Saturday, November 21, 2009

A word on "holiday" cards, or, why I don't do Christmas

Last night of Hanukah...

Because I've already gotten a couple of "holiday" cards (can you believe it??!? so early) and one query from a young writer about pen pal Christmas gifts, I feel it's most timely to reiterate this on me blog.

I'm Jewish.

I don't do Christmas.

At all.

In any way, shape or form.

No, we don't have a Hannukkah bush, or any other such substitution. And Hanukkah isn't even a major Jewish holiday, it's just kind of become the Christmas substitute in our modern culture. (My family lights candles on Hanukkah, but we don't believe in the obligatory gift-giving that's been tacked on to the holiday in a Christmas imitation. If you do the Hanukkah-gift routine, more power to you, but it's not my thing.)

I will never tell someone not to send me a card with any good wishes or warm sentiments. If you feel compelled to put my name on your holiday card list, by all means, knock yourself out. But please don't be offended when I don't send a card back. I don't do holiday cards, of any sort. If you write an actual letter with the card, then of course I will respond to the letter. But if you're tight on postage, or making decisions on who does or doesn't get a holiday card from you this year - by all means, cross me off the list!

And please know that anything heavily religious will just kind of creep me out.

Thanks for bearing with me through this pre-emptive rant.


  1. well I am with you , we dont celebrate christmas at all either and Im not jewish . LOL !!!Why is it in the christian world you tell ppl you dont celebrate christmas they just assume that it is weird ? It is not weird some ppl just prefer not to celebrate christmas !!!

  2. You said it very well Missive Maven. I'm with you on this. We do, however, go to my niece's home, where she lights many chanakiot. They've all been given to her by her husband who is a Mormon. Plus, she makes the BEST potato latkes, using the recipe from Hi Monkey!

  3. Right on, Mim.

    Mmmm.... Latkes.... I'm starting to get a serious craving now!!

  4. Also, Chanukah is my favorite holiday ever. I'm such a grinch about Christmas. It feels so fake to send out all these cards of well-wishes when you don't care about these people most of the year.


    Sadly, I can't celebrate Chanukah *again* because I don't have a menorah of my own and my last day of exams are Dec. 21. Thanks for screwing Jewish people over AGAIN, dear school.

    (I should note that I supposedly 'celebrate' Christmas too... I'm only half-Jewish and really not religious, but my family 'does' both holidays.)

    Okay now, for the nonpartisan... HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Woo hoo I get a break with food!

  5. I don't celebrate holidays, although I like kids in costumes at Halloween, Christmas lights (I even put them up in my own house... we balance tacky and classy... hard balance, but we manage), and I love having paid days off from work. I get antsy when Christmas rolls around and end up writing a paragraph or two in October mail to correspondents who I've only started writing to within the year letting them know I don't celebrate Christmas. I often wonder when people just send Christmas cards without knowing for sure the recipient celebrates... that seems rude to me. I am fine with snowy wintery greetings, though. I love snowmen... have a lovely collection I drag out every November. By January I'm wondering what the heck I was thinking ;-)

  6. Send me your address and I'll send you a Chanukah Card. I'm whinendine on Swap Bot or Denise Jo. I'm also on Flickr.

    And mmmm.. Potato Latkes, brisket, bow ties and kasha, Not that's good eating...

  7. Denise - my address is right there in the sidebar.

  8. It seems sort of rude to me, too, to just send someone a card without knowing whether they celebrate the holidays or not. Well, not exactly "rude," but, just not a great idea, I guess. :) I don't send holiday cards (for any holiday, not just Christmas) to anyone unless I'm absolutely sure they celebrate that holiday.

  9. Hanukkah bush?? They really sell those?? XD Also, no need to apologize about the "rant" -- I thought of it more as a fair warning for those who get heavily enthused about Christmas and the card-sending spirit. (I plan to send snark-ified holiday cards to my pen pals, but that's the extent of my "Christmas spirit". I know, I'm bad...)

