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The special duty of a Jewish Christmas baby
December 25, 2011 6:26 AM   Subscribe

The special duty of a Jewish Christmas baby by Sheila Heti Most of the people one deals with say, “Oh! You're a Christmas baby! You must get ripped off when it comes to presents, right?” Their eyes light up. It's a hard question to answer. The honest answer is, “I'm a Jew, I don't celebrate Christmas,” but saying this always seems chastising, and the person who asked then feels embarrassed (as they should) and I feel embarrassed that this is my accidental role in the world: reminding everyone that Jews exist. The times I say, gruffly, “I don't know. I'm Jewish,” they usually say, “Oh, I'm sorry!” But this always sounds to me not like, “I'm sorry I assumed you were Christian,” but rather, “I'm sorry that you're Jewish.” Given all this, I usually reply simply, “Yeah, it's awful. I get ripped off every year.” [previously from Sheila Heti]
posted by KokuRyu (119 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was just told an appropriate joke the other night:

A Jewish woman entered a hotel. There was a sign that read "Pets welcome, Jews not welcome."

Undaunted by this, the Jewish lady Mrs. Rosenburg, asked the hotel owner for a room please.

The innkeeper said, "Sorry we have no vancancies." Mrs. Rosenburg replied, "The sign says VACANCIES right there!"

The innkeeper said, "Mrs. Rosenburg, you know we don't allow Jews here."

Mrs. Rosenburg repiled, "I'm not jewish, I'm a bona-fide christian".

The innkeeper said, "With a name like Rosenburg. Really? Well, for one, who is your savior?"

Mrs. Rosenburg replied calmly, "Why, Lord Jesus Christ of course"

The innkeeper, frowning said, "Oh really. Then tell me how JESUS was born?"

Mrs. Rosenburg replied with all decorum, "He was born of the virgin Mary"

The innkeeper said showing greater impatience, "And where was he born?"

Mrs Rosenburg, showing a small facial tick replied "In a small town of Bethehem in a manger."

The innkeeper said, "That's right.......and why was he born in a manger?"

Mrs Rosenburg slammed her fists on the counter and shouted, "BECAUSE SOME JUMPED UP GOYISHCHE SHMUCK OF AN INNKEEPER REFUSED TO GIVE A JEWISH LADY A ROOM"
posted by lalochezia at 6:33 AM on December 25, 2011 [168 favorites]


the missus is a Christmas baby. You lose out on everything really. Even the people who remember its your birthday seem to give less overall present.

Anyway, I always make things right by cooking a giant seasonal birthday dinner.
posted by seanyboy at 6:45 AM on December 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


My brother was born on Christmas and we're Jewish. My mom really didn't want to have him on Christmas because in that town all the Christmas babies at the time were photographed with little santa hats on and put in the local paper. She was giving birth and upset and apparently said something to the effect of "if you put a hat on my baby I will kill you all." It was a Christmas miracle, apparently, because by the time my brother was born, they'd just run out of santa hats! Fancy that.

Growing up Jewish (but not devout whatsoever) and with a big brother whose birthday was on Christmas totally sucks, by the way. Not only do you get the lonely Jew on Christmas complex, that day was always further crapified by none of my brothers' friends being available and thus instead we all just did whatever he wanted to do that day. And there was never anything TO do that day, everything being closed for Christmas and all. And my brother hated Chinese food, which was an affront to nearly a century of family tradition.

Now that we're grown and none of us live together it's become a bit of a shtick. I'll call my parents up (cuz there is nothing else to do on Christmas) and wish them a "Happy [brother's name]'s Birthday!" And my brother lives in Tokyo, where, for one thing they practically don't have Jews, and for another thing Christmas is celebrated as proto-valentine's day with bonus fried chicken and strawberry cake. Sometimes I wonder if his birthday didn't have something to do with his moving there...

Anyway, this time of year I'm constantly reminded of my otherness, but I'm also constantly reminded of the fact that I have a brother who is even more other than myself. Imagine the Jewish guilt, only quadrupled!
posted by Mizu at 6:47 AM on December 25, 2011 [27 favorites]


I was not born on Christmas, but I was born close enough to it (which in the USA means "after Halloween") that my birthday gets associated with it. And I too was born to a Jewish family.

Somehow the proximity of my birthday to Christmas led all my friends to imagine that I was really into Christmas. I really don't understand this. One year I was given three CDs of Christmas music on my birthday (one was by Esquivel, which is kind of cool, but still).

Tonight, in the tradition of my ancestors, I will go out and have Peking Duck for dinner. And I will be warmed by the company of many others doing the same.
posted by adamrice at 6:56 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tokyo, where, for one thing they practically don't have Jews, for another thing Christmas is celebrated as proto-valentine's day with bonus fried chicken and strawberry cake.

Fried chicken and strawberry cake day is my new favorite holiday.
posted by device55 at 6:57 AM on December 25, 2011 [17 favorites]


Whether or not one celebrates Christmas, there is no avoiding the necessity of observing it. [We Jews traditionally go see a movie.]

So it would be both a mitzvah and an act of goodwill towards men in keeping with the season to spare the questioner the social embarrassment of their vulgar question by replying "For me, Christmas isn't about the presents." (Perhaps it's about avoiding the ordeal as successfully as possible.)
posted by Trurl at 7:01 AM on December 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's already hard enough getting people to accept that not only don't I celebrate or care that it's Christmas, but that Hanukkah really isn't that big of a deal, holiday-wise. So when you say "Happy Holidays," you're still really just wishing me a merry Christmas. Having a birthday today? A numbing thought.

Fortunately my wife is a Chinese convert, and her family runs the best damned Chinese.restaurant around. What's.better than Chinese food for Jewish Christmas? FREE Chinese food for Jewish Christmas.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:05 AM on December 25, 2011 [20 favorites]


Wife and I share the same birthday, December 28th. And we're jewish.

We lament the combination present.

She always suggests we give out combination presents too.

"Here's your present for your birthday. Also, it's your christmas present too"

"But it's July. Also, I'm jewish".

"I'm sorry".
posted by Lord_Pall at 7:06 AM on December 25, 2011 [19 favorites]


The times I say, gruffly, “I don't know. I'm Jewish,” they usually say, “Oh, I'm sorry!” But this always sounds to me not like, “I'm sorry I assumed you were Christian,” but rather, “I'm sorry that you're Jewish.”

I'm a Christmas baby (a few days off) and can relate to those comments. I'm also the mother of half-Jewish kids. I don't know if it's a Toronto thing or Sheila's own defensitivity (made-up word), but here in New York City, it's the former intent -- not the latter -- that "they" typically mean by "I'm sorry!" And no one feels "chastised" by hearing, "I"m Jewish, I don't celebrate Christmas!" In my experience, that conversation has been far less charged, with an easy-going "Oh, right, sorry, do you celebrate Hannukah?" or something.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:07 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bill O'Reilly hates EVERYTHING about this thread.
posted by briank at 7:12 AM on December 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fried chicken and strawberry cake day is my new favorite holiday.

It's my new favorite alternate Wednesday.
posted by Mizu at 7:14 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did any other Christmas babies celebrate their birthday at another time of year? We celebrate my son's birthday in the summer so that he can actually have a party with friends over. If anything, he gets more presents than his siblings.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:20 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love my birthday.

And all of you!

