was at one of my local casual restaurants for lunch on a Saturday. I asked my waiter, who I know, for my check and said to him jokingly that if the restaurant wants to, they could cover me for the day. He said that would be tomorrow, Sunday. I suggested that was his Sabbath and that it would be more appropriate to cover me today on my Sabbath.
He came back to my table and launched into an unsolicited, heartfelt appreciation for everything the Jewish people have done for the world and how grateful he is for Jews who have made the world so much better. At any time, faced with what he was saying, I would be brought to the edge of tears. Since this happened after October 7th, I was particularly moved.
Now, in return, I want to give Christians back their most precious holiday — Christmas. It is not that observant Jews are the ones who started using the milquetoast, ill-defined, all-inclusive term “happy holidays.” But we can help to stop the words from being used and revert to how we used to greet people – Merry Christmas.Any regular reader of my columns knows I have no problem with addressing Christmas. A few years back I wrote a series of columns about Christmas: The Jewish Joy of Christmas Music, The Jewish Joy of Christmas Lights, and The Jewish Joy of Christmas Services. Anybody who knows me is aware that I have an enormous collection of Christmas music – particularly as a Jew. As I am writing this column, I am listening to the great Aretha Franklin’s Christmas album.
So why do we want to steal away the joy of their holiday? There are three well-known holidays at this time of year that have been part of our culture for generations: Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s. Why are people melding these together with this oafish saying?
Most Jews know that Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday in our religion. Part of the allure to make a bigger deal or celebration of Hanukkah is its proximity to Christmas (depending on the Jewish calendar). Jewish kids get presents to make them feel more comfortable when their Christian friends receive Christmas presents. Some Jewish kids receive a present on each of Hanukkah’s eight nights. Neither of these holidays is (or should be) about presents.This is not to minimize Hanukkah. It is a great holiday. We always have a Hanukkah party where all the guests are encouraged to bring their Hanukkah (not actually a menorah because of the number of candles held). The Beautiful Wife makes a killer brisket, and we revel in potato latkes with either apple sauce or sour cream. We offer some green stuff as well to counterbalance the meal. It is truly my favorite holiday meal. We have our favorite Rabbi share stories and wisdom with the guests of Hanukkah past. It is a wonderful night and a wonderful holiday.
Christmas is Christmas. I know that it is inherently a religious holiday celebrating the birth of someone we Jews recognize as a nice Jewish boy. We also realize this holiday means so much to so many. It is a time when people put aside their differences and share the joy of the season. After all, people refer to the “joys” of Christmas, and who doesn’t appreciate the glow many people experience with all their traditions. They don’t refer to the joy of the “happy holiday season.”
We don’t personally have either a Christmas tree or stockings hanging from our mantle but who cannot glow in the goodwill created by the holiday for so many around us. Most importantly, it is a time for people to spend with their families. Think about it. Can’t our society benefit from a bit more family love and general goodwill toward their fellow man?
“Merry Christmas” means so much to all of us. Please don’t let the naysayers and culture police denuder it. When someone says “Happy Holidays” to you, say “Merry Christmas” in response, with a polite response informing them that is your preference to cheer the joy of the holiday.
The Bialoskys will be doing our usual tradition on the day. We will start with breakfast at the Original Pantry in downtown LA. For those of you who don’t know it, in a few days it will be celebrating its 100th year. It has the best pancakes. Then we will go to a movie and eat what all real Jews do on Christmas day, Chinese food.
I assure you that leading up to December 25th we will be wishing everyone Merry Christmas and then Happy New Year. Let’s get back to sharing the joy of the season and dump that other made-up saying.
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