I remember how important the holiday was to Nanny, the first and best Christian I ever loved, and think about how happy and excited people are at this time of year, and it’s an easy thing to toss out as I’m getting off a bus, leaving a store, or speaking to a friend.
And then, usually, they toss one right back: “Merry Xmas!” Just like we do on yom tov, of course. And it’s nice, and friendly, and it makes me happy, coming from strangers, simply because strangers aren’t usually as nice as they can be at this time of year.
But if people know I’m Jewish – and happen to remember what that means – it can really throw them for a loop.
If they remember, they kind of do a double-take and eventually say back, “Happy Chanukah!” Which is nice, except for the fact that Chanukah is long over, and won’t be back ‘till next year.
“Happy Holidays!” is supposed to be a nice, generic version of the greeting, except I don’t have any holidays. We may get a statutory day off (though, actually, we don’t – Ted works holidays and the kids’ schools are open), but that doesn’t make it a holiday.
Since we don’t celebrate New Year’s, and Tu b’Shvat is probably not what they’re referring to, there simply ARE no upcoming holidays on which I could possibly be happy.
So what’s the nice, thoughtful thing to say back, if a Jew wishes you “Merry Xmas”?
How about “thanks”? That’s what I say, regardless of what people are wishing me. And that’s what Xmas-people can say back to their Jewish friends.
I promise, I’m not jealous of your holiday, and I really don’t want to appropriate your “holiday season.” It’s like birthdays: sometimes it’s my turn, sometimes it’s your turn.
I had mine back in September with a month of amazing festivals. Now, it’s your turn… so enjoy!