<3
posted by tapesonthefloor at 7:26 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Semi-related, December 25th is also the birthday of Isaac Newton, prompting some folks to suggest "Newtonmas" as an alternate celebration for the non-religious. (It has even become a 'nerd joke' on The Big Bang Theory). Which prompted me to look up other famous folks born on Christmas, and it's an interesting group: Clara Barton, Helena Rubinstein, Conrad Hilton, Robert 'Believe It Or Not' Ripley, Humphrey Bogart, Cab Calloway, Quentin Crisp, Anwar Sadat, Rod Serling, Carlos Castaneda, Jimmy Buffett, Barbara Mandrell, Sissy Spacek, Karl Rove, CCH Pounder, Annie Lennox... something for everyone to celebrate.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:27 AM on December 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm a Jew-ish Boxing Day baby. So is my sister. We celebrate Christmas, though (dad was Christian). Honestly, the shared birthday is more of an annoyance than being born the day after Christmas, despite "shared" presents. I mean, try getting a shared Hannukah/Bday card that you're supposed to share between two siblings with one ten dollar bill inside. To share.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:28 AM on December 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't know if it's a Toronto thing or Sheila's own defensitivity (made-up word), but here in New York City, it's the former intent -- not the latter -- that "they" typically mean by "I'm sorry!" And no one feels "chastised" by hearing, "I"m Jewish, I don't celebrate Christmas!" In my experience, that conversation has been far less charged, with an easy-going "Oh, right, sorry, do you celebrate Hannukah?" or something.

Same exact thought here as a Jew, plus before I lived in NYC, I was in rural, largely Jew-free Upstate NY, and it was the same deal there. The author seems to have a pretty high level of neurosis, self-absorption, and contempt for others to think that most people are going to recoil like a cat from a bathtub if she reveals that she's Jewish. There's no reason to be "gruff" unless they actually say something negative (like the cop, from her article). The vast majority of Canada (and the US) celebrates Christmas, and even for those people who don't celebrate Christmas, they're often inveigled to indirectly celebrate Christmas by dint of having gift-giving Christian (or Christian-heritage) friends and relatives. It's an omnipresent holiday in Western places, and even in non-Western places, such as in Tokyo and Hong Kong*, it's still a big event.

I mean, hell, just yesterday, Christmas Eve, I was at the first birthday party of a non-Christian Chinese kid, and they had a big fat Christmas tree and Christmas presents and all the rest - Christmas to follow the day after the kid's birthday. Christmas is just a very common holiday, quite secularized if you want it to be, not just among church-going Christians.

Then again, as a kid, I always took it as a point of pride that Christmas was something other people did. I liked having a touch of outsider, and besides it made every winter like vacationing in a foreign country with charming customs. We had a Christmas tree for a few years, just because Christmas trees are fun, but we refused to ever set up a Hanukkah Bush. Hanukkah ain't the Jewish Christmas. Judaism lacks Christmas. One might say that, definitionally, Judaism lacks Christmas.

*And Macao, where I was during Christmastime last year. Oh, the Christmas Pandas.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:31 AM on December 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


“Oh! You're a Christmas baby! You must get ripped off when it comes to presents, right?” Their eyes light up. It's a hard question to answer. The honest answer is, “I'm a Jew, I don't celebrate Christmas,” but saying this always seems chastising, and the person who asked then feels embarrassed (as they should)...

Sheila sounds like a delight when it comes to social gatherings.
posted by spoobnooble at 7:35 AM on December 25, 2011 [24 favorites]


As a non-Christian & non-Jewish person I find the best way to navigate this politically correct/absurd world is to be cool about it.

I usually say "Happy Holidays" because I know some people take that stuff very seriously. But if someone says "Merry Christmas" to me. I say it back, despite my not being a Christian. The sentiment is still there.

Whether you're a Pagan, Christian, Jewish, whatever. This time of year is about staying warm with your friends and family. You don't have to have a tree up or presents to enjoy an extra day off or a fireplace and a good book. Cheers.
posted by Fizz at 7:37 AM on December 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


Maybe this is against the rules for the blue? I have a question...

It's already hard enough getting people to accept that not only don't I celebrate or care that it's Christmas, but that Hanukkah really isn't that big of a deal, holiday-wise. So when you say "Happy Holidays," you're still really just wishing me a merry Christmas.

Now, I very seldom wish people "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" or anything similar unless they say it first - it seems like there's too much potential for rudeness, I don't really celebrate Christmas-qua-Christmas although I sure don't mind having a nice meal with friends or family on the 25th, and the main reason I wish people Happy Anything is because I know it's important to them and makes them feel cared about.

Still, at work there is a lot of pressure to "Happy Holidays" everyone indiscriminately - it's the norm and you look a bit odd if you don't. I still don't in general, but accidentally pop out with it from time to time.

So I would really like to know: if you don't celebrate Christmas, mefites, do you feel that "Happy Holidays" is pretty much the same as "Merry Christmas"? If you do, I'll be more assiduous in knocking it off at work.
posted by Frowner at 7:37 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a Jew I've always felt "happy holidays" = "merry Xmas" and as a cynic i've always thought that the well wisher isn't fooling anyone. Now I've mellowed out a bit and my attitude lines up closer with Fizz's... That is everyone should be happy as much possible regardless of the specific circumstances.
posted by askmehow at 7:44 AM on December 25, 2011


This post makes me tired. I'm Jewish, and I don't care if someone wishes me Merry Christmas or happy Happy Hanukkah or Happy Holidays or whatever. Here's what I generally reply: "Thanks." Or "Thanks. Happy Holidays to you, too." I take their intention as friendly, possibly as thoughtless, since not everyone follows the same traditions (I'm an atheist and don't celebrate anything), but we're all thoughtless at times.

Even saying "I take their intentions as friendly" is overstating it. I'm usually listening to my iPhone or reading or thinking about dinner, and I half hear them say HappyMerryXMasKwanzaHanukkaHolidaysWhatever," which I've been hearing for 46 years, and it's just friendly noise to me. So I make friendly noise back.

But maybe, this year, just for fun, I'll start saying, "How DARE you! Don't you know that Hitler killed six million of my people!" And when they say, "Oh. Sorry. I didn't know you were Jewish. Happy Hanukkah," I'll say, "How DARE you! I'm an atheist and you're pushing religion on me!" And when they say, "Oh, sorry. Happy Holidays!" I'll say, "How DARE you! I'm a pessimist, and you're pushing positive emotion on me!" And then I'll poo on the floor.
posted by grumblebee at 7:49 AM on December 25, 2011 [97 favorites]


"Happy Holidays" = "Merry Christmas" however, "Merry Christmas" = "Seasonally appropriate generic greeting of well-wishes!" and thus, whatever's fine. If someone goes all "may you have a blessed day celebrating the birth of our lord and savior Jesus Christ" then that's another matter entirely.

Even though I don't celebrate Christmas there is still the gamut of holiday gatherings, solstice parties, present giving and receiving, watching of heartwarming family films, dealing with everyone's urgent need to all take the same day off... basically, "Happy Holidays/Christmas/Kwanzmukkanadan" just flies past me along with discussions of the weather, because by existing in society I'm doing the same stuff everybody else does around the holidays, without the actual central key component - which is nobody's business and I understand that nobody cares when they say "Happy Holidays" about my own personal Jew issues.

If you want to get on my good side, you say something like "Happy Atheist Children Get Presents Day!" or maybe "I'm excited about Christmas pancakes, and I hope you have a great long weekend!" to which I can reply "I plan to sleep the entire time" or "Me and Hanukkah Harry are gonna get sooo drunk!"
posted by Mizu at 7:55 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not to interrupt the derail currently in progress, but I'd like to just mention that the Dreaded Combination Present SUCKS -- even if your birthday is as far away as say, January 7th. ( Which itself is tainted further by it's proximity to Elvismas).
posted by mikelieman at 8:00 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Personally, I can't stand it when people question me about Kwanzaa. "How many candles are there? What's the order? How do you pronounce this?"