  10. I send out 'Season's Greetings' cards that have absolutely no religious context. Growing up the celebration of Xmas had nothing to do with religion since we weren't religious. It was just about a tree with a bunch of presents under it. Not a peep about Christ. We put a tree and all my ornaments are just memories of visits and friends - like the holiday sea otter from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. When I was going out with a Jewish BF it took until about the 3rd year when he finally accepted that seriously - I didn't believe in jesus and just like a nice scented pine tree in my living room. And yeah, we didn't make too much a deal about Hannukah either since you are right - it isn't considered that big a holiday especially to adults.

  11. I agree with you on that one Missive. I don't do Christmas presents myself as I would rather have stuff arrive all year from the people I love. Greedy I guess.

    Not sure I'm really looking forward to the REAL wall inbox filling with Christmas stuff when it's usually full of really cool artworks and things.

    But I couldn't have said it better myself, if people want to send greetings of the season to me then it would go up on the wall as usual

  12. More power to you!
    I know how it is to have to explain; try explaining to someone why you don't do Haloween because your Christian...

    Most people don't celibrate Christmas anyway, they worship some guy in a red suit. And throwing money around. ;)

    We do small gifts for close friends and family, a tree 'cause its a purty sparkly tradition, and a simple Church Christmas service. But we don't buy into all the national secular crap..

    But I digress, and commend you for standing up for your preferences, and not just following along.

    Since my cards are about the Real Christmas, the religous birth of Christ, not wanting to offend, I'll for-go sending one.

    I will say though, Best Wishes For You And Yours In The New Year!

    Reminds me, I need to send a letter your way. :)


  13. AlaskanWriter, thank you for your very thoughtful comments.

  14. I think in my last letter to you I wished you a happy Christmas, not realizing you were Jewish so I do apologize for any offense it may have caused. But, I also don't think anyone is purposely being rude or offensive when extending a holiday greeting that turns out to be inappropriate for someone else's religion. But it is short sighted and perhaps ignorant so I appreciate the reminder to be more aware with people in the future. I suppose the only politically correct thing to do if one doesn't know a person's religion is to not extend any kind of holiday greeting at all this time of year so as not to offend anyone.

    I agree with Alaskan Writer about Halloween. We don't do that holiday at all and people just don't get it.

  15. Cindy - thanks for your thoughtful comments. One of the more challenging things about being Jewish (and I suspect, about being any minority religion, or atheist) is simply the assumption, made by others, that you share their beliefs. I know no one is being deliberately offensive when they say Merry Christmas, but I do try to view it as an opportunity to raise a little consciousness on religious assumptions. It is one thing not to realize someone is Jewish (or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist or atheist), but I think there are subtle and complex differences to take it as far as therefore assuming someone is Christian. However - here I have learned a lot from all my wonderful blog reader comments, because I had pretty much considered Halloween to be a secular holiday of spooky fun, and clearly that was an incorrect assumption on my part. I hadn't considered that my assumption that everyone celebrated (or recognized) Halloween could be just as incorrect as the assumption that everyone celebrates Christmas. Interesting lesson learned. Actually, that's not entirely correct that I didn't know that somewhere in my brain - I'm fairly sure I was dimly aware that some more observant Jews don't celebrate Halloween. But I allowed my own love of that holiday to override my thoughtfulness about it, which I regret. It's my blog, I celebrate Halloween, I'm going to continue to make a big to-do about it here, but I'll think twice before wishing Happy Halloween to someone else personally without knowing their level of involvement in that holiday.

    To address another point you made, I'm sure there are a variety of opinions out there, but I personally find Happy Holidays to be a fine greeting of the season - certainly New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are secular holidays, and everyone observes them to the extent that we all change the secular/business calendar year then. So Happy Holidays pretty much covers it for me.

    I could open up a can of worms by noting that we Jews have our own calendar - it's 5770 but I admit I don't follow that and had to look it up - as do Muslims, for whom the Islamic calendar year is currently 1430, at least until the evening of December 17. (Yep, I looked that up, too.) There may well be other calendar years for other religions, too...

    It's all delightfully complicated, but the dialogue is fun!

