By Ben Goldberger —
Growing up Jewish, I always felt different from my peers. I was the only one of my friends who didn’t celebrate Christmas and one of the two Jewish kids in my graduating class of 461 students. This meant that when jack-o’-lanterns were tossed and Christmas trees went up, I always felt like an outsider.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas time. There is a certain spirit in the air with all of the lights, music and hot chocolate everywhere you turn. But being told “Merry Christmas” when leaving a store is not something that I look forward to.
It leaves me feeling separated from society, almost like I am wrong for not celebrating Christmas.
It feels like being told “Roll Tide!” while walking down the streets of Birmingham, but while wearing a Louisville shirt. You can’t help but feel like you don’t belong since you do not celebrate the same things as everyone else around you.
Still, I never get offended when someone tells me “Merry Christmas” because I know it is a way of spreading joy and well-wishes. After all, they do not know that I don’t celebrate Christmas.
But at the same time, I shouldn’t have to put up with constantly being told to celebrate a holiday that is not a part of my religious practices.
In the spirit of spreading inclusivity during this wonderful season, I urge you to use the term “Happy Holidays” to spread your festive joy.
Many people are not a fan of this idea, claiming that this indicates a “War on Christmas.”
Personally, I do not see a problem with this suggestion. Saying “Happy Holidays” to strangers will not destroy Christmas. Christmas is still included in this statement, but now all other holidays during this season are included too. It will not limit the amount to which people can celebrate the holiday, but instead welcome the many people who do not celebrate Christmas to feel the holiday cheer as well.
According to a Pew Research Center data set from 2017, 10 percent of Americans do not celebrate Christmas. This may not seem like a lot, but that is 37.2 million people, around the same amount as the population of Canada.
If the population of Americans who do not celebrate Christmas made their own country, that would be the 40th most populous country in the world according to the United Nations’ records.
Journalist Lux Alptraum explains what it is like being a Jewish woman during Christmas time on an episode of the podcast “Conversations with People Who Hate Me.” She said, “it is really isolating at this time to sort of feel that everyone expects you to participate [in Christmas,] and if you do not participate, you are sort of shut out of the fun.”
I am not asking you to stop celebrating Christmas or not share your joy for the holidays with others.
I am just asking you to please be more aware that not everyone celebrates the same holidays as you do and act in a way that is more welcoming of those individuals, further inviting all people to enjoy the holiday fun that you love so dearly.
The overwhelming spread of love and kindness that takes over society during this time of year is incredibly amazing, and it seems as if that is a big part of the meaning of Christmas to many people who celebrate it. Saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” to strangers whose religion is unknown to you spreads the love and kindness even farther.
Have a lovely, peaceful, joyful and especially happy holidays everybody.
Graphic by Shayla Kerr // The Louisville Cardinal