My annual rant about Christmas at work


Last year, the most commented-on post here was Five Things People Say about Christmas that Drive Me Nuts. And the year before that, the piece that made the most newspaper editors cancel my column was, Christmas at the Office is Bad for Diversity.

In general, my point on the Christmas stuff is that religious holidays don't belong at work, and that people who don't celebrate Christmas should not be forced to use one of their religious holidays on Christmas. Why do I use a floating holiday for Yom Kippur and no one uses a floating holiday for Christmas? It's preferential religious treatment and there is no reason for it when you can give each employee x number of days off to use as he or she chooses.

Before you complain about this line of reasoning, please click on the links and read the posts I linked to above. Then you can argue.

I know that you guys have a lot to say about Christmas, not just because of the comments these posts receive, but also because over the years I have found that for the most part, Christians comment publicly, and Jews send private emails to me.

And this is, of course, the root of the problem. Christmas is totally Christian and totally religious and the Christians love to debate this point and the Jews think it is absolutely not debatable but the Jews never speak up because we feel we are just lucky to be where we are in the United States — doing very well, in general — given our history of being economically and culturally trampled for most of the last 2000 years. (I am not linking to this. Look it up at or something.)

So I am thinking that this year I'll turn my Christmas rant into a poll, and then maybe the people who are used to being publicly silent on this topic will speak up, by voting. (For those of you reading this post via email, the poll is on the sidebar of my blog.)

And, since there will be discussion in the comments section as well, here are some starting points:

1. Please do not tell me that this is a Christian country. Commenters say this every year. It is factually incorrect. And I know you know this from sixth-grade civics.

2. Please do not tell me that I am ruining the Christmas spirit. Will you please get a life? One, single, Jewish blogger does not impact the Christmas spirit. Do you want to know who is stealing Jesus from Christmas? Check out the department store windows in New York City (which, by the way, are phenomenal, and they are one of the things I miss since I moved away from NYC).

3. Please consider the idea that progressive companies come up with good ways to accommodate many religions. How about if we discuss possible solutions?

230 replies
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  1. Angie
    Angie says:

    Maybe next year instead of ranting against Christmas, you could write more about Chanukah. Share the positive. Or, at the very least, you could try a respectful tone.

  2. Steve
    Steve says:

    Christmas is an American Holiday like the 4th of July and Thanksgiving in addition to being a Religious Holiday for some (Most). Since it is a national holiday this is why most people get the day off. I also work with people from India on a regular basis and they have holidays that we do not reconigize or celebrate here in the United States. We are aware of their holidays and they are aware of ours since we count on each other to get the work done. I doubt very much that workers are concerned about having a holiday. If my employer started to give us a paid holiday on Yom Kippur or any other holiday you wouldn’t get any complaints from me or any one else in the office. Sorry, I just don’t see workers getting one day off out of 365 per year being enough of a problem to hold a diversity council over it. How about we talk about Martin Luther King Day or Election Day instead? Merry Christmas!

    • Lane
      Lane says:

      To me, Christmas is a family holiday. It isn’t religious at all. But then again, I don’t call it Christmas – I call it the holiday season. If you think of it in terms of general “holiday” much like “required vacation”, it becomes less annoying. I send cards, put up a tree, give gifts and make an effort to see my family. Because that is what it is about.

      This time of the year, for whatever religion/tradition, is a time when people get together to share and spend time with each other. I spent a long time being resentful of the religious implications, but frankly, the commercial implications bother me even more these days.

      Personally, I feel the religious AND the commercial aspects have gotten old and purposeless. It feels more like a duty than a genuine time to share with each other. Removing religious and commercial parts makes this holiday something available for everyone.

    • Kathy Davies
      Kathy Davies says:

      Christmas is NOT an American holiday. The 4th of July is a celebration of American freedom; Thanksgiving is a celebration of the fall harvest in America. These are *specifically* American holidays. Christmas, as you know, has absolutely nothing to do with America and everything to do with Christ. It is celebrated world-wide, of course, while the other 2 holidays you mention are, of course, not.

