President-Elect Trump is advocating for us to bring back Merry Christmas as the de facto salutation-of-choice for the holiday season. And I’m actually OK with that. I’ve often participated in the traditionally Christian Christmas festivities of others. However, since I’m Jewish I don’t celebrate the religious aspects.
But this year, for the first time in more than 50 years, the first night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve coincide. So I’ve been thinking about what binds us together instead of what drives us apart. And with its long history as a melting pot, America has often integrated different ethnic and religious customs - so that what results is really neither purely ethnic, nor strictly religious.
At the turn of the last century, Jews looking to go out to eat on Christmas Eve, turned to one of the few other ethnic groups at the time who both inhabited the same urban spaces and didn’t celebrate a religious Christmas. Joshua Plaut and Jonathan Sarna underscored this example of a mash-up holiday tradition - the Christmas Eve Chinese Feast - in their literary classic “A Kosher Christmas: ‘Tis the Season to be Jewish.” And through this truly American and enduring tradition, many Jews and their descendants have long celebrated Christmas - just a little differently than most of the country.
Approximately half of the 25 best selling Christmas songs were written by Jewish composers - like The Christmas Song, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Santa Baby and even Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And just saying, Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song can’t hold a candle to this catalogue.
One of my favorites is the Irving Berlin classic in which we’re all “…dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.” And if the Christmas you used to know may be a little bit different from the one your neighbor used to know – well, that’s OK, too.
Whether you’re a theist or not, the secular rituals of Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa all focus on lighting up the darkest time of year and bringing friends and family together.
And so does the relatively new, Seinfeld popularized holiday of Festivus with its unadorned aluminum Festivus pole, "Airing of Grievances" and "Feats of Strength."
And with that spirit in mind, I’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas.