Happy ANYTHING, Okay?

December 2, 2013 § 31 Comments


I’m a little late with this post, as it’s already the sixth night of Chanukkah. You may have heard (if you don’t live under a rock) that it coincided with Thanksgiving this year, and travel, and blah, blah, blah – so apologies for tardiness. However, it is NOT too late to discuss the nuttiness that surrounds these winter holidays.  In particular, I’d love to address addressing. Not as in envelopes, but as in in greeting people.  Specifically, in greeting ME.

There always seems to be a well-meaning discussion about how to greet others.  Do we wish them happiness in the holiday THEY celebrate?  Or do we wish them well in the holiday WE celebrate?  What do we say if we’re not sure?  How do we avoid offending?

It so happens I am Jewish.  A Hora-dancing, Israel-loving, Chanukkah-celebrating, latke-eating Jewish person.  Here are the ways you may greet me during this month without offending me:

1.  Happy Chanukkah!
2.  Merry Christmas!
3.  Happy Holidays!
4.  Happy Kwaanza!  (Admittedly, I don’t get that one a lot…)

Here’s the way you may greet me this month if you would LIKE to offend me:

1.  Go Steelers!!!!!

Let’s break it down further.

1.  Happy Chanukkah! – You most likely say this to me because you know I’m Jewish, and you’re extending warm wishes for me to enjoy the holiday you know I celebrate. To this I say, “Thank you so much!”  and I return the greeting if I know you celebrate Chanukkah as well.

2.  Merry Christmas! – You most likely say this to me because you assume I am not Jewish, and by default, that I celebrate Christmas in some form or another.  This is actually a reasonable assumption, since I live in a part of town that is predominantly Christian.  I am not in any way Orthodox, and so my appearance does nothing to indicate my religion one way or another.  In fact, I live in a COUNTRY that is predominantly Christian, so that’s pretty much true almost anywhere I go.  I’ve come to expect people I don’t know to greet me this way. Personally, I’m not offended by this. Would I go to Spain, and take offense if someone wishes me “Feliz Navidad!” instead of “Merry Christmas!” Of course not. While I have occasionally wondered, “Does it occur to them that not everyone celebrates Christmas?” I pass it off as a happy and harmless cluelessness on their part, rather than an intentional affront.  So, when someone says, “Merry Christmas!” to me, to this I say, “Thank you so much!” and I return the greeting because I assume THEY celebrate Christmas, or they wouldn’t feel moved to greet people they don’t know very well this way.

3. Happy Holidays! – You most likely say this to me because you’re not sure and/or you’re being sensitive and inclusive. As a religious minority, I really appreciate this and view it as a kindness on your part. To this I say, “Thank you so much!” and I return the greeting – especially if I don’t know which holiday you happen to celebrate. What drives me sort of batty, however, is a person viewing “Happy Holidays” as an affront and/or a “war” on Christmas. If anything, Christmas is waging war on America. Here’s someone who is much smarter, more successful and a better writer than I am (Jon Stewart) to explain why.

And, if you do not have seven minutes to watch that piece of brilliance and truth, see my good friends at Unfundamentalist Christians. Here’s their philosophy.

1012488_463674320420619_1619478212_nIf a simple attempt at inclusiveness and consideration is such a tremendous threat to your religious sensibilities, I’d venture to guess your religious foundation was pretty shaky to begin with.

The bottom line for me, however, is this: whatever holiday greeting you choose to throw my way, I choose to receive it as an expression of kindness and warmth rather than an insult, an attempt to convert me, or a denial of my religion. If I’m wrong, you might need to broaden your horizons. If I’m right, you’ve been the deserving beneficiary of my open mind and heart. Either way, I won’t know the difference because the exchange is over in seconds and I’m on my merry way. There are certainly grander things to worry my pretty little head over besides well-intentioned holiday greetings. Like, latkes. Sour cream or apple sauce? THAT’S important.


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§ 31 Responses to Happy ANYTHING, Okay?

  • B in Olivebridge says:

    Applesauce. No question.
    Merry Kwaanzinikamas.

  • I used to always say Happy Holidays if someone told me Merry Xmas. This assumed that Chanukah fell around the same time of course.