      I agree, by the way, about the whole Christmas debate here. I work for a public K-12 school system and we get 2 weeks that center around Christmas, while students have to miss school (which counts against the in many ways) for any non-Christian holiday. As a staff member and a Christian, I enjoy the 2 weeks, but I realize that it is entirely biased against my Jewish friends, and my other, non-Christian religious friends. I’m in the South…many people here would prefer to have a week off to celebrate the Ga/Fla or AL/Auburn games. :)

    • Cap'n P
      Cap'n P says:

      Christmas is an American holiday? What? Christmas is based on the myth that a virgin gave birth to the only child born without sin. Think about that. Your unborn child is considered to be a sinner the second he or she is born! This impossible event has since been seized upon by corporate mongrels. Yeah, enjoy Christmas but don’t start giving someone a hard time because they happen to have an alternate view.

  3. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Maybe you should focus on the positive instead of the negative and if you can’t find anything positive about Christmas then maybe you shouldn’t be talking about it at all.

    Your annual rants about your feeling on Christmas are getting old!

  4. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    Lighten up and enjoy the beautiful lights and the general better natures of the people around you AND the general slow down at work. That’s what I do. Is it really SO awful to end the year on a slow and quiet note of good will?
    If you feel left out of the traditions, make your own.

  5. Norcross
    Norcross says:

    As someone who ‘celebrates’ Christmas, but isn’t Christian at all, I think the entire holiday has become a gray area. I work in finance, so I have the day off simply because the stock market is closed. (I also get Washington’s birthday, so that’s a push.). It’s also 80 degrees where I live right now, so there isn’t much in way of that ‘holiday’ feel.

    I think it comes down to how the office celebrates the holiday. If there are numerous religious references, group prayers, etc than it certainly crosses the line. But if it’s more of a simple, all-inclusive celebration that doesn’t get too specific other than the shape of cookies, than it isn’t a big deal.

  6. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    PS – The fact is the vast majority of people in the US celebrate some form of Chrsitmas and will be taking the day, if no the week off. It’s not cost-effective for offices to reamin open (providing heat, lights, and maintenance and security staff [who probably want off too]) for the very few folks who might be tempted to come into the office, knowing no one else will be there.
    SERIOUSLY P, get over it and find a way to enjoy or relax.

  7. TA
    TA says:

    I’d rather hear more about Jewish holidays than rants like these.

    Since a majority of the country celebrates Christmas (whether they are Christian or not…), it makes good business sense to close. It may not in a “consulting” company like yours, but to most businesses it does. That’s reality. It’s somewhat concerning that this is not inherently obvious to a career consultant.

    As an agnostic from a family of agnostics, I celebrate Christmas as a time with family and of good will. Don’t know why so many other non-Christians seem to have such a tough time with this concept.

  8. Dale
    Dale says:

    I think that Christmas represents more than just the birth of Christ (which did not occur on Dec. 25th, two thousand and nine years ago).
    The season that surrounds it is in my opinion a time for reflection and reconnection, both on an individual basis, and as a nation of individuals.
    The holiday part of it has become less and less important over the years, as I see more and more places remaining open during this time. Does this make our society better, or more culturally conscious? I don’t know, but I feel that we lose something with the commercialism, and the diminishing of this time, as a season of good will.


  9. Jimmy
    Jimmy says:

    Very good points, and I agree. However, I feel that the same business’s that would benefit from a more accomodating attitude, ultimately feel that they are more profitable with propogating a secularization of Christmas. There are other Christian holiday’s that are big revenue generators: St. Valintines Day, St. Patricks Day, Mardi Gras, that because of how they have been exploited and marketed, by various business’s and industries, have very secular overtones. The total secularization won’t happen overnight, but it’s been slowly happening for the last 60 years. Christmas used to be a more solemn holiday (which I guess can be said for many holidays – why do we need retail sales on MLK day?), and was never meant to be as in your face as it has become, but there’s money to be made from the inyourfaceiness (take that Colbert!), so unless that stops…change follows the money.

  10. Kera
    Kera says:

    First of all, I really like the idea of floating holidays, being able to take the time you need to practice your own religion.