I don't fucking remember, just gimmee a goddamn gift card, try to be decent to each other for a few days outta the year and move along.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:05 AM on December 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


Metafilter: it's just friendly noise to me. So I make friendly noise back.
posted by stroke_count at 8:21 AM on December 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


So I would really like to know: if you don't celebrate Christmas, mefites, do you feel that "Happy Holidays" is pretty much the same as "Merry Christmas"? If you do, I'll be more assiduous in knocking it off at work.

I don't care either way. Personally, I wish everyone had stuck to Merry Christmas. Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas. At all. Not even a little bit. In a well-meaning way, it's actually sort of ignorant to put it on the same level as Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur or Passover or Sukkoth or Purim. Christmas, on the other hand, is a very happy holiday celebrated by most of my friends and some of my family. It's one of the happiest days of the year in the country I call home. I can damn well have a Merry Christmas even if I don't celebrate the birth of Jesus. If anything, it frees me from some cultural baggage, and I get to take advantage of post-Christmas sales.

Put another way: let's say you're an American in a foreign country where 96% of the population celebrates the birth of the Mighty Sun God Zorgoroth. It's the happiest day on their calendar, they give you presents on that day, no one sneaks into your house and tries to strangle you for not worshipping Mighty Sun God Zorgoroth. If someone were to sincerely wish you Best Wishes On The Day Of The Birth Of The Mighty Sun God Zorgoroth, which would be less of a priggish, Ugly American action to take: to take it in stride and wish them the same, or to burrow up your own ass to become a dense, hovering ouroboros of personal-offense-taking and assuming-the-worst-intentions-of-others?

If you live in a place where people really will sneer and and judge you if they suspect that you don't celebrate Christmas, then this is a completely different issue.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:22 AM on December 25, 2011 [17 favorites]


I take Happy Holidays to mean all the winter holidays, including New Year's (my least favorite holiday).
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:24 AM on December 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


ugh, new year's is the most vile and revolting holiday in existence. I have to hide under the bed to stop myself from killing everyone.
posted by elizardbits at 8:27 AM on December 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm Jewish, but we put up a Christmas tree. (my mother converted, via orthodox rabbis in Chicago and everything, but one of her condition was that she still get to put up a Christmas tree. The rabbis were ok with that. And her mother was an athiest who also put up a Christmas tree. )

My birthday is January 5, but I don't recall getting a lot of combination presents. Of course, now that I'm getting older, I don't get so much in the way of presents at all for my birthday.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:32 AM on December 25, 2011


I like the idea of Newtonmas, except that the deep nerds will point out that it's not 'Newton-mas', but 'Newton-force'.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:38 AM on December 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


I had the misfortune of being born on Hanukkah.
posted by mrhappy at 8:47 AM on December 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Mr Happy, if your mom was in labor for 7 days, she's the one who deserves presents. :)
posted by dejah420 at 8:53 AM on December 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


I had the misfortune of being born on Hanukkah.

Sounds more like your mother's misfortune. Eight days...
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:53 AM on December 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


The thing is Sticherbeast, that I'm not some ugly American visiting another country. This is my country. I belong here. I'm not some guest who is required to be respectful of my hosts.

Christmas is boring, and there's a sense in which it's compulsory. I was expected to make food fot two potluck "holiday" parties at work, for instance. It's not a big deal, but I'm not going to apologize for finding the whole thing annoying sometimes.
posted by craichead at 8:58 AM on December 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


I like Happy Holidays. I think it is a nice way to not assume people care about some specific holiday on a day a week or three in advance. I say merry Christmas the 24th and 25th, Happy New Year the 31st and 1st, Happy Chanukah occasionally to other Jews during the holiday and just go for generic or other appropriate specific holiday on the day of otherwise.
posted by jeather at 8:59 AM on December 25, 2011


New Years day is also a holiday, so I always thought "happy holidays" was more of a generic inclusive of the season more than a defensive phrase to use when you are not completely certain of someone's observance.
posted by sammyo at 9:04 AM on December 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


One of my FB contacts put up a picture of a billboard reading : "I miss hearing you say Merry Christmas"----Jesus

My response was : What Rabbi Joshua would have expected to hear was "Yom Huledet Sameach".
posted by brujita at 9:08 AM on December 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


The thing is Sticherbeast, that I'm not some ugly American visiting another country. This is my country. I belong here. I'm not some guest who is required to be respectful of my hosts.

But I didn't say you were merely visiting that other country! They're not your hosts, you're not an esteemed guest, you're all just in the same country for whatever reason. They're just people with a different cultural background than your own. They deserve your respect by dint of being fellow people, not out of situational politesse or noblesse oblige. Even if they're being unintentionally annoying, there's not a whole lot to do other than to let it go.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:12 AM on December 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


oneswellfoop: "December 25th is also the birthday of Isaac Newton, prompting some folks to suggest "Newtonmas" as an alternate celebration for the non-religious."

This is rather ironic considering how deeply, devoutly (if heretically) Christian Newton was...
"I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily."
posted by FlyingMonkey at 9:12 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if they celebrate Newtonmas in Newton, Mass.
posted by adamrice at 9:17 AM on December 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


I was expecting more out of the layers of irony here, since the whole thing revolves around the birth of a particular Jewish kid.
posted by O Blitiri at 9:18 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine born on Christmas also noted the disadvantage of never being able to get a free drink from a bar on her birthday. But then, I can't remember the last time I even tried to get a free drink on my birthday.

And I'm with Sticherbeast on the whole question of taking/not taking offense at "Merry Christmas". I default to "Happy holidays" most of the time, due to the number of pagan friends I have, and though I don't really celebrate Christmas, hearing "Merry Christmas" sorta rolls off my back, on account of hearing it for four decades now.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:33 AM on December 25, 2011


I think "Happy Holidays" at LEAST covers Christmas and New Year's (if you are dealing with "War on Christmas" bigots, point that out), but really covers bloody every holiday event going on between December 20-31. Hanukkah, Yule, Festivus, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, WHATEVER, because it seems like most religions/cultures have a holiday around this time by default anyway. And there is nothing wrong with that.

(Though most of the time I just say "You too" when someone says something to me first. Works wonders.)

I would like to wish a very happy birthday to all y'all having one today, but ESPECIALLY the Jews. And especially the ones with the Chinese food or fried chicken and strawberry cake, because I suddenly want all of that now AND I discovered that apparently Chinese restaurants aren't open where I live? What?!
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:38 AM on December 25, 2011


I'm a militant atheist who is totally fine with Merry Christmas, and defaults to Happy Holidays to cover the ridiculous amount of holidays that all collide in this tight period of the calendar.

Also I look at it like: 12/25 is Christmas. If you wish me a merry Christmas, you want me to be merry on 12/25. Well I hope I'm merry on 12/25 too. I hope my Hanukkah is happy too, even if I don't celebrate it, so why would I object to being told Happy Hanukkah?

As for the War on Christmas douchebags, it seems to me that taking Happy Holidays as part of a war on Christmas is like taking I Love The Beatles as a war on George Harrison.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:02 AM on December 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


ugh, new year's is the most vile and revolting holiday in existence. I have to hide under the bed to stop myself from killing everyone.

My birthday is New Year's Eve. I get the inane "almost a New Year's Baby" comments anytime I tell people my birthday. If I want a party, I feel like it needs to be a thing, because I'm competing against a million other parties. So I only have one per decade. Most years, I go for a winter night hike instead of a party. Turns out I like darkness and cold more than dealing with other humans.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:04 AM on December 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


As for the War on Christmas douchebags

Santa's tired of too son, so very tired. They've destroyed half of my base, terrorized the elves and made snacks of my reindeers. ENOUGH.

