Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

If I close my eyes will it go away?

It's getting to look way too much like Christmas around the blogosphere. It's Dec. 3 and I've already read about 50 posts that say "I already put up our tree. When are you going to put your tree up?" Gak! I have to admit that every time I read one of those posts, and they are legion, my first response is to write a diatribe about how not everyone is Christian and we all don't celebrate Christmas, blah blah blah. But I don't because it's a total waste of time and energy and let's face it, nobody but NOBODY gets it. Except other Jews and they mostly have given up themselves. It's more than an uphill battle, it's more like a massacre that happens every freaking December.

I honestly don't get why people can't be a BIT more sensitive, but in my dotage I've learned that they just aren't going to be. Ever. Because honestly, they don't give a shit. To the vast majority of Americans, everyone celebrates Christmas, and if you don't, there is something wrong with you because it's an American holiday and it's a secular holiday and it is no longer a religious holiday. Except that it is. And Jews don't buy that argument, no matter how many times we're told.

I don't hate Christmas. In fact, there are parts of it I adore. Driving at night up and down streets looking at the houses all lit up is fun. Even if it's not my holiday, I really appreciate the work involved in decorating your house in freezing cold weather. It looks pretty. I also love Christmas trees. I think they're amazingly beautiful and I know that had I the opportunity to have one (I don't, so don't even try to tell me I can as a hanukkah bush, please!) I would get a huge kick out of decorating it. I'm just that kind of Martha Stewart-y person that I'd do themes and special colors and all that. When I'm in craft stores I always look with deep desire at all the hand blown glass ornaments. They are so pretty. And the hand blown glass icicles. Gorgeous. I like this stuff and I appreciate it's beauty.

What I don't like is the assumption that everyone celebrates this holiday. I also dislike that this one day holiday actually lasts 3 months and that for 1/4 of the year I'm made to feel like I don't belong. I think that's unfair and I also believe it's kind of morally suspect. I'm not alone. So many people have been bitching about how early decorations go up and how the stores are playing Christmas music in October. Heck, I'm right there with you. Why do we have to spend a full quarter of the year on this one holiday? I do not get it. At all.

Every year I go through the "I won't set foot in a store until after New Years" rant. I do so because it's so much easier to just avoid it all than to have to face it over and over again. Which is why I love living where I do. We're a city that has such a sizable Jewish population that the store-owners have to be sensitive or they will lose business. We have stores that don't ever put anything Christmassy up at all, stores that decorate for Hanukkah, and stores that are tastefully decorated for both holidays. What we don't have is the overwhelming "Christmas is taking over" feeling like in the malls. We don't have many cashiers that use the rote "Merry Christmas" line as they're bagging your purchases. We're a more sensitive community because we have to be.

I just wish the rest of America was as culturally sensitive as my fair city.

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Blogger Rhea said...

I'm Jewish and I grew up in a small town in New Jersey. We were definitely in the minority. I grew quite accustomed to being in the Christmas play, singing Xmas songs in the children's chorus and having people wish me a Merry Christmas. I guess I just let it go.

3/12/08 9:29 AM  
Blogger sarah cool said...

I totally can understand the whole "Christmas taking over mainstream American for 3 (!!!!) months" and how that can be frustrating - it IS ridiculous that they 1) drag it out so long 2) make it so all-encompassing and 3) push a LOT of assumptions onto America (both in what you celebrate and also how you should celebrate it).

I guess I don't understand why it bothers you when people write about Christmas on their blogs. It seems very personal, and a totally appropriate subject for their blog. If they were Jewish, I'd expect to hear about Jewish rituals/holidays throughout the year. In fact, that is one of the things I like best about your blog - but again, I don't have Judaism pushed in my face every day - I NEED to learn more about it.

It is because it is already upsetting enough that you feel marginalized during the Christmas season, and this is just kind of "one last straw"?

Please take this in the spirit it was written, which is just asking for more of your input on the situation, not critizing you.