    No, we don’t technically live in a “Christian nation,” but the majority of the country practices some form of Christianity. And even if a person/family is Agnostic or Atheist, there’s a good chance they still practice a secular form of Christmas (myself included). That being said, most people will request for that day off to be with their families. Even with a floating holiday plan implemented, there gets to be a point where it makes more sense to shut down for a day than to be ridiculously understaffed and asking those celebrating Christmas to come in for the day. You wouldn’t want to be asked to come in on Yom Kippur, would you? I realize that’s a generalization, and not all companies will have a Christian majority, and at that point a day off is trivial. Maybe some companies give the day off because of religious preference. Maybe some do it because of staffing. If it’s purely religious, then there’s a problem. But I see no problem in shutting down for a day if the majority of workers would be using one of their holidays.

    Finally, I disagree with the options you have set for your poll. I don’t have a strong inclination towards any of them, and I feel they have a tone of creating guilt in those celebrating Christmas.

  11. andy
    andy says:

    Thanks, I completely agree.

    It sucks having to be dragged through Christmas every year. All I get out of it is a day of vacation when everything is closed.

  12. Tom Parnell
    Tom Parnell says:

    The terms in which you phrase your poll, Penelope, are somewhat loaded and emotive. (As you are no doubt aware. I realise this isn’t a piece of statistically significant quantitative research.)

    That notwithstanding, I agree: Christianity should not be thus favoured.

    On the other hand, there are pragmatic reasons for universal closure in many instances. How many organisations could sustain Christmas Day opening? My own (a small independent school) couldn’t realistically open. Those such as myself (copywriting/design) whose work is not tied to the office location might choose to work from home — but many roles need to be *in* work to *do* work.

    That said, it’s by engaging in this kind of debate that we begin to challenge the status quo. If enough people challenge the assumption that people don’t want to work on Christmas Day, it becomes more likely that organisations may profitably remain open.

    Thought-provoking post as ever.

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      Christmas is a federal holiday and it is status quo. The United States is a very religiously diverse country. We should challenge the status quo if it isn’t ‘working’ in the workplace.
      The following was taken from the Wikipedia page on status quo (political usage section) which I thought was interesting –

      “Arguing to preserve the status quo is usually done in the context of opposing a large, often radical change. The social movement is a great example of the status quo being challenged. The term frequently refers to the status of a large issue, such as the current culture or social climate[1] of an entire society or nation.
      Politicians sometimes refer to a status quo. Often there is a policy of deliberate ambiguity, referring to the status quo rather than formalizing the status. An example of political ambiguity is the political status of Germany. Clark Kerr is reported to have said, “The status quo is the only solution that cannot be vetoed,” meaning that the status quo cannot simply be decided against; action must be taken if it is to change.
      Sometimes specific institutions are founded to actively maintain the status quo. The United Nations, for example, was intended to help solidify the peaceful international status quo that immediately followed World War II.
      In Israel, the term refers to an informal agreement conducted in 1947 between the secular leadership of the Zionist movement in Palestine and leaders of the Orthodox Jews, which created a framework for the establishment of the country. This agreement lays out ground rules for the relationship between state and religion in four major issues: Shabbat, education, Kashrut, and matrimonial law. It has been more or less maintained throughout the country’s existence.”
      And yes, there are many Jews that suffer in silence, so it’s good to hear you speak your mind here. As an Episcopalian, I celebrate Christmas. Yesterday I was doing my last minute Christmas shopping in the snow and ice. I was thinking I wanted to be the Grinch on the way home. :)

      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        Replying to my own comment – really just adding to it on the subject of status quo. I was reminded of this rant around 12/26 by a song (“The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby and the Range) I have on CD and heard while shopping on a store’s speaker system. Just getting around to posting it now. It’s a great song. I think the lyrics apply here – as well as the explicit reference it originally made to the American Civil Rights Movement (according to Wikipedia). A segment of the lyrics –
        “That’s just the way it is
        Some things will never change
        That’s just the way it is
        But don’t you believe them”
        Everybody has a rant.
        Everybody wants a voice.
        I still like your voice for the same reason as I did originally – it’s thought-provoking.

  13. Alan Wilensky
    Alan Wilensky says:


    You are so beautiful.

