Merry Christmas, Qualified

What is so wrong with saying, “Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it”? Or first asking, “Do you celebrate Christmas?” before wishing someone a merry one? By saying these things, I am certainly not partaking in some War on Christmas. What I am partaking in is a War On Annoying Dumb People.

Do you know what qualifying your Merry Christmas or wishing someone a Happy Holidays means? It means you are a decent human being who is sensitive to the fact that others are different from yourself, that you are willing to accommodate those differences with a display of — at its basic — good manners, and — at its more complex — some self-actualization and evolved human behavior.

I mean, if I were at war, would I love that Christmas celebrates the birth of baby Jesus (as opposed to the birth of adolescent Jesus)? I love that Jesus. He was the last handy Jewish man to walk the planet. If Jesus were here today, I’d ask him to help me put in a new back door.

What Christmas meant to spoiled,rich white kids.
What Christmas meant to spoiled,rich white kids.

My Christmases growing up were all about the stuff (5-foot tall stuffed giraffe; Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots!) One of my dad’s favorite Christmas stories is from about 1972, when my brother and I finished unwrapping our gifts, only to exclaim, “That’s it?!” My father and my aunt then ran to the pharmacy (what pharmacy was open in Ridgefield, Connecticut on Christmas day in 1972?) to buy more gifts, shove them in a plastic garbage bag, throw them outside the house and then tell us that Santa had dropped a bag off his sled before he left. I still feel guilty about it.

Later in life, Christmases became: alternating years between divorced parents; getting vertigo after driving through the mountains of Vermont in blizzard-like conditions; being stuck on airport tarmacs for FOUR HOURS in geographical areas that didn’t know how to handle snowfall; or driving to the outer-reaches of French-speaking Quebec to visit my mom’s monk. One can only take so much.

After about five years into our marriage, everyone was on the in-laws schedule for Christmas, or something like that, and so my husband, mother and I celebrated a Jewish Christmas: a movie and Chinese food. This was the best Christmas I’d ever had. It was so simple! No tree. No food prep. No cleaning bathrooms. No last-minute shopping. No travel. No plane delays. No disappointments. No drama. No monasteries! This was my kind of Christmas.


And in conclusion, I’ll share a story about my daughter. She made me a card that read: “Merry Jewish Christmas, Mom!” I told her that I loved the card, especially the drawing of the Christmas tree on it, to which she responded, “MOM!! That’s not a Christmas tree. It’s an evergreen!”  I should have been more sensitive. Wow. What a war!


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