There are loads and loads of Christmas-themed posts popping up on my Reader this month, and it is nice to see the joy of all those who celebrate Christmas get into the holiday spirit. I delight in visiting friend’s homes and looking at all of their cheery Christmas trees and decorations.
Maybe this post is a gentle reminder that there are lots of people out there who don’t celebrate Christmas, and that is okay, too.
Because what really gets me, and drives me batty sometimes, is the idea that I am somehow missing out on things because I don’t celebrate this holiday. Some people don’t understand how insulting that is!
I am agnostic, and my husband is Jewish. We are raising our daughter Jewish, so we are a Jewish family. And I can’t tell you how many times during the month of December, each year, we have to deal with some variation of a kind-hearted gesture rooted in ignorance. Or sometimes, just plain rudeness.
Such as the neighbor who, every single year, drops off an Advent calendar for my daughter, with the following remark, “I know there’s the Christian thing and all, but I don’t want her to feel left out.” My mother-in-law was visiting during this scenario last week, to which she responded, “Do you know how insulting that is to a Jewish person? We don’t have a ‘Christian thing’ or a ‘Christian problem’. We’re just not Christian.” Oy vey.
Or, the “Where’s your Elf on the Shelf/Christmas Tree/Christmas outfit/Picture with Santa? I don’t understand why you can’t do that, its cultural, not religious!” Umm…okay. The average Jewish person isn’t too interested in celebrating a holiday on a regular basis that is a part of someone else’s religion. Jews don’t do Christmas. Muslims don’t do Christmas. Buddhists don’t do Christmas.
Of course, Jewish families can now buy this:
Mensch: a person of integrity and honor. We’ve passed on the Elf on the Shelf replacement toy, LOL.
Then there was the time I was berated for wishing someone Happy Holidays. Apparently, it was rude not to say “Merry Christmas”. Hmm…interesting take on things. I am not offended when someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas” – I usually just nod politely and continue on my way – but suddenly, I’m rude if I don’t say it in return?
Or the time that our Chanukah flag was stolen from our front yard, and swastikas were graffitied on the street sign. That is certainly not embracing the holiday spirit for anyone.
And when M was younger, the constant refrain, “Doesn’t she believe in Santa Claus?” Followed closely by, “I certainly hope she doesn’t ruin it for the other kids!” comments. Those are the worst. For the record, M is going on 9 years of keeping that secret from her Santa-believing friends, as we ingrained into her long ago that Santa is a very important tradition for many of her friends, and we should respect their beliefs and traditions.
One of the weirdest things I’ve heard in response to my lack of Christmas celebrations is, “But Christmas is not about religion!” I think my devout Christian friends would take issue with that perspective! As would some of my Wiccan and other pagan friends. Considering the holiday was co-opted from pagan celebrations!
Our family personally does not inflate Chanukah, a minor holiday, to Christmas levels. Others do, and that is totally cool, too. Instead of exchanging a large number of gifts (8 nights!), we choose to spend time with each other doing various activities: board game night, movie night, and latke making night are just a few of the things that we do during Chanukah.
I have been accused of not being able to get into the holiday spirit. Quite the opposite, I take great joy in sharing our family traditions with those who are genuinely interested in learning about them. As I do in sharing in the holiday traditions of our diverse group of friends and family.
For those who celebrate Christmas, it is seen as a time to be kind and generous. To contribute to peace on Earth. A great way for a person to do that would be to open their mind to experiences that are different from their own. Take the time to appreciate and learn about the diversity that surrounds you!
And for those who sincerely wonder what a Jewish family does on Christmas Day when everything is closed? I can’t speak for all Jews, but for us, that week of December is often filled with a lot of: movies, Chinese food, binge book reading, board games, Legos, hot cocoa and cookies, and a lot of chillaxing. It’s delightful. And certainly not anything to be pitied (yes…we get that, too!).
Now that you have a glimpse into what a December looks like for this family, here is a list of various holidays that are celebrated in December around the world! As you can see, December is about so much more than Christmas, and I always love to learn more about the diverse holidays celebrated on this beautiful planet. And if I have the incorrect information for anything below, please let me know!
December Holidays Around the World
- November 27 – December 24 – Advent. The season of spiritual preparation in observance of the birth of Jesus. In Western Christianity it begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. In Eastern Christianity, the season is longer and begins in the middle of November.