    I’m an ex-orthodox, semi practicing Jew. I am as sick of the Christmas gagfest as any sane Gentile might be – the constant music, workplace gift crap, over saturation, and commercialization that has hijacked what was once a legit religion (I assume at one time it was legit, before the common era). has a great radio documentary on how the American Christmas came to be – you know, over the top commercial and gift driven, etc.

    I am sick of having the goyim shove it down my throat, and my dear friends who are not Jewish are starting to get with the program and are starting to opt out (gotta love those Gentiles who have a ‘Yiddishe Kop’).

    Once spiritual gal pal of mine is a lapsed Baptist, said to me, “no more obligations to buy lists of gifts, to go into debt, to give people what they dont want or need, no more.”

    No more secret Santa at work (I’m glad I’m out of the cubicle world now), I’m with my Hindu and Sikh colleagues saying, “WTF? Why am I being asked to do this, I’m not down for this Christian crap”.

    Where did this overbuying and over-consumption on the Christian holiday come from? Listen to that TAL show and see. It was a holiday for the working class to get drunk.

    Remember: New years is 8 days after Christmas on the Roman Solar Calendar – what happens to Jewish males 8 days after their birth? Hands? Gentiles? Come on.

    On this 4th day of Chanukah, a real holiday for the whole world to celebrate religious freedom for all of G-ds children, no matter what religion, we can recall that a small band of Jewish Priests (insurgents) repelled the Syrian and Greek forces trying to subjugate the rightful occupants of the Holy land of G-d.
    No more Santa, secret or otherwise. No more institutionalized gifting that puts people in hawk.

    No more false Jesus messiah, but the true righteous one that we await. No born again, left behind crap. No Gentiles supportive of Jews and Israel – but only if we plan to convert in the end before the rapture. Crapola.

    Judaism is the true faith of one G-d, and the commandments are for his children that have suffered so long waiting for the redemption, suffering through ages of a false reign of commercialized and brutal Christian regimes. In the workplace too. Damn straight.

    No one is born perfect, or perfectly righteous. We all have to come to terms with faith as best we can. If we are modern day Jews, through our tradition, if gentiles, then as best one can through adapting one’s innate kernel of spiritual goodness despite the behest of a wayward tradition and teaching via a corrupted bible improperly translated and misinterpreted by men.

    • Dave
      Dave says:


      I am somewhat sympathetic to your being forced to endure Christmas in an overwhelmingly Christian nation. I’m atheist myself and I get sick of all the comercialism concerning Christmas that I swear, starts in August! However, rather than whining about it, I encourage you to do something positive about it. There is a beautiful country where you will not be forced to celebrate Christmas, and in fact will be very tolerant of your Jewish beliefs. That country is called Israel.

      Of course, if you move there, you will be living in a nation that is unabashedly religious and makes no pretense at being secular. Not only your holidays will be chosen for you, but how you spend them too. For example, I gather from your diatribe that you are not completely orthodox any more. Thus you would probably consider driving on high holidays and perhaps even working. I’m afraid that won’t cut it my friend. You will be stoned and beaten in certain quarters for breaking sabath. Your girlfried/wife will be beaten for wearing jeans. The police will do little if anything to the perpetrators.

      You probably also like to think of yourself as socially liberal. You believe all people are equal and should enjoy the same rights: freedom of movement, freedom to live where they want, freedom to worship how they choose. Well, you better check those ideals at the border. You will be in a nation that puts one religion above all others (and makes no attempt to disguise the fact). You will be a second class citizen unless you pick the one true religion.

      Certainly this nation over does Christmas. But, it’s still the most tolerant place on earth. It’s by and large, a secular nation. Stores are open on Christmas. You can skip church and go driving on Christmas, or even work, as I do. By and large, we are not forced to stare at crosses in public places. What do you think is going to happen to you when you complain about the Star of David in all the public places in Israel? Let the fundamentalists have their holidays and waste their money at WalMart. My greatest fear is that folks like yourself will poke and provoke them so much that they will make my life miserable by trying to breakdown the separation of church and state.

      Well, hopefully I’ve given you something to think about.

      Happy Holidays.

      • Working9to5
        Working9to5 says:

        What stores are open on Christmas? All I saw yesterday was Walgreens, the shortened hours of the grocery store, movie theatres, and asian restaurants? My day was obviously planned for me.

