A Jewish look at Christmas

DovBear seems to be working up an anti-Twelve Days of Christmas.

Fair warning: I’m betting some of my Christian readers are going to be offended by DovBear’s views. On the other hand, I found myself in agreement with most of what he wrote.

That Jewish mayor is ruining Christmas in New York.

The Wall Street Journal doesn’t get Chanukah

Why winter makes me shudder: Christmas and anti-Semitism.

Christmas for Jews

This is generally the time of year when I point out that Irving Berlin, a Jew, wrote the Christmas song that usually comes in number on on the top Christmas songs list: White Christmas.

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10 Responses to A Jewish look at Christmas

  1. I live in Utah County, home to the reddest of the red districts in the reddest of the red states, where the population is overwhelmingly Christian (the “Latter-Day Saint,” or “Mormon” variety.) The trend towards a watered-down, commercialized, non-denominational winter shopping holiday can be observed here, too.

    I know better than to try to blame Jewish people for that.

    I neither ask nor expect my Jewish friends to help me celebrate Christmas. After all, it’s a religious holiday for me, and while our religions have a lot of things in common, Christmas isn’t one of those things.

    And as I said before, I’m certainly not going to blame Jews, real or imagined, for non-denominational trends, when so many Christians locally seem to want to celebrate the impending arrival of Santa Claus rather than the birth of Jesus Christ.


  2. Kav says:

    I believe that Christmas has become overly commercialized such that any meaning that existed has been lost for a great many people. I have no problem with the state highlighting the Christian message of Christmas… in the UK, which is technically a Christian country. Now if it were not so, if the UK were a secular nation, like the US for example, then I have a problem. In that case I think people should be free to celebrate Christmas as they see fit but should not complain if others choose not to, whether they be city officials or department stores. In that situation people who complain about the ‘loss’ of Christmas should just shut up and be glad that they get some time off for a religious festival in a country that is not supposed to endorse a single religion above others.

    Just my view.

  3. Cynic says:

    Without reading the links above I will just note this:
    Many years ago, early 50s a Christian family with British roots would celebrate their Christmas meal at midday and in the evening invite friends and relatives over.
    Among them were Jewish neighbours, not secular, who would also provide some of the food, traditional Jewish culinary delights, to join with the other fare in a marvelous exposition of peace and harmony.

  4. Tony says:

    Pigeons, meet cat.

    Am I being unduly naive to think that there’s no real problem in public celebrations of Christmas? In countries where 2 out of 3 people are practising or nominal Christians, what’s the issue with wishing people “Merry Christmas” or even providing a commercial backdrop to this festival?

    For the non-Christian recipient of the Christmas wishes, all that’s necessary is a polite response like “Thank you, I’m Jewish / Muslim / Hindu etc, but I wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas” – or words to that effect. Isn’t it the same type of faux pas that we all can make by unconsciously assuming other people are residents (“I’m sorry, I can’t give you directions as I’m a visitor here too”) or are shop assistants (“I’m sorry, I don’t work here, you might like to ask over at the cash desk”) or when we approach someone in shul (“I’m sorry, I’m not Jewish so I can’t help make up a minyan”) etc.

    Sure, one might wish to argue “separation of Church and State” etc, but what’s the big deal? It’s not like the majority is trying to enforce its religion on minorities, or that the State has become a monolithic arbiter of religious right from wrong.

    There may be arguments about Christmas being too commercial, but I see these debates as ones for Christians to engage in, not those of other faiths. I’m glad that others steer clear from debating the religious observances of Jews, and so I’ll keep away from debating the observance of Christmas.

    Perhaps I should read ADL releases more, but for now I’m just puzzled – especially about Dov Bear’s perceived underlying anti-Semitism in the remarks of those who’d like Christmas to be publicly celebrated.

    I remain, of course, open to enlightenment.

  5. Kav, I’m working on a post about that very topic.

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  7. Tony says:

    Oh, by the way – Foamy the Squirrel seems to agree with me.


    Parental Advisory: Coarse language.

  8. Here’s one Jewish vote for simple civility. Wish your Christian friends a Merry Christmas. It’s their holiday, and we can respect that.

    I did a post on this last Christmas. We’re fully equal to Christians in this country, and letting them have their holiday without griping is simply the respectful thing to do.

  9. Yankev says:

    Tony and Attila,
    I’m all for civility, and I find a heartfelt “Merry _Mas” much less offensive than “Happy Holidays.” As others have pointed out, it’s condescending for the non-Jewish world to pretend to recognize Chanuka simply because it falls in December, while ignoring far more important Jewish holy days that don’t. (Besides, thoguh this year is a rare exception, Chanuka is often over by the time those wishes are offered.)

    So I’ll take the Merry _Mas in a spirit of good will, with a simple “Thank you, I’m not Christian.” But don’t ask me to wish them a Merry Xmas in return; how can I urge someone to engage in polytheism? How can any Jew who aspires to Torah observance tell someone to celebrate a supposed event that contradicts the basic premise of the Jewish religion — that only G-d is G-d, and that nothing and no one other than G-d is to be woreshipped or prayed to? None for me, thanks.

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