Happy Frickin' Holidays!

I'm a Jew who takes exactly zero offense if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas. I like Christmas lights, trees, red and green stuff, Santas - what have you. And that's a good thing, too, because I can't avoid it.

Apparently, however, some Christians don't know what it's like to be in a religious or cultural minority. This was brought to mind not only the idiotic war-on-Christmas yearly brou-ha-ha, or with Garrison Keillor's nonsense (Hint to GK: if Christians made up less than two percent of the population in a nation where Jews were a vast majority, they probably would write Rosh Hashanah songs), but with two incidents I recently experienced.

1) Recently at a play date, my kid and the only other Jewish kid in the play group were the first to show up. The other kid brought over a Hanukkah book to me, and I was reading to her and to my son. Another mother showed up with her kid, listened to us reading, and said, "Wow, I guess we're reading about something that has nothing to do with us."

2) At a restaurant, my son showed an otherwise perfectly nice waitress his stuffed dreidel and said "Happy Hanukkah!" She said, taken aback, "For me, it's Merry Christmas."

Holy crap, Christians (or some of you, anyway). This is what it's like for us every single year. Every store, every TV channel, every house. We are constantly exposed to a holiday that is not ours.

So take a deep breath. It's not a huge deal that other people celebrate a different holiday. You can wish Jews a happy Hanukkah. You can bear to see a menorah or a Hanukkah song. Really, it doesn't hurt - I promise! It seems only polite to say "Happy Holidays!" when you don't know if the other person is Christian. And wishing someone Happy Holidays does not indicate that you don't think Christmas is not an important, beautiful holiday. It is a mere acknowledgment that there are people who don't observe it.


  1. I'm guessing, knowing you, that you probably didn't slap either of those women right across the mouth, did you? Because they totally had it coming. And I hope the waitress's tip was a polite note telling her that customers typically don't like to get snotty comments from their servers.

    I particularly love the mother's comment. Because God forbid we should teach our children about things that aren't 100% applicable to their lives.

  2. Elizabeth, This is for you... It is a story about my dad and was written by my nephew. I think this says it all. I hope you don't mind as this is a little long

    I'm going to tell you about my Jewish roots.

    My grandfather Sullivan was a milkman for H. P. Hood for many years. He told this story, which took place during the days when he did his route on a horse-drawn wagon.

    His route traveled through the Mattapan section of Boston, which at that time was almost exclusively populated by Jewish families. Now, some of the people to whom he delivered milk thought he was Jewish. They thought his name was Solomon, not Sullivan.

    I'm not positively sure how this assumption came about, but it's not a stretch to imagine what might have happened. Someone in the neighborhood probably asked what his name was and he (or, more likely, one of his customers with perhaps an Eastern European accent) said, "Sullivan", and whoever had asked the question, with the idea already in mind that he might be Jewish, heard "Solomon". That person told someone else, and so on.

    It was possible. My grandfather didn't have the map of Ireland on his face like I do. He could have passed. Since he delivered milk in a Jewish neighborhood, his customers might naturally have assumed that he was Jewish, too. I don't suppose he would have had any reason to disabuse them of this notion. He probably figured it wouldn't hurt business to let them keep on thinking it.

    Anyway, one day while he was doing his route, some of the older Jewish men called for him to come down off of his wagon so that he could help them meet the required numbers for a minyan; that is, so that they could have enough for prayer service, which required at least 10 men.

    They yelled to him, "Solomon! We need another for a minyan! You got time maybe?"

    My grandfather was sharp enough to know what they were talking about. He had been delivering milk in that neighborhood for some time, so he was familiar with words and phrases and customs that an Irishman might otherwise not be expected to know. The question was, what should he tell these men? Should he spill the beans and let them know that he wasn't really named Solomon, but Sullivan? That he wasn't Jewish, but Catholic, and that his ancestry was Irish and French?

    Well, my grandfather figured it this way: Who did it hurt if he helped them out? As long as they thought he was Jewish, God wouldn't be mad at them for including an Irishman in their prayer service, and he also figured that God would probably look kindly on him for doing the old Jews a mitzvah. So, my grandfather parked the wagon and made the minyan for them.

    He faked his way through by following the lead of the others. Having attended Catholic mass for many years, he knew he could probably get by with indistinct mumbling as long as he did the right body motions, so he kept his voice low and bowed when they did and so forth. Afterwards, the old men thanked him and he got back on his wagon and finished his route. Of course, from that day forward there was little doubt along Blue Hill Avenue that Tom Sullivan (that is, Solomon The Milkman) was Jewish - and a fairly devout Jew, at that.

    Therefore, if someone calls me "Solly", instead of "Sully", I won't complain. My grandfather wasn't really a Jew, but he played one on his milk route.

    Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam shehecheyanu v'kiyimanu v'higi'anu laz'man hazeh. (Amein) Happy Hanukkah

  3. You could tell the other mother that Hanukkah is in the New Testament (John 10:22) and watch her face.

  4. Uncle Jim, what a cute story! Thanks for posting it, and happy holidays (!) to you!

  5. Alas, both were situations where I just stared, gape-mouthed and came up with spontaneous replies 20 minutes later.

  6. yeah Jim, wonderful story, send it in to Readers Digest (really).

    It is funny but just today my son was saying he wished he were jewish because Hannakah lasts 8 days. (and he thinks it therefore becomes 8 days of having many presents) He goes to public school, yet his class read a book about Hannakah, and for some reason he brought the book home with him, so now he knows the story pretty well. We are Catholic by the way but I am quite pleased the public school did teach about it.