    • israel
      israel says:

      Israel doesn’t have any pretense of having separation between Church and State like we do.

      Why should the President of the US have a formal Christmas/Chanukah party in the White House? What he wants to do for his family in the residential wing, is of course, his prerogative. But I would vote to skip the religious pomp and circumstance sponsored by the federal government.

  14. TA
    TA says:


    Why not make your day productive instead of tending towards negativity? I’m sure that a soup kitchen could use your help. I don’t see how anybody is “dragged through Christmas”. It’s a day off – you guys who hate Christmas time off should start complaining about people having Saturday and Sunday off too.

    And that happens every week.

    • andy
      andy says:

      To be fair I guess my problem is not so much that there is nothing to do, I’ll probably read a book and really enjoy that.

      The problem is that you have an immense amount of time devoted to a a holiday I don’t observe. My office puts a lot of effort and money into something I am not a part of, but when it comes to any holiday I celebrate it costs me a vacation day.

      • TA
        TA says:

        People spend immense amounts of time on a number of things that different people see as “pointless” or that they don’t participate in.

        And Christmas doesn’t “cost you a vacation day” – it’s a holiday. Just like Saturday and Sunday don’t cost you a vacation day.

  15. Cassandra
    Cassandra says:

    I love the idea of floating paid holidays. It’s great. However, I don’t think we can deny the fact that, as many people have already mentioned, it often doesn’t make good business sense to keep some workplaces open on Christmas.

    There are always some people, Christian or not, who will work on Christmas, but sometimes not enough.

    It would be great if you could come up with some constructive proposals regarding what people can do to encourage their employers to institute floating holidays, or allow employees to work from home on holidays when the office is closed.

  16. Heather
    Heather says:

    I am not a Christian, nor am I Jewish. I constantly hear, “Well Christmas is really an American holiday…” Guess what??? Christians all across the globe celebrate the holiday. It is NOT an American holiday. It is a Christian holiday. And you’re right P… only Christians are the people who say that. As a Pagan, I don’t tell Christians they should celebrate Winter Solstice with me. I understand it isn’t a part of their religion. (Well, if we get into religious history here…. the two holidays coincide for a few reasons, but that’s not my point here.)

    I love it when people say that they think Christmas is more about spending time with their families. Ok, so why do you have to go hundreds or thousands of dollars in credit card debt buying useless junk to spend time with your family? I spend time with my mother and sister every week. I don’t need a holiday to tell me to do that.

    I can’t stand it when cashiers at the store say “Merry Christmas.” Sometimes I respond with, “Thanks, but I don’t celebrate it.” Other times, I just leave it be since I’m annoyed. A friend of mine finally put two and two together this week. I’ve known her for 5 years and the entire time, she knew I wasn’t Christian. She asked me earlier this week if I was ready for Christmas, to which I responded that I don’t have anything to get ready for since I don’t celebrate it. She about flipped when she figured out I was serious that I don’t believe in her God or Jesus as a savior. It’s apparently a huge issue for her and it all came to light earlier this week.

    I’m fine with having the day off work. Tonight, I plan to rent a bunch of $1 movies and veg on the couch. But what sucks is that I am out of cat food and the grocery stores will be packed tonight. I haven’t been able to go to Target to get neccessities in over a month because of all the crazies. Tomorrow (Christmas Day) I would love to go out for breakfast since I have the day off work, but nothing will be open. While everyone is needlessly putting themselves under a ton of emotional stress this time of year, I will be enjoying a bottle of wine and maybe some pizza – that is, if I am brave enough to battle the crowds tonight.

  17. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    I agree with you. Christmas is DEFINITELY a Christian holiday – it bothers me when people say it is secular and American. July 4th, for example, is a completely non-religious holiday, whereas Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. I don’t mind having the day off of work – it is nice to have some time off where I don’t need to be running to see family; however, I hate when companies try to pass this off as “holiday” time.

    • Caitlin
      Caitlin says:

      Amanda, can’t it be both? Of course there is a religious aspect to Christmas – for Christians it’s about the birth of their saviour. However, it undeniable that it’s also a culturally significant holiday quite apart from its religious context. I’m sorry but Christians do NOT have a monopoly on this holiday!

