Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 4. Friday, Dec. 12, 2014.
Reason for publication: Being Jewish, I’m used to the feeling of being excluded during the holidays. But I wanted to know how others could be more mindful during a the season of love.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but not for everyone. For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, because of religious or personal choices, the winter season can feel exclusive and even annoying.
Growing up in a community where 99.99 percent of people celebrate Christmas as a Jew celebrating only Hanukkah, I know the feeling of exclusion. During the holiday season it’s impossible to walk into a store, even our neighborhood grocery store, without being bombarded by Christmas ornaments, decor and music.
This feeling of isolation fostered by Christmas popularity should seemingly create a resentment towards the holiday, but in fact the issue is a lot more problematic. Being the only person in the Hanukkah section surrounded by sparkling and glittering ornaments is like being a kid in a candy store given vegetables instead.
And believe me, I don’t dislike celebrating Hanukkah. In fact, I love celebrating for eight days, the story behind the holiday, the food and being one of the only ones that does in our school.
However, it’s not always fun to scavenge the entire Target superstore and find only a small aisle endcap of leftover items for your holiday while the Christmas decorations have an entire section of the store reserved. In fact, it makes me feel less than those who do celebrate Christmas.
By shoving the Christmas holiday down the throats of all Americans, it’s not surprising the people on the outskirts of the season feel compelled to celebrate and sing along with carols. Any fad popularized by the media will eventually cause those on the outskirts to feel left out and unaccepted.
Exclusion isn’t the only problem during the holidays, ignorance seems to be in abundance during the winter season as well. It seems to have become the popular idea that Christmas is the only holiday worth mentioning, therefore any holiday greeting must only consist of “Merry Christmas.”
For those of us who don’t celebrate the seemingly worldwide phenomenon, we resent being an afterthought. A “Happy Hanukkah” or “Kwanzaa” or “Happy Holidays” after the all-important “Merry Christmas.”
These thoughtless and automatic remarks may be careless but are in fact exclusive. I understand it is an arduous task to audibly change your go-to remark from the two-word “Merry Christmas” to the more inclusive two-word statement “Happy Holidays” but it is doable.
From an early age I have learned that the holiday I celebrate is not as worthy or special as Christmas. In first grade, a crossword puzzle we were given asked about our whereabouts on Christmas Eve with the correct answer being “church.”
Early on I have also learned that the general assumption is that everyone, in some way or another, must celebrate Christmas. While some Jews have parents that do celebrate Christmas, my family solely celebrates Hanukkah, but everyone I encountered simply assumed I “had” to celebrate both. Or at least incorporate Christmas in some way, shape or form into my winter celebrations.
It doesn’t distress or bother me that the majority of people living in the Granite Bay community have no idea about the reasoning or story of Hanukkah. All I’m asking is just more consideration for people who don’t celebrate Christmas.
The holiday season should feel the most welcoming, the most warm and the most loving. It’s a time for us to reflect on the good things in our lives and especially a time to keep friends and family near. Exclusion and ignorance shouldn’t be characteristics involved in the holiday season, so this winter, remember to be inclusive in both your state of mind and comments.