  16. I love the holidays, mostly because I get into doing homey things and listening to fabulous music. Actually, I listen to some celtic christmas music year round because I like it. I send holiday cards because I like to let folks know I'm thinking about them, without reservation or expecting one in return. However, I'm fed up with those who wield the, "I'm such a holy person and christmas is all about the birth of Christ." The last midnight mass I went to, 17 years ago, was with a month old newborn and a 3 year old. Did anyone in that church offer me a seat? No! I sat on the floor in the back of the church, indeed feeling there was no room in the inn and that all these folks completely forgot the whole point. Hurray for you doing what you like this time of year. You show more charity for others with your personal letters than many who go through the motions of holiday celebrations.

  17. Thanks for your post! We celebrate the seven biblical feasts and none of the secular ones. I cringe when the first carols start playing in the stores and hope that the "season" passes quickly. We really enjoyed our winter last year since we were free of Halloween,Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, since we were living in Costa Rica! There is nothing wrong with Thanksgiving, but when you eat kosher (or as close as you can get in this day...)eating at the Mother-in-law's table with the pork roast, bacon in the beans, etc. makes for an uncomfortable situation when they are offended by the fact that you have peas and sliced tomatoes on your plate! I guess it hasn't sunk in that we aren't *ever* going to give in and eat like "normal" people. Anyway, we light the candles for the Festival of Lights but don't celebrate it in any other way. Our big celebration is Sukkot, where we live in "booths" for 8 days and have a ball, eating drinking dancing and worshiping. It was great! I didn't mean to talk your ear off...I just take my hat off to you and say Shalom!

  18. Well I definitely do Christmas but not for the religious elements (they have been completely lost!) But I do think it is very strange to send people whom you don't talk to all year a crappy Christmas card! I write letters myself and they are more of yearly updates for family members who live far away.

  19. Wow. I applaud your "I don't do Christmas" statement..and feel a bit of a sisterhood with those who expressed the same philosophy.
    Some time ago, I began to be very honest with my true emotions about Christmas. I had to admit that even as a child it all felt pressurized, insincere, and all the shopping, commercials, and goofy outdated songs seemed to have very little to do with the actual birth of the Holy Child. (This I respect, I cannot say I know it all to be true for certain, but I genuinely hope that it is.)
    So, one year, I put my foot down and QUIT Christmas- every last detail of it. Everyone said I couldn't do it. They tried to guilt me into coming back by buying me things, they sent me cards, they called me. "You HAVE to be in the gift exchange. It's CHRISTMAS!"
    Soon, when all the rig-a-ma-role was left to my husband to deal with. (It was all my responsability in the past) He quit, too.
    We have never been happier. No pressure. When we want something we buy it. Each one wants to see the other one happy..all year, all the time.
    We stand back and watch everyone else go mad.
    "ONLY 22 SHOPPING DAYS LEFT" We just smile and relax. Even if you can't quit, you should at least treat yourself to a break from it one year'll find out new things about your self and the people around you;-)

  20. I do Winter Solstice cards. No matter what your religion, if you're in the Northern Hemisphere, your days start getting longer. More light is nice! It has nothing to do with religion.
    Religious historians agree that Christ was actually probably born sometime in September, anyhow. The date of the celebration was moved to more easily override the winter solstice celebrations of the time. And most of the Christmas customs were from older belief systems and cultures, as well. So Christian mythology simply builds on the older mythologies and incorporates what is finds useful, as is not uncommon when cultural traditions are superimposed on older ones.
    But I love to make prints, so I do a solstice print and use that for my cards. And I recently discovered the Fountain Pen Network, and lots of really cool inks! The one Iroshizuku ink I got is Syo-Ro, and I agree, Missive, it *is* great ink!

