The War on Christmas is nothing compared to the War on Hanukkah
With Thanksgiving behind us, America’s self-appointed guardians of Yuletide orthodoxy — Sarah Palin and Fox News Channel, among others — are now ready to raise the volume in their annual campaign of complaints against what they see as the War on Christmas.
But wait! What’s this?
Why, it’s a Jewish guy, Andy Ostroy, who SAYS the war in his town is against Hanukkah rather than Christmas:
If there’s a war on Christmas it’s certainly news to me. I live in New York, a city with more Jews per square inch than anywhere in the world except Israel. Yet this time of year it might as well be Vatican City given the sheer volume of Christmas zeal and excess. There are Christmas tree stands everywhere. Wreaths. Tinsel. Bells. Christmas music. We’re inundated with red and green. With people beaming “Merry Christmas!” Asking “what are you doing for Christmas?” And, “what did you get your kids for Christmas?”
It’s rare to find blue and white, the colors of Hanukkah. Strain the eyes and you might find a small menorah somewhere. No one wanders the streets, the office, retail shops wishing strangers a “Happy Hanukkah!” Strangers don’t ask me what I’m doing for Hanukkah, or what I’m getting the kids for Hanukkah. What’s even worse than the relative obscurity of Hanukkah is the almost non-existence of Kwanzaa-related paraphernalia. It’s all Christmas, all the time. If there’s a “war on Christmas” taking place, it’s the most lame war in the history of wars.
I dread this time of year. I dread it because I’m a Jew floating in a sea of religious insensitivity. I live in a country where many fight for school prayer, provided it’s their religion’s scripture. Where people fight to allow religious symbols in public spaces, provided the symbols belong to their chosen faith. Where people ask “what’s wrong with retailers posting ‘Merry Christmas’ signs in their windows?” But can they imagine how Jews feel then? If Christians are uncomfortable with the generic “Happy Holidays,” guess how Jews feel seeing the very non-secular “Merry Christmas” everywhere we turn. And this is New York I’m referring to. Imagine how Jews feel this time of year in remote places like Laurel, Mississippi. Or Bute, Montana. Or Amarillo, Texas.
To be perfectly honest, I love Christmas. Always have. Ever since I was a 10-year-old racing to my pal Phil’s building to open his presents with him and his family. I do not hate or resent this beautiful holiday. What I resent is being told that, unless I want it incessantly crammed down my Jewish throat for 30+ days each year, that I’m waging a war against it. That because I want Christians to respect me and my beliefs it is somehow disrespectful, confrontational and offensive to pious folks like Palin.
To be sure, there are millions of Jews who secretly wish they could celebrate Christmas, and perhaps millions more who’ve actually crossed the line of assimilation to buy trees, “do their Christmas shopping” for their Jewish friends and family, and pretend for a few days that they’re no different than the 99% of the rest of the world. They want to “belong.”
And the truth is, Christmas is a much sexier holiday than Hanukkah. Gentiles have Santa Claus, Rudolph, trimmed trees and apple pie. We have a menorah, a dreidel and latkes. They have White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street and A Charlie Brown Christmas. We have Shalom Sesame: Chanukah Special, Chanukah on Planet Matzoh Ball and Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights. They have the most celebrated holiday in the world, where an estimated $3-trillion is spent on shopping, and we have, well, our little Hanukkah.
So to my Christian friends, and especially to the war-weary Mama Grizzly up in Alaska, I assure you that no one wants to take away Christmas. And no one certainly is waging a war against it. Those of us who happen to be Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or atheist simply want you to enjoy your holiday merriment while accepting and respecting our chosen faith (or lack thereof) and realize that celebration this time of year comes in many colors, or perhaps no color at all.