You know what would make my holidays happier? If people would stop wishing me a Merry Christmas wherever I go. I mean, for seriously.
Yesterday I was shopping with my mother who, as it turns out, is not Jewish. Hey, you just learned something about me. So anyway, we’re at this clothing store where we know the owner, who is a dumbass and a flake, and “sharon” says to me, “Oh, Madeline, I bet your kids are getting so excited for Santa Claus! Have they been making their Christmas Lists?!”
This is one of my favorite conversations to have because I like watching people backtrack and squirm.
“Well, no, they’re not, because we don’t celebrate Christmas at our house.”
“Oh . . . oh, right. Well, they must be excited for Chanukah, right?”
My mother, who can’t stand squirmage, jumped to Sharon’s rescue. “Miles and Jack actually say that: ‘We don’t have Christmas at our house; we have it at Grammy’s house.”
“Oh! So I’ll bet they’re giving their Christmas lists to Grandma!”
Fuck me, man.
“Actually, since Chanukah is a relatively minor holiday in Judaism, we keep it pretty low-key. They don’t make lists of things they want.”
The lady looked like she was trying to comprehend this information, while at the same time thinking how deprived my poor children must be that they don’t get to experience sticky-sweet excessive consumerism. I shot my mom a look.
“It’s really very refreshing,” she said, “I’ve never gotten a list from them.”
Then I told my mom, since I didn’t feel like talking to the lady any more, but I wanted to make sure she heard me, about what Miles had said to me on Monday night.
“I remember when we had Chanukah at our old apartment: we played dreidel on the floor and got chocolate gelt and we each lit our own menorah and I got a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle on a Motorcycle! That was awesome. I still have that turtle.”
We left that store and popped into the grocery store across the street. On the way out the bell ringer called out, “Merry Christmas!” and I just held my head up and kept walking. Because I know that, in my town at least, the Salvation Army INSTRUCTS their ringers to say that. But I also know that, where Disapproving Maya works, the management asked the bell ringers to say “Happy Holidays” instead.
See? Nice, easy, inclusive. And I know that the Salvation Army is a Christian charity, duh. But charity, acceptance and coexistence are all Christian tenets, right?
I guarantee you that Jews would throw lots more money into those red buckets if we didn’t feel marginalized by the assumption that we believe that Christ was the only son of God/Eternally begotten of the Father/God from God/Light from Light/True God from True God/Begotten not made/ of one being with the father/through him all things were made/for us and for our salvation he was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary and was made man/For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried.
How about some Latin, yeah? Just to keep things interesting? You bet.
Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato, passus et sepultus est, et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas, et ascendit in caelum, sedet ad dexteram Patris. Et iterum venturus est cum gloria, iudicare vivos et mortuos, cuius regni non erit finis.
Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem, qui ex Patre procedit. Qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur: qui locutus est per prophetas. Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam. Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum. Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum, et vitam venturi saeculi. Amen.
Whoa. Like, don’t assume we believe that. Just because some of us know it by heart, just like we know “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night” because our orchestra and choir programs apparently weren’t subject to the whole “separation of church and state” thing. And please don’t assume that, just because your response is, “but it’s a seasonal greeting/I’m not talking about religion,” it makes any difference to Jews or Muslims or Pagans or Atheists or Wiccans or any other minority faith. We really don’t care.
As my friend Amy Guth put it (far more eloquently and less rantingly) on her blog, it’s not my birthday, it’s yours, and it feels oogy when you keep wishing me a happy one.
I came home and called the grocery store manager.