  21. He he. This post made me laugh.I'm not Jewish but I know what you are talking about. My upbringing is Christian but hardly so and I find the holidays to be more commercial than anything else. But, I do get into making decorations out of cheap materials when I have time. And, I do like making cards out of all the refuse. It is the least that I can do with all of the waste.
    Can I at least wish you a wonderful new year?
    mad madge

  22. Thanks for the post. Every year there is at least two people that ask me what I "do" for Christmas. Since I'm Jewish I reply that I don't celebrate the holiday and they are just in awe. So you're not having a big dinner? So you didn't get your kids anything for Christmas. I tell them that I am doing the same exact thing that they are going to do on Purim. That's not true since we go out for chinese food every Dec 25!

  23. I am going to say what I always say, it's only as commercial as you make it! There is a lot of bigotry on here. That makes me very sad.

  24. Sandy, I don't understand your comment. I am not protesting commercialism, as I don't celebrate Christmas in any form. As for bigotry, I'm not following that either. In general, or on this blog post?

  25. Hey, I love your post. I'm Jewish as well and don't mind the occasional Christmas card from a well-meaning friend but would rather not get a religious-themed card. I tend to be quiet about my beliefs and observances on the net so I've never been quite this outspoken about it. Gutless I guess.
    Here's to latkes and menorahs!
    If I run across a cute Hannukah card I may send you one anyhow. :)

  26. I'm just gonna celebrate Festivus and call it good..

  27. I think only a tolerant person accepts Christmas cards no matter her/his religious beliefs! By sending Christmas cards people don't want to force Christianity on others but just to show that they care or remember! I wouldn't mind getting "Eid" or "Hannukah" card myself! Buddiths, Muslims are just grateful for the card and even send their own back! I guess the Jews are not like this!

  28. Wow. I think that's all I can say right now.

  29. Wow, is right. Anonymous needs to look up the definition of "tolerant."

  30. Or Anonymous' IP needs to be looked up and reported to his or her ISP for racist comments. Ugh.

    1. No, I decided to approve the comment as a reminder that such attitudes are still out there. I won't be looking up any IP addresses, but I hope anonymous is more ignorant than racist.

    2. Ok, now I am the ignorant one - why would someone "need" to be reported for making racist comments? (Though Anonymous's comments seem more like ignorant assumptions than racist.)

      By US law, is it illegal to be ignorant?
      Or illegal to be racist?
      Isn't there an amendment to the constitution protecting free speech in the US? Or does Melissa classify this as a hate crime.... ugh. So confused.

    3. No, Carrie, nothing needs to be reported. It is entirely legal in the USA to be racist and ignorant - so-called free country and all.

    4. Carrie, it's true that people are as welcome to be as ignorant and racist as they want, but it's usually in an ISP's Terms of Service that you not use their service to do so. In my frustration with dealing with exceptionally ignorant and racist people lately, I've been wishing there was more one could do besides let their ignorance be its own punishment, and having a comment with an IP address linked to it seemed like a fine time to finally get a tiny measure of righteous justice. I'd at least want to know if it was someone with whom I correspond. However, if our Maven doesn't wish to, she doesn't have to.

      I classified them as racist comments because they single out one Jewish person's preference as representative of all Jewish people, and for saying Jews are not being "grateful" like the Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims. (Apparently this person has also met all the Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims in the world.)

      I think we can all tell that if the commenter chose to make inappropriate comments anonymously, though, that this person recognizes the ignorant nature of them and knows to not have their name publicly associated with them.

      And more importantly, I think we can all tell that Missive Maven has a cooler, more zen head on her shoulders than I do. ;)

    5. Wow! This is such an interesting batch of reading! I love seeing how different people interpret Christmas. I personally love to be thought of with ANY kind of card--religious, secular, Christmas, ANY OTHER HOLIDAY...I don't think Jewish people sending me a Hannukah card means they're trying to force their beliefs on me. I think they're sharing what they like or believe with me. I'd rather get ANY kind of card (well, almost) than none. And as for Christmas--I kind of believe what someone said in that it's only as commercial as you want it to be. And I'm a person who usually dislikes Christmas, but that's because I have bad memories as a kid of not getting anything for a year or two. But why can't we ALL just have more holidays to enjoy, rather than making an issue about being offended by what other people like? Want to wish me a Happy Kwanza? Thank you! I'll take all the well-wishing I can get.