It's time we take the fight to THEM.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:04 AM on December 25, 2011


The Christians lost war on Christmas long ago when Santa became the icon for the holiday. To me, a heathen, I have no problem when I'm wished Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Feliz Navidad. Because my Christmas is about as secular as you can get. There's a Christmas tree, Santa, wreaths, fake snow, gift giving, food. None of has ever really is stuff covered in the bible. Christmas is a secular holiday that happens to fall on a Christian holiday.

If I were faithful, I'd not be pissed off over "Happy Holidays" as much as how even the Christians use the secular Christmas trees, Santa, snowmen, going nuts shopping, etc rather than making it all about JC. It should be as commercialized as Rosh Hashanah.

To me "happy holidays" is a nice generic inoffensive thing to say in the Thanksgiving - New Year time period. That people get bent out of shape that people offer that at Macys instead of Merry Christmas is silly when Macys has a Santa and Christmas trees and shit. They should be the ones saying the Christmas tree should be called Holiday Tree because it has nothing to do with Jesus. They shouldn't propagate the Santa myth.
posted by birdherder at 10:08 AM on December 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


Even if they're being unintentionally annoying, there's not a whole lot to do other than to let it go.

If I am being unintentionally annoying, I might want to know about it so I can change things to not be annoying.
posted by jeather at 10:11 AM on December 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Christmas baby raised Jewish here.
I usually just tell people that I'm the second coming.
posted by brevator at 10:15 AM on December 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Turns out I like darkness and cold more than dealing with other humans.

oh my god yes this forever
posted by elizardbits at 10:27 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't have a Christmas tree this year despite being Anglican. Since my new extended family is Jewish and half of it gets out of dodge before the 25th to head to the easy cost, Christmas this year has been a sad reminder of how far away I am from my other family back home.
posted by Talez at 10:28 AM on December 25, 2011


I think it's harder if you're not Jewish. At least Jews have an excuse not to celebrate Xmas and have a respected religion. The atheists and paganists, etc are just considered freak.

Happy Solstice! Now there's something to celebrate. The sun is not disappearing forever.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:34 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Woody Allen Jesus
posted by mrgrimm at 10:38 AM on December 25, 2011


The sun is not disappearing forever.

Aye, but winter is coming.
posted by brevator at 10:39 AM on December 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


No, winter is here. Spring is coming!
posted by mrgrimm at 10:41 AM on December 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Crikey, I'd never heard of "Newtonmas". Not sure I get the point, except to contrast science and religion. I don't think Newton was a very nice guy ... and was probably a Christian, right?

Darwinmas would be a more obvious choice, since he was by all accounts nice, hardworking and clever and of course made a discovery that obviated the need for religion.

I suppose Wallacemas might work too if you want to be different - though it already feels like that with reruns of The Wrong Trousers. Dawkinsmas? Eek, no.
posted by iotic at 10:41 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not sure I get the point,

He was instrumental in the development of science and his birthday was actually on December 25th rather than celebrating a misappropriated pagan holiday.
posted by Talez at 10:50 AM on December 25, 2011


Ah, thanks!

I just found out it's also the birthday of Shane McGowan, Carlos Castenada and Humphrey Bogart. New agey types should celebrate Castenadamas! I quite like the sound of Bogartmas ...
posted by iotic at 10:59 AM on December 25, 2011


I'm happy to celebrate Christmas as a secular gift-giving day. My family is atheists going back two or more generations. (My dad is Jewish "by blood" but his family I think celebrated Christmas too. I don't think this bothers him.)

It's just a nice time to have a little celebration. In fact, Hanukkah -- long a minor feast in the Jewish calendar -- gained its contemporary prominence because it was chosen as a counterbalance to Christmas. Jewish leaders in early-20th-century America were worried that too many Jews were celebrating Christmas, and needed to provide a substitute that wouldn't lead to apostasy. That's well and good for them but I don't care. One occasional celebration is as good as another, it's convenient to have it when other people are celebrating, and the dark season is a good time to gather together.

I've lived in the urban northeast US almost my whole life -- maybe if I lived somewhere more religious I would feel imposed-upon by Christmas, and judged by people who wished me a Merry Christmas. But I just don't feel that threat at all. I've always gone to schools with big Jewish populations; self-identifying Jews have often seemed more numerous than self-identifying Christians (probably because Christian school groups are fringey around here). At work, I think my practice group is actually majority Jewish, many of them quite religious. (At a meeting a few years back, I asked after a colleague's holiday plans and he said, "Oh you know, we Jews stay around and hold down the fort this time of year." It actually stung a little, being excluded from that statement.)

So, I don't know, maybe I only feel so nonchalant about this because I've lived in an understanding and tolerant bubble all my life. But nonetheless I feel like other people's holidays -- even majority holidays -- are the kind of thing you should let yourself chill out about. What you get offended and bothered by is, at bottom, a matter of your own attitudes. They belong to you.

I'm reminded of that Iowa thread from a few days ago: some guy feeling unwelcome essentially because he wants to, where he doesn't have to.
posted by grobstein at 10:59 AM on December 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


He was instrumental in the development of science and his birthday was actually on December 25th rather than celebrating a misappropriated pagan holiday.

He was also a Christian mystic and an alchemist.

Why is it "misappropriated," anyway?
posted by grobstein at 11:00 AM on December 25, 2011


The General Scholium to Newton's Principia Mathematica is bizarre and fascinating in ways that go far beyond any kind of hackneyed science vs. religion debates.

Meanwhile, my big takeaways from this thread are (1) the article from the post, which was charming, and (2) today is Cab Calloway's birthday! Awesome!
posted by moss at 11:16 AM on December 25, 2011


If I am being unintentionally annoying, I might want to know about it so I can change things to not be annoying.

Not every annoyance is treatable this way. Being annoyed with Christmas is eminently understandable, but it's not reasonable (or even considerate) to expect that, if you're an American, 96% of the people around you* should treat the biggest holiday of the year like a furtive visit to a soundproof speakeasy. People wanna have a holiday party, they're gonna have a holiday party. Have fun making fun of it and then enjoy all the effort everyone else put into it.

Put another way: being livid at people casually wishing you Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays) is no more enlightened than Bill O'Reilly, et al. being livid at people wishing them Happy Holidays.

I have images of people going to China (or even Chinatown) during Chinese New Year, furiously crossing their arms as people repeatedly say "gung hay fat choy" to them. "THE NERVE! You can keep your 'fat choy', my good fellow, as it's Gregorian or bust in my house!"

And then someone smugly appoints the Lunar New Year as being "Gregorian Calendar Day," which is ironic, because you'd need a lunisolar calendar to keep track of it.

He was instrumental in the development of science and his birthday was actually on December 25th rather than celebrating a misappropriated pagan holiday.

But he was a devout, spiritual Christian who almost certainly celebrated Christmas himself. It's even more of a misappropriation to claim his birthday as an atheistic alternative to Christmas. If you're fine with that kind of misappropriation, then that's the kind of misappropriation you're okay with, but you certainly have no business looking down on Christians' misappropriation of Saturnalia and other pagan concepts.

