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.
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.