A Jewish Wife’s Perspective on Christmas

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As a kid, I was always lonely around Christmas-time. Growing up Jewish, I felt I was sitting on the sidelines of a major event celebrated by the rest of the world. Oh, my family lit the menorah and we exchanged gifts for Hanukkah, but Hanukkah just isn’t Christmas. Then there was that hauntingly depressing “Christmas Time Is Here” ditty from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. The show opens with the snow falling picturesquely, the gang ice-skating, and that dang song playing in the background put me to tears in minutes—every year.

But since marrying into a family that celebrates Christmas, I no longer cry when I hear that song, and I no longer feel lonely during Christmas. In fact, I relish eating ham on Christmas day and chowing down on traditional Italian foods Christmas Eve. I get a kick out of going to church services with my in-laws and seeing my FIL’s look of astonishment as I sing all the words to every Christmas carol in harmony. I love participating in our Christmas grab-bag, and laughing hysterically with Mr G and his sister late at night as we watch episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” on Netflix (a relatively new Christmas tradition). Spending time with family is what it’s all about.

I remember years ago a Jewish aunt who was hospitalized during Christmas. A few nurses went out of their way to wish her a Merry Christmas and she got all indignant. “The nerve of them!” she said. Me? When someone wishes me a Merry Christmas I say “thank you.” That’s what I do when I’m wished a Happy Mother’s Day, even though I’m not anyone’s mother (except Groovy Cat).

So why is a Jewish girl on a semi-financial blog babbling about Christmas? Because like Mr. Groovy, I too am boycotting Christmas—not the holiday, but the retail extravaganza. And I’m just not cool with the generic “Happy Holidays” greetings from the retail industry. Retailers are perfectly happy to use all the accouterments of Christmas—the shiny lights, decorations, big red bows, Santa Claus, reindeer, and seasonal music to seduce us into buying their products—but they don’t want a word uttered about Christianity.

My other issue is retailers who force employees to work on Christmas. If they’d make working on Christmas voluntary and offer time and a half wages, they’d surely have plenty of staff coverage. And what about when stores ban their staff from wishing customers a “Merry Christmas”? Some employees are so saddened, they’ve become incapable of even speaking to customers since the joy has been sucked out of them. 

As a Jew I’m not offended in the least by Christmas—not the word and not the holiday. I even write “We’re closed for Christmas” in my out of office message for my cubicle job. And why shouldn’t I? We don’t get paid days off for Hanukkah, Yom Kippur, or Rosh Hashanah.

Let’s call Christmas what it is, shall we? It’s time to lighten up.

What are your thoughts? Are you annoyed with retailers trying to erase Christmas from our vocabulary? Are you willing to stop purchasing from stores that won’t allow their employees to say “Merry Christmas” to customers?   

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. We set a modest Christmas budget to cover our parents, kids, and now 5 grand-kids. We chose for a life of debt freedom and early retirement so we have been frugal a long time and bucked the traditional consumerist Christmas. I say Merry Christmas after any merchant checkout. I usually get a like reply and when I don’t I assume they are forbidden by store policy. I don’t really hold it against the merchant (as its usually an executive decision not the lowly store occupying staff)and I hope that anyone I say Merry Christmas to isn’t offended as your aunt was.
    Happy Hanukkah!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      I’m glad to hear you successfully pulled off early retirement, Tommy. Yes, I think you’re right about the attitudes and policies being dictated by executive decision and not the employee. Thanks for stopping by and for the Hanukkah wishes! I didn’t partake in any of the traditional foods this year but there’s still time for finding chocolate gelt (coins) in the stores. Merry Christmas!

  2. When I grew up Christmas was just that, Celebrating the birth of Christ. All gift giving was on Sinterklaas (Saint Nics). Here in the States it is of course all about Santa. Somewhat unfortunately the same is happening in Europe too now. Saint Nic still wins but Santa is gaining ground (and with it all the commerce). The last few years my wife and I have used Christmas as the opportunity to get items we needed. A new fridge last year, the year before a new dishwasher. We still get the kids gifts as they still strongly believe in Santa. This year, being the first full year in early retirement, we will take it easy. No big ticket items. Just some gifts for the kids. Happy Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      It’s smart to use Christmas as an opportunity to buy items you need. I was on the look-out for a laptop for my 9-5 job and found one on Cyber-Monday.
      It’s interesting to learn about the different Christmas traditions. I had a close friend in NY whose family celebrated largely on Christmas Eve, not Christmas day. He told me this is traditional for Puerto Rican families. However his father liked to guzzle Manischewitz grape wine on Christmas Eve. Go figure. Thanks for the comment, Maarten.