3/12/08 9:58 AM  
Blogger margalit said...

Sarah, It doesn't bother me at all when people write about Christmas on their blogs. One of my all time posts EVER was a post on a now defunct blog about a black Jack Skellington Christmas tree. What bothers me is when people just ASSume that everyone is decorating or shopping or celebrating Christmas. It's the 'Do you have your tree up yet' questions that drive me nuts.

Please, talk about YOUR Christmas till the cows come home. But don't ASSume that just because YOU celebrate it means that everyone else does as well. YKWIM?

3/12/08 10:03 AM  
Blogger sarah cool said...

Haha - I get that. I'm sorry, I didn't get you the first time. Thanks for commenting back!

3/12/08 10:23 AM  
Blogger Pam said...

I'm jewish and grew up never celebrating christmas. I always felt cheated. We didn't live in a jewish neighborhood, so all my friends had christmas trees. It was hard. Now I married a protestant. I have a tree, stockings, lights, the works. I love it. But I do still get offended when people (like my inlaws) assume that everyone celebrates christmas. I don't like when my mother inlaw buys me christmas decorations that I feel are over the top. It's still a touchy subject even though I have a tree.

3/12/08 11:06 AM  
Blogger Jendeis said...

You just wrote everything that I've been feeling lately.

You know how Rocks in My Dryer does that "What I'd Like You to Know About" series? I'd really like to see one that was What I'd Like You to Know About Not Being Christian Like Many People All Around the World so Stop It with the Saving People Crap. Or maybe something a little more polite.

3/12/08 5:45 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

Jendeis, the thing is, Shannon herself just doesn't get it. I wrote her a while back about the whole overtone of her "Christians are more relevant" attitude on her blog, trying to explain how sometimes she makes me feel really marginalized. Especially in that "What I'd like people to know" thing, because it's ALWAYS a Christian ending to whatever the issue is.

She honestly didn't understand what I was saying and she was a bit put out that I had the gall to say it. It was NOT a nice response which surprised me a lot. I just let it drop. But the whole point was so lost on her that I got kinda sad about it.

3/12/08 8:21 PM  
Blogger Carolie said...

I was the only Christian in a neighborhood in Philadelphia affectionately called "Little Tel Aviv". I remember the first time I saw a dreidel and asked the child I babysat "what's that?"

Her response: "It's a dreidel (duh!) Ohhhhhh! Are you a CHRISTIAN???" It helped me a LOT to live in that neighborhood, a neighborhood full of people for whom December 25 meant a day off,a movie, and dinner at the local Chinese restaurant.

Later, in my early 20s, I lived briefly in an area in NYC that was primarily Orthodox Jewish. I remember being pissed off that everything I needed was closed on what was (to me) a random day. It was a major Jewish holiday, and it wasn't until I'd fumed and stomped around most of the day over the INCONVENIENCE of it all (to me) that I suddenly was hit, like a brick to the head, with the thought that "Oh! This is how NON-Christians feel on Christian holidays when it seems the whole world shuts down!"

Now, I live in Japan. Christmas for most Japanese is an excuse to put up lots of twinkly lights and have an exquisite, storebought cake with strawberries(yes, strawberries!) It is NOT a holiday in this primarily Buddhist/Shinto country, and no stores or businesses are closed except for our local Navy base.

I always thought I was open-minded and not "one of THOSE Christians" but living here has helped point out lots of residual assumptions and bigotry, for which I am very grateful.

I get so pissed at all the forwarded e-mails I get, that talk about "say Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays! Keep Christ in Christmas!!" Ummm...who exactly is persecuting Christians in the US these days? NOBODY! And for all those who hate Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings, when is the last time any of them wished anyone a Happy Hannukah, or a Holy Ramadan?

I'm happily Christian. You're happily Jewish. I wish we could all recognize and respect our differences!!

6/12/08 11:36 AM  

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