*I googled "what percentage of Americans celebrate Christmas" and got that, for whatever it's worth. It's no accident that practicing, believing Christians are much less than 96% of the country.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:22 AM on December 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


I have a Jewish friend with a Christmas birthday. His wife got tired of him bitching about it, so she moved his birthday to July 25. Throws him a big party every year and everything. Seems to make him happy.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 11:29 AM on December 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


So what is the special duty? I read the whole thing twice and did not see it.
posted by Renoroc at 11:35 AM on December 25, 2011


And then someone smugly appoints the Lunar New Year as being "Gregorian Calendar Day," which is ironic,

because actually, it appears Newton was only born on December 25th according to the Julian calendar.
posted by moss at 11:41 AM on December 25, 2011


because actually, it appears Newton was only born on December 25th according to the Julian calendar.

Except the English didn't lose their days until 1752 so it still counts. :P
posted by Talez at 11:54 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Put another way: being livid at people casually wishing you Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays) is no more enlightened than Bill O'Reilly, et al. being livid at people wishing them Happy Holidays.

I'm not livid. I think it's rude when people who know I do not celebrate Christmas wish me Merry Christmas on any day that is neither December 24 or 25. I think it's impolite to wish all and sundry Merry Christmas for the month preceding the actual holiday. If you know someone, then by all means wish them Merry Christmas; on Christmas proper, it's totally normal to wish people Merry Christmas.

If I had my choice, in general, when interacting with strangers, people would say this:

Dec 1 - 23: Happy Holidays.
Dec 24-25: Merry Christmas.
Dec 26-30: Happy Holidays.
Dec 31-Jan 1: Happy New Year.

There are exceptions, obviously, and there are other appropriate greetings to share (Solstice, Chanukah) on various days, and I am specifically not talking about someone you know well, but for strangers and casual acquaintances, yes.
posted by jeather at 12:01 PM on December 25, 2011


today is Cab Calloways birthday!

Heighdy-heighdy-heighdy-ho-ho-ho.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:02 PM on December 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Jesus was Jewish and born on Christmas and old men fucking threw presents at him.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:02 PM on December 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


So what is the special duty? I read the whole thing twice and did not see it.

To remind people that Jews exist. "this is my accidental role in the world: reminding everyone that Jews exist."
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:15 PM on December 25, 2011


*I googled "what percentage of Americans celebrate Christmas" and got that, for whatever it's worth. It's no accident that practicing, believing Christians are much less than 96% of the country.

"Celebrating Christmas" includes a lot of non-Christian rituals, such as decorating a tree (an old Germanic Pagan ritual, now fossilised), and a number of effectively secular seasonal activities such as gift-giving, the eating of mince pies, the drinking of mulled wine and such. I'll bet a lot of people who don't consider themselves Christians do so.
posted by acb at 12:22 PM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everyone knows Terrorists says Happy Holidays!!
posted by thinkpiece at 12:26 PM on December 25, 2011


if you don't celebrate Christmas, mefites, do you feel that "Happy Holidays" is pretty much the same as "Merry Christmas"?

Yep. For me, this is even more pronounced when Hanukkah falls out in early December. Last year, for example, Hanukkah started on December 1st. Someone saying "happy holidays!" to me on something like December 20 is being pleasant and I take it in the spirit in which it was intended, but I still assume they actually mean Christmas.

This whole issue causes me much less angst than the terrible, terrible Christmas music playing everywhere from Thanksgiving to New Year's.
posted by lullaby at 12:42 PM on December 25, 2011


My daughter is a Jew born on Christmas; she turns one year old today (yay!). We have decided to raise her believing that all the international hubbub -- parades, decorations, TV movies, special music, vacations -- is because other people are celebrating her birthday too, because she's just that awesome. Not even kidding.

I mean, what's crueler than telling a kid that there isn't really a Santa Claus? Telling them that not only isn't there one, but that even if there were, he would not come for them, because they're a Jew. Bleccch. I would rather raise my kids in a "you're super-awesome" mode than a "actually, we're kinda the religious weirdos" mode, for as long as possible.

I don't know how long we can get away with this, but we're going to find out. Her older sibling goes to Jewish day school (well, pre-school) and isn't much of a talker, so I think we could make it to her being age four or five at least, unless her aunt and uncle (a fairly religious Christian and a non-religious Jew, respectively) spill the beans first. I hope she's not too upset when she eventually realizes that her birthday isn't quite as big a deal as she thought, but by then she will probably have figured out that she'll likely never have to go to school or work on her birthday, so maybe that will help ease the sting a bit.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:52 PM on December 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


Jesus was Jewish and born on Christmas and old men fucking threw presents at him.

So basically if you are a jew born on xmas you'd better hope some random zoroastrians show up with awesome stuffs.
posted by elizardbits at 1:12 PM on December 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


Jesus was Jewish and born on Christmas and old men fucking threw presents at him.

Except no one even tries to argue that Jesus was born on or near Dec. 25 or even in winter.

Which is where the whole "misappropriation" of the Mithraic holiday comes from.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:52 PM on December 25, 2011


I am Jewish (though not born on Christmas). If some random person wishes me a Merry Christmas I'm not offended. I'll usually say something like "Thanks, you too!" Contrary to the beliefs of the hardcore War on Christmas types, I'm not offended by the word "Christmas" and I don't know anyone who is. What DID offend me was the meme that was going around Facebook recently saying if you don't like to say Merry Christmas, you should leave the country. Hello, there are people of other religions here!
posted by SisterHavana at 1:58 PM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hmm. So us atheists who feel deeply attached to Christmas for non-Jesus-related reasons... we should start telling people we're Neo-Mithraists?
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:04 PM on December 25, 2011


Hmm. So us atheists who feel deeply attached to Christmas for non-Jesus-related reasons... we should start telling people we're Neo-Mithraists?

That's pretty much my method.

My husband and I are actually equally heretical half-Jews who were raised celebrating Xmas but are religiously agnostic. We both love Christmas trees. We now celebrate the solstice with our friends, complete with a solstice tree (what? the tradition long predates "Christmas") a large meal and an attempt to stay up through the night. This was our holiday card this year, and I think it sums up my feelings about winter holidays nicely. Traditions are important even if you don't believe in religion. There's no reason you can't attach them to something that actually happens, like the longest night of the year.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:14 PM on December 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Tomorrows my birthday. I'm a Jew. I can confirm it sucks. But getting a girlfriend has made it much more tolerable. She celebrates Christmas so we're spending some time with her family which is very nice. Last year was the first real Christmas I've ever had. I really dug it.

But I've spent many many birthdays in my adult life alone and it is a real bummer. I don't go to visit my family for the holidays and since I live in LA now and 99% of my friends go back to their hometowns it means that this week has (for me) traditionally been working and for a while it also meant drinking... A lot of drinking.

I used to be angry about it. You do feel... Like your missing out, like the world has doubly decided to ignore you and make you feel alone during a time when the culture is obsessed with ideas of "family" and "togetherness." I think being an only child might have something to do with it too.

I'm not angry about it anymore. I don't care and I know there's no point in feeling bad over something that won't change. Having a girlfriend who lives in LA helps a lot too. But I wish my friends were around too.

As far as the whole "I don't celebrate etc..." I don't usually bust that out with strangers, I'll just pretend like I celebrate and "Yeah, less presents ha ha." With people I meet who are friends of friends or other people in my peer group I don't mind telling them I'm Jewish, maybe its and LA thing or maybe it's a generational thing but it doesn't seem to offend people my age (mid 20s).
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 2:40 PM on December 25, 2011


I mean, what's crueler than telling a kid that there isn't really a Santa Claus?

As a non-Christmas-celebrator and non-Santa-Claus adherent, this I just don't get. What's so cruel about "Your gifts come from your friends and family who love you and want you to have good things" compared to "Your gifts come from an invisible elf who monitors your behavior to decide what kind of gifts you deserve"?