      Many of the traditions we associate with Christmas have nothing to do with the holiday’s religious side. In some cases the roots of the holiday go much deeper to the midwinter festival of Pagan times, but hundreds of years of cultural layering have made them part of the festival we know as Christmas. Do you honestly believe that non-Christians should not celebrate the secular aspects of Christmas if they choose to? That would make many people I know who happen to be atheist, agnostic, Buddhist or Jewish very sad indeed. I think Christmas is a time of tolerance and good will so people should celebrate it however they want to, including not at all (in Penelope’s case) or in a secular way (in the case of many non-Christians who observe the holiday).

      I think offices and public schools should avoid the religious side of the holiday (Nativity scenes for example) but I don’t really see why serving a mince pie or putting up a decorated pine tree has anything to do with religion – these are purely cultural traditions and entirely harmless and inoffensive. Our society needs more celebrations and festivals not less.

      In regards to whether offices should be open on Christmas Day or allow employees to work. As others have commented, it would not be cost-effective for businesses to open if a majority of their employees, suppliers and clients are not there. Also, there is the problem of choice – if you give people the choice to work on Christmas Day, you risk undermining their choice not to. This is what has happened in the case of Sunday opening at retailers for example.

      • Ronald Mexico
        Ronald Mexico says:

        I don’t get some of you people. Have you looked up the definition of Christmas on Wikipedia? This holiday clearly has it’s roots in the religious notion of the birth of Christ! Christ’s Mass = Christmas.

  18. Scott
    Scott says:

    I want to say I’m a christian and I celebrate christmas with my family, but I totally agree with the purpose of this rant. If nothing else, it’s about being sensitive to the cultural diversity of this country.

  19. Dorie Morgan
    Dorie Morgan says:

    I’m a Christian and I’ll be honest – I would much rather have floating holidays to use for Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday than Christmas day. It’s nice to have the day off – my mother is usually grateful because it means she’ll see my family – but in the grand scheme of things, if the day is that important to me, I’ll make arrangements to not be working.

    In our house, we celebrate Christmas through Advent. Christmas Day is really just another day.

  20. Healthy Amelia
    Healthy Amelia says:

    I also didn't feel like I could choose one of the poll choices. If there was one, I'd choose something like "I don't care one way or the other but enjoy having time off whenever it comes". I just think it makes sense from a staffing point of view, as was already mentioned. My office will also be closed on the 26th for the same reason. So many people would want to at least make it a long weekend so it's better just to shut down and save on heating the building, etc.

    I am Jewish but my husband was raised Christian and has fond memories of Christmas. As a result, we celebrate it in a secular way out of respect for his traditions (even though he plans to eventually convert to Judaism). I personally don't feel that strongly about religion but am very interested in preserving/embracing cultural traditions (his and mine). I think it's fun and a learning experience.

    However, I don't begrudge you your opinion. I can totally see your point of view. It's good to stir up some talk about this stuff and I think it's sad how mean some of the comments are. If the point of Christmas is to be kinder than usual, isn't it the highest form of that spirit to extend it to those who may disagree with you?

    Happy Holidays!

  21. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    >>And this is, of course, the root of the problem. Christmas is totally Christian and totally religious and the Christians love to debate this point and the Jews think it is absolutely not debatable.

    I was one of the people who debated last year whether Christmas was Christian and religious. I’m not going to get involved in that debate again, at least not with you, as it’s clear that you think there is only one right answer on this point, when there’s not.

    However, I am NOT a Christian and I wish you wouldn’t keep implying that I am (or that others like me are).

    >>over the years I have found that for the most part, Christians comment publicly, and Jews send private emails to me.

    What is the basis of this comment? Last year a lot of people commented publicly and didn’t declare their religion. You seems to assume that everyone who’s not Jewish is automatically a Christian (unless of course they declare themselves as a Muslim or whatever). This assumption is highly offensive.

    Likewise there are comments above from people who say they are NOT Christian but they celebrate Christmas. Why do you find that so difficult to believe.

    No one is forcing you to celebrate Christmas but I wish you would quit insulting the many non-Christians who do.

  22. Alan Wilensky
    Alan Wilensky says:

    Heather, right on, gal, right on. I’m out of cat food too!

