I’m not Christian. I went to Catholic school though and I won’t say it wasn’t littered with some politically incorrect encounters. Lent would roll around and inevitably, someone would point out that it was Friday, and there was meat in my soup.
Really? There’s meat in chicken soup? Thanks, friend!
(Full disclosure, I still don’t eat meat on Fridays during lent because of that experience.)
Before school break in December, Christmas greetings were fervently exchanged. No one would’ve skipped handing me a Christmas card or some cookies because I didn’t technically celebrate Christmas and it would’ve never occurred to me to find their action offensive. It wasn’t. If you’re handing me cookies, I don’t really care what you’re saying to me. And if you celebrate Christmas, and want to wish me well for your holiday, then please do and hey, peace be with you.
I love Christmas. I love secret Santa, Christmas carols, decorating cookies and any excuse to wear red. It doesn’t matter that it’s not my holiday. It’s a treat to be included. Someone wishing me a “Merry Christmas” is just another form of inclusion.
Half my family is Jewish, so while I was learning (read: tuning out) the New Testament in 7th period, they were reading the Old Testament. They wish me a “Happy Hanukkah” and I return the greeting. No one gives much thought to the fact that I’m not actually Jewish because my mother isn’t.
Jewish traditions are based on family, history and amazing Jew-food. I used to braid the Challah my Grandmother baked and I have an affinity for matzo ball soup, so I’m pretty much in the Jew club, right next to Adam Sandler. So what if my curls aren’t actually Jew-curls and my father has to remind me when Hanukkah falls? I’m still at liberty to eat as many latkes as I want. Why would my Jewish family need to say, “Happy Holidays” to me, when instead I could share their holiday?
My mother’s Indian, but every year we exchange a present or two if we feel like it. On December 25th, she’ll wish my brother and I a “Merry Christmas,” and before I can return the greeting, she’ll change tune and launch in to a lecture about how we missed Diwali (an Indian holiday known as the “festival of lights”) and we should really go to temple more often than we do.
Indians like a good, long-winded lecture, so this goes on for a while. Then she announces her gifts to us are early Diwali presents, we end the temple debacle by saying a mantra and go back to preparing our holiday meal.
From my stepmother, I get Christmas presents and from my father, I get Hanukkah presents. The cards are signed “From Santa Claus” or “From the Hanukkah Monster” depending on who’s giving the gift. (Note: The Hanukkah Monster has a positive connotation. It isn’t really a thing, but don’t worry, it will be.)
December brings a lot of talk about spreading the joy of the season. What’s the joy of your season? Is it that Christmas is right around the corner? Is it that you finally have an excuse to watch Elf and drink hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps? Are you looking forward to going home to light the first candle on your family’s menorah?
Wherever your joy comes from, spread that. And if that means you say something other than “Happy Holidays,” then so be it.
There’s a quote that circulates every year around this time, but it often gets drowned out by the “OMG can’t believe that I can’t even say ‘Merry Christmas’ anymore” statuses. So here it is:
“If you are Jewish, feel free to wish me a ‘Happy Hanukkah,’
If you are Christian, you can wish me a ‘Merry Christmas,’
If you’re African American/Canadian, wish me a ‘Joyous Kwanzaa,’
If you have no affiliation, you can still wish me ‘Happy Holidays.’
I promise not to be offended! I will be thankful enough that you care to wish me well.”