People come down on us about not giving our kid "the magic of Christmas" - what's so wrong with the reality of Christmas, as a time when people who love each other give each other gifts, with no supernatural elf necessary?
posted by Daily Alice at 3:35 PM on December 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Christmas is boring, and there's a sense in which it's compulsory. I was expected to make food for two potluck "holiday" parties at work, for instance. It's not a big deal, but I'm not going to apologize for finding the whole thing annoying sometimes.

This gives me a lot of pause, since I (have been forced to) run the (large, splendid, fairly popular I think) winter potluck at work. If you happen to work in dental research in a large American university, craichead, I apologize for any potluck nagging that may have occurred - the issue is much more that very few people who want to opt out of bringing food also want to opt out of eating food, and so there's a perpetual worry that if folks don't bring food they will none the less descend and eat everything and there won't be enough and then people will blame me.

Next year I will try to make our potluck opt-out friendly.

Augh, this is why I hate the holidays. Luckily, we had the best Christmas ever today, by which I mean I ate dim sum with a bunch of friends, got a ride home instead of having to take the bus, and then had a truly quality nap with my beautiful little cat, all the while contemplating the absolutely awesome aventurine gauged ear plugs someone got me.
posted by Frowner at 4:00 PM on December 25, 2011


Put me in the camp of Jewish people who have no issue with Merry Christmas. My grandmother was a Christmas baby. She loved it. Only Jew she knew growing up who got to celebrate Christmas. Although they were orthodox, my great-grandmother would get a Christmas tree and repurpose it as a birthday bush for my grandmother. All her presents would be laid out around the tree.

Sheila Heti wondered if anyone ever changes their birthday. I did/do. Not officially of course, but I use April 1st as my birthday whenever asked by someone not close to me. April Fools day just seems to fit me so much better than my real birthday. My real birthday is celebrated by some as a holiday and while I am totally down with it being that holiday it just is not as fun as April Fools.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:00 PM on December 25, 2011


For clarity's sake, I don't think the article has anything to do with whether it's inappropriate to say Merry Christmas and to suggest as such is disingenuous. The issue is that when you're Jewish and born on Christmas you are put in an uncomfortable position of people explicitly having to either deny your heritage/identity/religion/culture (whichever) or out yourself as Jew which isn't such a huge deal but having to out yourself as anything is never fun.

It has nothing to do with "Merry Christmas" or whatever. It's about being born a day that causes others to pry into your life in a way and put you in a situation that can be pretty uncomfortable.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 4:31 PM on December 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


For various reasons, Christmas was always a pretty awful time when I was growing up. Nothing tragic, just lots of drama, emotion, screaming and yelling, tears... and plenty of presents.

I just don't care for the holiday, and I also dislike the fact that I'm expected to have to celebrate the holiday (although having children has made me appreciate the holiday more). Christmas also happens at the end of the year, when I'm usually busy with work, and December becomes one grueling marathon of a month.

So, for a change, we're back in Japan over the holidays. It's been great. No Christmas shopping, except for toys for the kids, and the stores are not a mad house. Christmas Eve was spent eating - yes - chicken at SIL's house, watching figure skating, and eating strawberry shortcake. On Christmas Day we went to the mall.

The big holiday is, of course, New Year's Eve, which we will spend watching television, eating good food, and drinking beer.

I feel guilty about not putting up a Christmas tree or doing the other Christmas stuff for my boys, but there is always next year.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:31 PM on December 25, 2011


There's a lot of ignorant crap in that little essay but this "my accidental role in the world: reminding everyone that Jews exist", is some serious bullshit.
It is impossible, as an American, to interact with popular culture on any meaningful level and not be aware that Jewish people exist. I have Jewish friends who think it's hysterical how over-represented Jews are in pop culture, and I'd probably find it funny too if Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Gays, and fucking Women, fer Christs sake, weren't all still underrepresented and often offensively portrayed.
I'm supposed to feel sorry for you cause yer whining about the fact that your birthday falls on a holiday you don't even celebrate? Sounds like some serious first world problems to me.
Oh, and Merry Christmas.
posted by mikoroshi at 4:39 PM on December 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


As a non-Christmas-celebrator and non-Santa-Claus adherent, this I just don't get. What's so cruel about "Your gifts come from your friends and family who love you and want you to have good things" compared to "Your gifts come from an invisible elf who monitors your behavior to decide what kind of gifts you deserve"?

Because some kids truly believe in Santa Claus and it hurts to find out that something you love isn't real. It's pretty much as simple as that. Most religious people I know don't like being lectured by atheists that their lives are much better because they value this life more because there's no world beyond, either, and this is similar. But when you're a kid, there's the additional tension of adults having a sort of smug authority about these things, because you're just a stupid kid who believes stupid kid stuff because you're not old enough to know better.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:44 PM on December 25, 2011


I think it's rude when people who know I do not celebrate Christmas wish me Merry Christmas on any day that is neither December 24 or 25

Special snowflake, indeed.
posted by smidgen at 4:54 PM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had Christmas lunch with a Jewish mate yesterday. I got the "gotcha" look when I said merry christmas. He got the same look back when he said "this is damn fine ham.."

But not the point. I spent yesterday afternoon and evening chilling in the park at South Beach, South Fremantle, Western Australia. Delightful scene.. backpackers, hippies, all sorts of orphans, and plain ordinary families. Big park, the odd couch carried down there at great effort, blankets, beach towels, picnic baskets and eskies, scattered stereos playing fine fine tunes, human pyramids, juggling, fire twirling, friendly dogs, much good cheer. In short, simply the best and mellowest impromptu Christmas beach festival I've ever seen in Australia.

Anyway, my friends Rache and Gibbo tell me a story. That morning they'd been walking along South Beach when they met a tall man, mid thirties, middle eastern in appearance, long hair, in white flowing robes. He's looking a bit sheepish, and carrying a basket. Gibbo and Rache, being rather direct, wander over and say "You're friggin Jesus!" To which he replies, rather sheepishly, "Yes.. Well, no.. but it's my birthday.. Would you like some dates and figs?" They ate, and chatted for a moment, and all wandered on.

Later that arvo, after I'd been there for an hour or so, Gibbo jumps up and yells "It's Jesus!" and there he is.. He's wobbling just slightly through the various groups of people, stopping at each, still handing out dates and figs, being plied with beer and wine, having his photo taken. A Brazilian soccer babe in full national stripe has fallen in love with him and is tagging along at a distance trying to work up the mettle to propose, there's a veritable cloud of kids following behind her, everyone's got their arms out to hug him.

And you know.. whatever religion he was, whatever was going on in his life and head, I can't think of a better way to spend a Christmas birthday. It could have gone so wrong for him, and it just worked perfectly.
posted by Ahab at 4:59 PM on December 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


other people are celebrating her birthday too, because she's just that awesome. Not even kidding.

I usually don't get down on my digital knees, but here I am, begging you to please not do this. I don't doubt your intentions for a second but I have a very strong feeling (based on personal experience) that this is going to someday down the line turn her into a spoiled, entitled, self-centered brat. Speaking as one of those myself, I can tell you that this sort of person is not a whole lot of fun to be around. You are trying to make her feel special and I know she's your kid and you love her to death, but what you are doing here is giving unrealistic sky-high expectations that are invariably going to be knocked down, leaving her miserable.
posted by MattMangels at 5:10 PM on December 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Happy New Year" is sort of my standard holiday greeting. Nobody's going to be offended if I wish them a whole year of happiness, while you schmucks are just wishing them one day of merriness. Even if merriness is better than happiness, it's not 365 times better.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:04 PM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meh. Kids don't remember that shit, and if she believes it post age 4, she has more serious problems to worry about.