  • Love this! Now what to do when strangers ask my Jewish kiddos what they want Santa to bring them for Christmas? That’s a little trickier, lol

    • Lol! Thank you! For your kids, how about, “an xbox, since I didn’t get one for Chanukkah…”

    • Jill Morgan says:

      My kids used to tell strangers “I’m Chanukah, not Christmas.” No explanation needed. They celebrated Christmas like attending someone else’s birthday party. One of my favorite memories is when my girls were 9 mos and 3 years, and the 3 year old wanted to sit on Santa’s lap at WM. I was nervous, but she climbed up, he said “Ho Ho Ho”, what do you want for Christmas, little girl?” and she replied “I’m Chanukah, not Christmas”. He retorted with “Ho Ho Ho, what do you want for Chanukah, little girl?”, which led into a delightful conversation between the two of them. She climbed off his lap, called out “Merry Christmas, Santa”, and he replied “Happy Chanukah……….”. All three of us were very, very pleased at the sensibility of it all (and the sensitivity!) Santa did whisper in my ear that his daughter-in-law was Jewish. 🙂

  • Happy Aliza is Awesome Day!

  • Sue Rutford says:

    Is it totally wrong to want both sour cream and applesauce?

  • Jenna says:

    Applesauce AND sour cream! (I’m Christian, but learned how to make ;latkes when my Jewish best friend sent her son off to college and announced that she saw no point in making latkes for one. Now, he has a degree and my latkes are perfected. .Hurray for sharing religious traditions!)

  • Ford1968 says:

    Ok…so a little off the topic…
    My lolly white, WASPy self was stopped six times in the last two days by prostelizing Jews asking me if I’m Jewish [trying to get cultural Jews to become more religious]. So…
    A) prostelizing Jews? Really? I thought the evangelicals had a monopoly on prostelizing. And…
    2) I’m Scotch German. Either their Jewdar is way off, or my husband and his family have totally rubbed off on me.

  • Erin Winslow says:

    Definitely applesauce! Sour cream goes on baked potatoes. 🙂

  • fionaheather says:

    In Britain we say Seasons Greetings on cards and signs. It is a horrible and pretentious way of avoiding the issue as it is always next to a traditional Christmas picture or tree.
    Happy Holidays covers all the bases in a cheerful informal way, although many people of different faiths in the UK have expressed their approval when we celebrate Christian faith holidays with religous symbols/phrases as they worry terribly that we have forgotten God entirely.(sorry about that very long sentence.)

  • Happy everything, soul sister of mine! Love this!

  • Nina Badzin says:

    Bravo! Love all three examples, and I’m especially with you on #2. I feel a little embarrassed when I hear fellow Jews giving the tired person on a 10-hour shift at the grocery store a big ol’ lecture about how they don’t celebrate Christmas. It’s like–give people a break and don’t be so oversensitive. And if someone asks my kids, what will Santa bring? I say, or they say, “We’re don’t celebrate Christmas,” in a matter-of-fact non-lecture voice. No lecture necessary! Most people are just trying to be nice and get through their day.

  • Nina Badzin says:

    And it’s a great point about Spain, for example. I’ve made the argument in past articles asking if non-Jews traveling in Israel during the High Holidays are wished a Chag Sameach by a shopkeeper are they “offended?” Of course not.

  • Sorry I’m so late to the party, just found your blog and am really enjoying it.
    As for the topic of the phrase Happy Holidays being the tool that kills Christmas… BTW, great Daily Show link! I was born and raised an “orthodox” Jew in Birmingham Alabama. (I used the quotes because we did the whole thing, Walked to Temple on Friday nights and Saturdays, kept a kosher home except… my Father being from New Orleans, whenever possible, we would go out and have crabs, shrimp, crawfish, but we never had it at home. Sort of a pick and choose version of kosher. Of course one of the gifts that gave me was I learned to love kosher bacon,
    Anyway, sorry for that ramble. but for myself, ever since I was a kid, I said Happy holidays, and nobody thought anything of it. I did it because I knew a lot of people of different faiths, but mostly, I did it because I was lazy, and figured that it included the New Year as well.
    As for the current war on Christmas, I think the fact that Christmas sales now start on Thanksgiving day, sort of says it all. (as pointed out in the link you shared) I mean if someone wanted to debate it, there’s a valid point that Christmas has become unpatriotic.

    As for the important issues, am I weird that I kind of like a nice fresh latke with nothing on it? If I do have anything on it, I’m a sour cream guy. We just never did applesauce growing up so that effected my pallet.

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