To be a Jew on Christmas

It happens every December. Festive lights are seemingly everywhere. Ornate decorations are on trees, on lawns, on lamp posts, in town halls, and in store windows. 

It is impossible to miss the distinctive sound of the season. Radio stations, stores, professional offices, and even elevators, play a loop of holiday songs. 

Of course the biggest change is in the change in the demeanor of those around you. People seems so genuinely happy. Even your or grouchiest co-worker is full of joy. 

How should a Jew react to this annual phenomenon? 

There is nothing wrong with noticing the beauty of attractive decorations; or enjoying a classic tune if you happen to hear one; or enjoying the added good cheer of neighbors and co-workers. 

But to be candid, I don’t think most Jews in the United States are merely noticing decorations and enjoying the odd holiday tune. I think many Jews today feel a little envious, like a kid locked outside of a candy store. Some have decided to celebrate Christmas – in varying degrees – depending on their level of comfort. Others don’t actually celebrate Christmas, but feel that they are missing out. 

What should a Jew feel on Christmas? 

First, we should feel very fortunate to live in a place that allows us to celebrate our holidays in the manner we choose. But we should realize that Christmas isn’t our holiday, it’s the holiest day of another religion – and it has nothing to do with us! Let them enjoy their holiday, we have plenty of our own holidays to enjoy, including one that conveniently occurs around the same time of the year. 

The whole inescapable Christmas scene should also remind us that although we live in a wonderful country, we are still far removed from our Jewish roots. 

My “best Christmas”? I was leading a birthright trip in Israel. Our group lit a menorah in a restaurant and we were spontaneously joined by many other diners for the blessings and in singing traditional Chanukah songs. I hadn’t even realized it was December 25th until someone mentioned it, late in the day. 

Be proud of your heritage! If you feel drawn to the Christmas celebration,  consider increasing your knowledge of, and involvement in, our religion. 

Happy Chanukah!

Reuven Epstein

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