Lying to kids about Santa Claus is much worse, imo. It all seems like an extended episode of Punk'd to me. I don't think I've ever felt so stupid as when I learned the truth ... at age 5. Who wants to make a five-year-old feel like shit?

Santa Claus is for adults, not children. I don't think kids lose one iota of anything growing up believing Santa is a fun story.

The shameless manipulation ("you'd better not pout") is really just lazy parenting. The confluence of good behavior and material rewards only makes the joke worse.

I actually enjoy secular Mithras/Christmas, and the myth of Santa is fun, but I can't get past the lying. I would never tell my daughter that fairies create snow. Why lie to her about the fat man in he red suit?
posted by mrgrimm at 7:17 PM on December 25, 2011


I'm supposed to feel sorry for you cause yer whining about the fact that your birthday falls on a holiday you don't even celebrate? Sounds like some serious first world problems to me.

Yeah, I'm not really feeling how Christmas could be a bad thing if you don't celebrate it. She notes that there are a lot of advantages - they seem pretty significant.

I moved to the USA, and they have a big holiday there called Thanksgiving which seems to be an even more sacred day for family than Christmas, butof course it's meaningless to me. And it never occurred to me until reading this to feel oppressed by their happiness and celebration.

There's "nothing to do" on these big days only if your life is an empty shell of malls and restaurants.
When people wish me a happy thanksgiving, never occurring to them that thanksgiving isn't universal, I appreciate the sentiment, and say "thank you" or "you too!", rather than yammer on about how I'm not one of them. I am one of them, just not in this insignificant detail. So that would be a bullshit thing to do - people are being friendly and inclusive in the manner in which they grew up. I'm not going to shit on that.
I don't really view xmas as being as exclusive as thanksgiving. Presents, trees, decorations, Santa, holly, it's all ancient cradle-of-civilisation tradition, there for the taking by any and all, and if some people also choose to overlay their own religious themes onto ancient seasonal celebrations, good for them. There is no requirement that I do it the same way.

Everyone has some little oddity that they'll have to explain to strangers over and over for their entire life. Don't let it get you down.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:42 PM on December 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is impossible, as an American, to interact with popular culture on any meaningful level and not be aware that Jewish people exist. I have Jewish friends who think it's hysterical how over-represented Jews are in pop culture, and I'd probably find it funny too if Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Gays, and fucking Women, fer Christs sake, weren't all still underrepresented and often offensively portrayed.

I'm supposed to feel sorry for you cause yer whining about the fact that your birthday falls on a holiday you don't even celebrate? Sounds like some serious first world problems to me.
Oh, and Merry Christmas.


Wow. Where the fuck do you even start with this? There's the whole "Some of my best friends are Jewish" bullshit used to couch some typical "Jews run Hollywood" bullshit... Or there's the really aggressive "fuck you" attitude (seriously what the fuck is that about??) coupled with some pretty severe misconceptions of how Jews are portrayed in pop-culture. Not to mention the fact, that no, there are very many people in this country who do not know anything about Jews at all.

Enjoy your ignorant, axe grindy Christmas I guess?
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 8:11 PM on December 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


other people are celebrating her birthday too, because she's just that awesome.

Today's my birthday, too. While I never believed other people celebrated my birthday, as a kid I did think it meant I was seriously special and destined for greatness. Then I got to sixth grade, and two kids in my class shared my birthday, and they didn't seem so special, so that was that. Damn.

Truth be told, the thing I like least about having a Christmas birthday is how everyone feels the urge to comment on it, either making some sort of joke about my being a gift to my parents, or guessing about my getting double presents/cheated out of presents/etc.

I also have a habit of saying "you too!" when people wish me a happy birthday.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:12 PM on December 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


For the last few years Christmas has been a reminder of my mom dying on Dec. 19, 2005.
posted by mike3k at 8:23 PM on December 25, 2011


I also have a habit of saying "you too!" when people wish me a happy birthday.

I do this too and I wasn't born on any kind of holiday at all. I think it's just that birthday greetings are one of the only kinds of greeting that aren't reversible.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:49 PM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hell, I end up saying "You, too!" to people who say "Have a nice shift!", "Bon voyage!" or "Enjoy your meal!". It's like a reflex - person wishes me something pleasant, my response is to wish them the same, regardless of the logistics.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:02 AM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is impossible, as an American, to interact with popular culture on any meaningful level and not be aware that Jewish people exist. I have Jewish friends who think it's hysterical how over-represented Jews are in pop culture, and I'd probably find it funny too if Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Gays, and fucking Women, fer Christs sake, weren't all still underrepresented and often offensively portrayed.

I'm supposed to feel sorry for you cause yer whining about the fact that your birthday falls on a holiday you don't even celebrate? Sounds like some serious first world problems to me.
Oh, and Merry Christmas.

Wow. Where the fuck do you even start with this?


We all have our preferences but I would start with the fact that Sheila Heti is Canadian and the Globe & Mail is a Canadian newspaper.
posted by skwt at 1:07 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


your shipment of happy has arrived
posted by LogicalDash at 1:10 AM on December 26, 2011


Because some kids truly believe in Santa Claus and it hurts to find out that something you love isn't real. It's pretty much as simple as that.

Oh, I would never spill the beans to a kid who believes. That would be mean. We went through immense effort every December when our kid was about 3-6 to make sure that he didn't discuss the Jolly Elf with his friends.

But there are people (cough, such as my parents) who insist that it's cruel to deny the Magic of Christmas to a child from the beginning, as we have done by not having Santa Claus visit our house. To which I say, better gifts from real people who love you than fake magic.
posted by Daily Alice at 3:42 AM on December 26, 2011


I take their intention as friendly, possibly as thoughtless, since not everyone follows the same traditions (I'm an atheist and don't celebrate anything), but we're all thoughtless at times.

There are two things everyone knows about me:

1. I'm an atheist
2. I hate Christmas

Does that give me a big 'get out of xmas' card? No, it certainly does not. Because xmas is one big racket that involves cast iron obligations to your family and friends from which there is no earthly escape.
posted by Summer at 5:35 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a Jewish boss whose family is one of the big political Jewish families. This year, she told me, "I like Christmas better. Being a Jew is all about suffering. But Christmas is about giving and sharing. I like that."

I'm an atheist, but my family are evangelicals. I used to resent all of the holiday stuff with a fury. But this year, after exchanging Happy Hannukahs a few days back, I also wished the few obviously Jewish people who live with me Merry Christmas.

They were tolerant.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 5:36 AM on December 26, 2011


But this year, after exchanging Happy Hannukahs a few days back, I also wished the few obviously Jewish people who live with me Merry Christmas.

I... but... what does "obviously" Jewish mean? Why would you intentionally wish them a Merry Christmas...? Why is this entire thread turned into one aggressive fuck you to some imaginary straw man that hates Merry Christmas??
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 7:56 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu: "“I'm a Jew, I don't celebrate Christmas,” "

Why would this be a given? Why would the writer thinks that the two things are mutually exclusive of each other?

