Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all that jazz

by Galit Breen
Originally Published: 

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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