- December 8 – Bodhi Day. The Buddhist holiday that commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Siddartha Gautama, attained enlightenment.
- December 10 – International Human Rights Day. Established by the United Nations in 1948 to commemorate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Sundown, December 11 – Sundown December 12 (dates may vary slightly) – Eid Milad Un Nabi (Mawlid). An Islamic celebration of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.
- December 12 – Feast Day at Our Lady of Gaudalupe. A Catholic holiday in honor of Jesus’ mother Mary.
- December 16 – 24: Las Posadas. A religious festival celebrated in Mexico that commemorates the journey made by Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
- December 21 – Yule/Winter Solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere). A pagan celebration on the shortest day of the year that focuses on rebirth, renewal and new beginnings as the sun makes its way back to the earth.
- Sundown, December 24 – Sundown, January 1 – Chanukah. The Festival of Lights, an 8-day Jewish holiday recognizing the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
- December 25 – Christmas.
- December 26 – January 1 – Kwanzaa. An African-American and Pan-African holiday started by Maulana Karenga in 1966. It is a celebration of community, family, culture, and heritage.
This is a great post! While I absolutely love Christmas (as anyone who has been to my blog or Twitter account in the past few weeks would know hahaha), it’s definitely important to be respectful and understanding of differences in cultural/religious/etc. traditions. Christmas with my family is a bit strange because my dad and I are atheists so it lacks any religious meaning for us and my aunt and her mom are both Jewish, but everyone (from my dad’s family) still gets together and we celebrate a strange sort of mix of Christmas and Hanukkah, haha. It’s ridiculous to me how many people seem totally outraged by the thought that not everyone celebrates or cares about Christmas or even that people might celebrate it in a less traditional way! It’s really not that difficult to be accepting of different religions and cultures.
Thank you! Your ‘Christmakkuh’ sounds like fun. I don’t get the outrage either, especially when it presents itself as anger against a red Starbucks cup, or some other such nonsense.
Don’t even get me started on that Starbucks nonsense hahaha
As Kourtni said, this post is great! =)
I’m eternally astonished and enraged by the fact that there are people out there who genuinely believe there’s a “war on Christmas” just because (a) not everyone celebrates it, and (b) stores and restaurants and schools (etc) reflect that fact that not everyone celebrates it (by having signs that say Happy Holidays, or hold Winter Dances, and so on). I’m so sorry to hear that you have a neighbor who thinks he knows what’s best for your daughter, and that you’re surrounded by this kind of idiocy in general.
But three cheers for cozying up with your family and enjoying a day together! My husband and I are atheists (though raised in low-key Christian families), and we spend the day in pretty much the same way: board games and hot drinks (though with a small end-of-year present or two thrown in). It’s perfect for us.
Thank you for sharing this! Normalizing experiences other than the Christian one is vital, and it’s important to remind people to be mindful of how they go about spreading their personal holiday cheer. =)
Thank you, your words are so kind! You also make some very excellent points. Your last remark is exactly why I wanted to write this post, from a non-Christian perspective. I will say though, we aren’t completely surrounded by idiocy! For every person that is ignorant, there are 20 others that are awesome! I just highlighted the negative folks in this post, but they are definitely outnumbered by the good ones.
It’s a relief to hear you’re not swarmed with awful people! Even a couple is a couple too many, but better than thousands. 🙂
I can understand the motivation behind some of the comments – a desire to be inclusive and spread good cheer for example. But they also seem rather insensitive because they question your own faith and make it feel like its not as important as the faith of the person making the comments.
Omg, I love the Mensch on the Bench! That’s adorable. I was raised by my Catholic mother and Jewish father, and we weren’t Christian or Jewish: we were “Christmas.” That’s it.
We tried Hanukkah once and since my dad never really was good at celebrating ANYTHING, he botched it. My mom converted when she married my dad, but converted back to Catholicism when they got divorced. Then she got all on the Jesus train. But before that, it was Santa. I remember one year when it was just my dad and I (my mom was gone off on another of her adventures), and my dad made the eggs for my Easter Egg hunt, and she decorated one…it said Jewish Egg, and I thought the Easter Bunny was cool with my dad! I felt so special!
Love this post! Thanks for sharing! 😊😊😊
omg, a Jewish Easter Egg! What a sweet story.
I loved him for that! I hoped you’d like it! 😊