfortable and different in school, and liked the idea of seeing us get all excited over presents. And we did. We still do. It’s great.
However. I’ve also taken on a lot of Jewish traditions, because for some reason still unknown to me, I felt compelled to, and feel much more comfortable and content with my life when it involves Shabbat and general Jewtasticness. Hence, even though we have Christmas in my family, I still feel strongly Jewish and don’t really identify with Christmas. So when the fifth random stranger in a given day gives me a giant smile and wishes me a Merry Christmas, I really don’t know what to do. Sometimes I wish them a happy Channukah with an equally giant smile, and they look confused and awkward. Sometimes I just smile awkwardly and walk away.
The thing is, Christmas is more of a family holiday than a religious one, for a lot of people. At least the ones I’ve spoken to. I don’t have any official data on this. And Channukah is a pretty light holiday where Jewish ones are concerned. I feel uncomfortable when people think it’s our version of Christmas, partly because let’s be honest, we were kind of here first. There would be no Christianity without Judaism. So the idea that our holiday would be derivative of a Christian one makes me feel uncomfortable. I feel like that sounds mean, and I don’t mean it to be. All I’m saying is that we roll how we roll, not how others roll. And we don’t roll on Shabbos.
Let’s face it. All this really comes down to is two things: consumerism and family. And as much as I want to be snarky and tell people that I’m Jewish, and that wishing me a Merry Christmas is presumptuous and rude, I can’t. Because they mean well! I’m cynical and could give Daria a run for her money sometimes, but really, give me some latkes and a new pair of socks and I’m happy. Snarkiness would only accomplish bad PR for Hanukkah, and that doesn’t seem right.
So what do I do? Maybe I can start wishing everyone I see a Happy Hannukah. Or maybe, since this isn’t one of our major holidays, I can just start wishing random strangers a sweet new year each time Rosh Hashanah rolls around. Mostly, though, I think I’m going to spin a lot of dreidel, get wealthy on gelt, and just have an amazing week of Hannukahlicious festivities. It’s less than a week away! And at the risk of being braggy, it will still be going, even after Christmas is over.
Photo Source: My friend Leah posted it on my facebook and it was too awesome not to use.