We Wish You A Merry Christmas... or not
Last week, I got an email from a company I did some business with on behalf of a Jewish client earlier this year. The email included a Merry Christmas greeting.
In truth, since I moved to Israel, I don’t deal with more than a tiny fraction of the overwhelming Christmas atmosphere that plagues many Jews in the US. Ironically, on a short trip last week to northern Israel, where there is a sizeable number of Christian Arabs, I ran into a few Santas and Christmas trees. But in the Jerusalem area where I live, I hardly ever encounter any of the symbols of Christmas.
So when I got this email, I found it jarring. First of all, my client has a very Jewish-sounding name, so it was weird to see a graphic that announced “Merry Christmas Jewish Community Relations Council”. That’s not the actual name of my client, but you get the idea.
My first instinct was to be annoyed. Is it not hubris (also known as chutzpah) to assume that everyone celebrates Christmas? I thought that I ought to respond to their email with a quick note explaining that their assumption that a Merry Christmas greeting would be welcomed was inaccurate and reminding them that not everyone celebrates Christmas.
I wasn’t sure that my first impulse was the best way to go, so I posted the following on Facebook: Question for my Jewish friends. If a business you’ve done business with over the past year sent you a Merry Christmas email, would you try to raise some consciousness or just let it go?
The post generated 100 comments and the vast, vast majority of Jews who responded thought that the best course of action was to let it go.
At least one comment raised the idea that responding with any kind of correction might lead to antisemitism. As if antisemitism will cease if we don't prickle when we're wished a Merry Christmas.
I felt that some commenters rebuked me for even considering responding.
Of course I recognize that there are bigger problems in the world and important things to accomplish. I don't see how that invalidates a concern over this particular issue.
I was, to be perfectly honest, gobsmacked by how many Jews felt that there was absolutely no point in responding. Obviously, among 100 comments, there were a few who agreed with my thought that is was worthwhile to remind the vendor that Christmas in not a universal holiday. But most Jews expressed their opinion that the best course of action was to ignore it.
There was a similar thread in a Facebook group in which I participate. The original post in that group was from a woman who isn’t Jewish but who, after learning about its pagan roots, no longer celebrates Christmas. She expressed frustration about how to respond to those who wish her a Merry Christmas. The responses there were even stronger than what my post drew.
On yet another thread about the same topic, one particularly witty comment warned against the temptation to respond harshly.
At the end of the day, I didn’t respond to the original sender of the insensitive email. But I still think I should find a sensitive and respectful way of letting them know that, while there are 2.2 billion Christians in the world, there are approximately 5.33 billion other people in the world for whom Christmas is not a holiday.
And some of them are their very own customers.
Feel free to comment below if you have something to say on this issue.
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