Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all that jazz


It’s late, dark and quiet. And what I’m thinking about is what I want for Christmas. So what’s a nice Jewish girl like me doing thinking about that? Why yes. Yes I am Jewish. And I celebrate Hanukkah. So for all extensive purposes, Christmas has nothing to do with me, right?

Except for as we both know, that’s a load of crap. The lights! The reindeer! The Santas! Christmas is everywhere. And it’s absolutely beautiful. Magical. Spiritual. And whatever way you celebrate it, I respect you. Because it’s your holiday. And your special day.

I don’t begrudge you Christmas. The cozy family time is right up my alley. And seriously, what’s not to appreciate about people’s strength and joy in faith?

I have so much curiosity and admiration for others’ celebrations and traditions. I want my children to see far beyond the four walls that my husband and I have created for them. This world is big, wide and simply stunning. And I want them to know that.

But on the same vein (Truly. It is.), I do think that it’s a little odd to wish everyone you see Merry Christmas. And to be offended when others choose Happy Holidays instead. Why? Well pure and simple: because not everyone celebrates Christmas.

My first grader’s classroom is rich with diversity. One day last week she came home breathless with excitement (true story) having just learned about Eid from oh-so-very-many of her classmates. She experienced. She appreciated. She shared. But people, she didn’t wish us a Happy Eid. And she didn’t wish all of her classmates a Merry Christmas. Because she knows that everyone celebrates different holidays and that’s the good stuff. The stuff that makes the world go round.

Grace. Kindness. Assuming that people are coming from a good place. Politically correct or not, isn’t that something that we can all stand behind?

In my heart of hearts, I truly believe that the issue isn’t about taking Christmas out of society. It’s about letting everyone else in.

For example, I’ve decorated a Christmas tree, played “Find Baby Jesus” and made a reindeer art project or two. All in my classroom. When I was I a public school teacher.

I’ve also been a part of a Kwanzaa creativity share, made Hanukkah latkes and eaten long soba and udon noodles in honor of the Japanese Omisoka. Again, all in my public school classroom.

I used to invite all families into the classroom to share a holiday tradition with the kids. We all learned so very much from each other, enjoyed ourselves immensely and authentically experienced our differences and similarities.

Everyone’s traditions were acknowledged, respected and celebrated. And that’s the way that it should be. Everywhere. And something as simple as not assuming people’s faith or not getting all up in arms when people try to be all inclusive is easy. And graceful. And just plain…right.

I’m not offended when I hear Merry Christmas. And I’ve taught my children this graceful gem. Because I know what you mean. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, the scratch-beneath-the-surface sentiment is the same: I wish you well. Isn’t this season amazing?

And when someone like me wishes you Happy Holidays? My (Christmas!) wish is for you to know that I’m so not trying to offend you. Or take anything away from you. I’m just not making any assumptions about you, your beliefs or your celebrations. But regardless, I’m wishing you well. And with every fiber of my being, I think that’s the good stuff, too. Don’t you?

So here goes: Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Eid or…wait for it…Happy Holidays to you!


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  1. 30ish Mama says

    Great post Galit! The holiday season is about celebration and we should be able to celebrate each other as well our faith. There is nothing wrong with admiring somebody else’s religious holiday while enjoying your own. Happy Holidays!

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  2. Aimee @ Ain't Yo Mama's Blog says

    How lovely it is to see one of my favorite bloggers featured in the Scary Mommy Society! I heart Galit.

    As someone who celebrates Chrismukkah, I always say (and appreciate in return) a blanket “Happy Holidays.” Sure, some people complain that it’s too “PC”, but I agree with you that’s it about inclusion. What’s so wrong with wanting to include everyone under the giant holiday umbrella?

    People will surely wish me a “Merry Christmas” today, which certainly won’t offend me, but I will return it with “Happy Holidays”. And I’ll mean it, for whatever you may be celebrating.


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    • Galit Breen says

      Aimee! Hooray! No one (and I do mean no one) coins words like you do! Chrismukkah? Pure genius! And I’m with you, sister, I really mean it when I say whatever it is I say back, too! :)

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  3. Erin says

    Perfectly written. I couldn’t agree more.
    My favorite line…

    “I truly believe that the issue isn’t about taking Christmas out of society. It’s about letting everyone else in.”

    Thank you for bringing this to the table for discussion.

    As always I am thankful for your beautiful words strung together to say so many things that I feel.
    Happy Holidays to you, Galit!!!