Being Jewish does not mean you don't celebrate Christmas no more than it means you don't celebrate Halloween. Both holidays have a religious origin to them but the secular version has far surpassed the religious portion. Not to mention you can celebrate a full christian christmas and/or a purely secular one.
posted by 2manyusernames at 8:19 AM on December 26, 2011


I feel that this is one thing that India actually does really well (ignoring a few obvious exceptions and at least among the circles I move in). It starts I think with the strange meaning "secular" has in India, which is not unreligious, so much as "equally respecting of all religions" (yes, the atheists -- and I am one -- do get short shrift). How this manifests itself practically is that the Indian holiday calendar has tons and tons of religious holidays, from all the major and non-major religions. There are 14 compulsory holidays in India, of which three are secular ones, two are Hindu, two are Christian, four are Muslim, one Buddhist, one Sikh and one Jain (it has always struck me as ironic that India, with its tiny percentage of Christians, gets more official days off for Christian holidays than Americans do). I think as kids, we often looked forward to the ones we did not personally celebrate, as much or more than the ones we did -- an excuse to have a whole day off from school with few responsibilities. Bliss!

At the same time people were great about remembering to wish each other on others' special days. I grew up in a half-Hindu, half Christian family (though we weren't very religious) and I got wished Merry Christmas by many, many non-Christians. We often threw large Christmas parties to which we invited many non-Christian friends, who were happy to show up and partake of the food and festivities. Gifts were often exchanged, both between family members and between friends. If any were offended, they certainly didn't show it. At the same time, I've attended my share of Muslim feasts (though there weren't that many Muslims in my city). My parents made it a point of calling and wishing their Muslim friends Id Mubarak, and my Hyderabadi friends would wait, mouths watering, for Ramzan, so they could fill their stomachs with haleem, fasting not required (though perhaps recommended). Diwali was a huge deal, no matter what religion you were from, and I can't imagine my devoutly Christian grandmother taking offense at being wished a happy Diwali (which she certainly was, often).

The attitude always seemed to be: the more reasons for good food and celebrations, the better. As an atheist who just cooked an elaborate Christmas dinner with my atheist Jewish boyfriend, it's one I hope I always have.
posted by peacheater at 11:25 AM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I also have a habit of saying "you too!" when people wish me a happy birthday.

Me too! I justify it by figuring that they have had a birthday at some point in the last year.
posted by madcaptenor at 2:53 PM on December 26, 2011


Because xmas is one big racket that involves cast iron obligations to your family and friends from which there is no earthly escape.

Really? I found a firm "No, thank you. We're staying home." to be really effective. We started skipping the "run to every relative's house" nonsense the Thanksgiving after Elder Monster was born, and have never looked back. Our holidays are now quiet, leisurely affairs where we stay in our pajamas til noon, and if anyone wants to see us, they can come to us.

Many do, and they appreciate the relaxed atmosphere.
posted by MissySedai at 4:37 PM on December 26, 2011


KokuRyu: "“I'm a Jew, I don't celebrate Christmas,” "

>Why would this be a given? Why would the writer thinks that the two things are mutually exclusive of each other?


To be clear, I'm not Jewish, and I was quoting the author of the article. Anyway, I found her writing style witty and a pleasure to read.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:16 PM on December 26, 2011


Why would this be a given? Why would the writer thinks that the two things are mutually exclusive of each other?

For me, it's that "Christmas" == "Christ + mas", and the whole "Christ is the messiah" thing is pretty much antithetical to the entire Jewish identity.

Once the Christ is out of Christmas, and it's universally accepted as "Santa Day", then we can share some mutual ground...
posted by mikelieman at 8:21 PM on December 26, 2011


Once... it's universally accepted as...

This is an invented excuse. You don't hold your other beliefs and behaviours hostage to such a silly standard.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:33 PM on December 26, 2011


Well this might just be the most offensive and blatantly anti-Semitic MeFi thread I've ever read.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 11:00 PM on December 26, 2011


1adam12: "It's already hard enough getting people to accept that not only don't I celebrate or care that it's Christmas, but that Hanukkah really isn't that big of a deal, holiday-wise. So when you say "Happy Holidays," you're still really just wishing me a merry Christmas."

Wow, you just hit the nail on the head. Always wondered why it rubbed me the wrong way, even when they bother to say Happy Hanukkah. Just occurred to me that I'm almost never wished a Happy Passover or Festive Sukkot or even an easy fast on Yom Kippur. It's just Happy Hannukah.

Same thing with the whole - "these aren't carols we're singing, they're holiday songs, see? Now we're singing Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel!"

I like to say that it's like if US were majority Jewish, it would be like singing Passover songs like Chad Gad Yaaaaa or Echad Mi Yodeach in the spring and then turn towards the Christains, smile, and sing "Hippity Hoppity Easter's On It's Way" and then go back to singing Passover songs.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:24 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the "Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/What Do You Say" Conundrum: I once talked to someone who had one of the more unusual and thought-provoking mindsets I'd come across. He was a fairly conservative Christian (I used to fart around on the Yahoo boards before coming here, looking for good arguments), and when he said he always made a point of saying "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays," I challenged him: "Well, what if a Jewish person wished you a 'Happy Hannukkah'? How would that make you feel, them just assuming you were Jewish?"

"That wouldn't bother me at all, actually," he said. Huh?

And then he explained: the way he figured it, a Jewish person saying "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" to him was just an empty gesture -- but Hanukkah was something they CARED about, so for them to wish him a Happy Hanukkah was a gesture that had actual meaning behind it. Same too if someone wished him "Happy Kwanza" or "Good Ramadan" or "Happy Diwali" or what have you. He wanted people to wish each other a greeting that the GREETER, rather than the GREET-EE, cared about. I still disagreed with him (I was a little too young to know how to get into the whole "privilege" argument", but I was impressed to realize that his insistence on saying "Merry Christmas" was coming from a different place.

On the whole Chinese-food-on-Christmas thing:

Just read a little anecdote online about the staff working at a kosher deli one Christmas day; it was not that busy, but suddenly a large-ish Chinese family walked in. One of them walked up to the counter and asked if it was okay for non-Jews to eat there. "Uh, sure," said the counter person.

"Oh, good," said the customer. "Because we all were talking about how so many Jews go out to eat at Chinese restaurants on Christmas, and we just thought -- well, why don't we return the favor?"

Apparently that Chinese family then started coming back to that deli every Christmas for years.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:28 AM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


PostIronyIsNotaMyth: "Well this might just be the most offensive and blatantly anti-Semitic MeFi thread I've ever read."

Wow, you live a blessed life, MetaFilterly speaking.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:55 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like to say that it's like if US were majority Jewish, it would be like singing Passover songs like Chad Gad Yaaaaa or Echad Mi Yodeach in the spring and then turn towards the Christains, smile, and sing "Hippity Hoppity Easter's On It's Way" and then go back to singing Passover songs.

I'd say even the Easter comparison is too generous, because at least Easter is still an important holiday. It'd be like thinking the only holiday in the Christian calendar was the Feast of the Ascension, without ever knowing or caring about Christmas or Easter.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:59 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


>PostIronyIsNotaMyth: "Well this might just be the most offensive and blatantly anti-Semitic MeFi thread I've ever read."

Wow, you live a blessed life, MetaFilterly speaking.


Metafilter: the Jews run Hollywood.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:25 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


In totally unrelated Christmas baby news: President Obama Eats Traditional Christmas Baby
posted by homunculus at 4:25 PM on December 27, 2011


My oldest daughter was born late Christmas Eve. Luckily, her godmother had a close birthday and educated us very early about what mistakes to not make - like her and her sister receiving same item for Christmas but godmother also had hers label "Happy Birthday", or about receiving Christmas items as birthday gifts. We made sure to educate the rest of the relatives. For the most part, we just held a birthday as if it were in any other month but there were a few years we tried celebrating her "un-birthday".

Also, we started a big box for collecting birthday gifts for godmother. That year she got 50+ different gifts bought by family & friends throughout the year to make up for getting shortchanged for 20 years. She cried. LOL
posted by _paegan_ at 7:07 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


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