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  4. myevil3yearold says

    I enjoyed your perspective very much.

    I have traditionally said “Merry Christmas.” This was not to offend or exclude anyone. I just grew up in a small town in the south and it was the norm.

    It is sad but now I don’t say anything about the holidays to people. If I say “Happy Holidays” someone might get mad and if I say “Merry Christmas” someone might get mad. But, just like you said I am just wishing someone well wishes.

    It just seems easier to not say anything which I agree is sad.

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  5. Mary Fretland says

    I have had a number of discussions on this very topic in just the last few days! It is so difficult to convey this sentiment to people who think anything but “Merry Christmas” is an affront on CHRISTmas. I get so frustrated! Some people don’t seem to understand that “Happy Holidays” is a well meaning greeting and not an insult. Sigh…

    I do have a question about the separation of church and state. I can’t decide how I personally feel about it, so I welcome comments. Is it better to try to include EVERYONE in the discussions about holidays, or is it better to leave it out of the public schools all together? Can you ever be sure you’re included EVERYONE and that there isn’t a quiet child in the back of the classroom feeling left behind? But at the same time, is it realistic to think you can ignore it all?

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  6. Elizabeth Flora Ross says

    I always say Happy Holidays and send holiday cards. I am Christian and celebrate Christmas, but have friends of many different faiths and try to respect that. But I end up offending people anyway, and get the “Keep CHRIST in Christmas” crap. I know what Christmas is all about. I just don’t expect everyone else to share my point of view!

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  7. Dawn says

    Galit! How absolutely wonderful! I loved reading every word, and love your style.

    I have a blog posting scheduled for Dec. 21st for the Chalk Blog about Christmas and the pace of it all.

    Aside from the fact that we are both incredibly busy, we should totally be hanging out in our personal lives.

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  8. Frume Sarah says

    I am so thrilled to see you grace the “pages” of Scary Mommy. Yasher koach!

    This is one area that we do not see eye-to-eye. While not everyone in this country celebrates Christmas, the overwhelming majority do. Christmas is a big deal (for Christians) and its pervasive hold on our culture is what has catapulted Chanukah to its current overblown status.

    When folks who are strangers (e.g. shopkeepers) wish me a “Merry Christmas,” they are doing it from a place of caring as well as being the socially-expected greeting for this season. I do expect my non-Jewish friends to know by now that we don’t do Christmas.

    Though we do not agree, this is a well-written piece and I still adore you ;)

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    • Galit Breen says

      hi there, lady! Thanks so much for the note! I actually think we *do* see eye-to-eye! I don’t take any offense- AT ALL- at being told Merry Christmas! I also don’t mean any offense when I say Happy Holidays and think it’s sad when people take offense to it.

      What we don’t see eye-tyo-eye about is about having any religious holiday in the schools at all. But I’m okay with agreeing to disagree with you- you’re that great! :)

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      • Frume Sarah says

        Aw…thanks! I think we’ll be discussing this a whole lot more in future days ;)

        I wonder how people feel about responding with “Happy New Year” instead of “Happy Holidays?” (Leaving aside, of course, the fact that several other groups have other new years that they observe.)

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    • Galit Breen says

      Mary! You’re here! YIPPEE! I’m with you 100%- whatever is being said it’s meant in a GOOD way!

      As for the church and state- I think that the fact that we have that term means that many feel that ideally it would be separate. BUT. But, do I daresay that’s just not realistic?

      So the bonus of that “fact” is that we get to learn from each other about things that we might not otherwise have known. I think it’s so authentic to learn about your classmates/ students rather than not know anything about their traditions and make (sometimes wrong?) assumptions.

      I think in both cases if we assume that people are coming from a good place- the outcome is good too. xo

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  9. Diane says

    YAY!!! I wrote about the same thing a couple weeks ago. Truth is the “Merry Christmas” is why this tie of year makes me sad. In my area, they are all worried about “Christ being removed from Christmas”. When, really, I just want to be included. I have issues with all of this when a true “Christmas” should not have Santa, the lights or a tree. A lot of the people in my (rural) area only want to have their “Chistmas”. Sort of ruins the magic of this time of year for the rest of us.

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    • Galit Breen says

      Diane, thank you so much for your words! They’re so eloquent! I need to go read your piece. And I have to say that I don;t think anyone should have anything taken from their celebrations- they’re all amazing! The Jewish mom in me wants to feed you to make it better. Peppermint hot chocolate maybe? :)

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