    Righteous Pagan lady can’t get an elbow into a Target store because of the mass hysteria. Totally get it.

    Coffee shops closed xmas day. WTF ???? They are like emergency rooms and public utilities!!!

    I’m putting Gals like Heather on my OK GO PAGANS LIST!

    Maybe I can find a nice Pagan gal to synthesize the best of my lapped Jewish orthodoxy and the best of the Pagan stuff and find that one breakfast joint run by pagans and Jews that is open on Xmas day.

    What a world, what a gal that would be. All happily ever after and an omelet.

  23. Alison
    Alison says:

    It’s difficult to compare Christianity and Judaism simply because one by definition can include culture and one, theoretically, should not (because it should theoretically be any self-selecting individual who views Jesus as king).
    For it to be a truly Christian holiday, every individual celebrating it should be showing up to church or mass, praying in celebration of Christ’s birth, etc.

    This is not my experience. Christmas is far more of a cultural phenomenon in North America than it is a religious holiday. It mostly consists of involving traditions that are entirely irrelevant to the celebration of Christ’s birth. Most people are not showing up to any religious ceremonies or engaging in any spiritually religious practices.

  24. cmadler
    cmadler says:

    Christmas, as practiced by most Americans, is not a Christian holiday. Yes, I’ve read your past posts on the topic where you address this, but you are wrong. I’m not a Christian, I’m an atheist, but I feel comfortable saying this. Just about the ONLY thing Christian about the day is the name. From the date of celebration (originally chosen to coincide with the winter solstice, and not established until about 350 AD) to gift giving (from the Roman Saturnalia) to pine trees with lights (from the Roman New Year) to the Yule log (from pagan Germanic feasts) to mistletoe (from ancient Greek mythology) to the Nast/Coca-Cola Santa Claus, there is almost nothing Christian about this day.

    • Reina Hosier
      Reina Hosier says:

      Thank you cmadler for explaining origins of the holiday.

      I’m a Christian. I freely admit that. But there is nothing Christian about this holiday, in my opinion. The Catholic church created this holiday to appease the many people they were trying to convert by renaming something they were already celebrating to make it acceptable to the church.

      I can find no Christian basis for Santa Claus, a Christmas tree, or lights on a house. Even as a Christian, I celebrate the holiday in purely secular way. Jesus is not the reason for the season, in my book.

      If you think there is anything truly Christian about this day, you are deluding yourself. Or, as in the case of most conservative Christians, still trying to justify something that was never designed to be a religious holiday.

      I’m all about diversity. If you want tolerance, be open about what you believe. Tell me about your religion. There’s almost nothing I’d NOT like to know about.

      I love the idea of floating holidays. If there is one day being taken more than any other, then it makes perfect sense for a business to close for economic reasons. However, I also agree that there is no reason for everyone to be discussing the purpose of the day off at work.

      Change never happens unless someone suggests a better way of doing things, along with a viable way of making it happen.

  25. TA
    TA says:

    I see now – it’s the me-first attitude that’s infected so many.

    Target is closed – it’s an inconvenience to ME.

    Christmas is Christian – it offends ME.

    I don’t like the music.

    I don’t like the crowds.

    I don’t like that I’m forced to take the day off. (Hello – you’re being paid – you can still work. Do all of you only work 40 hours a week??)

    People greet me with “Merry Christmas” and a smile – that offends me.

    • KenGirard
      KenGirard says:

      It is the me-first idea. No one complains if it doesn’t bother them.

      A friend of mine lives in her family home where she grew up. It is in a quite little part of the world, just off the beaten track. 3 years ago the warehouse down the street became a nightclub. Now she has nowhere to park if she comes home after 10pm, drunk people screaming as they leave the nightclub each night, loud music coming from cars at 2am, and often a lot of trash to clean up. Thousands love that nightclub. She hates it. They think she is evil for calling the cops every night, for video taping drunks getting into cars, for protesting each moth at city hall to try and get the nightclub shut down.

      See, it is all about her.

  26. tinyhands
    tinyhands says:

    I’m a recovering Catholic, but I have no problem “celebrating” Christmas by taking time off from work and giving gifts to my friends and family. I get so few days off as it is, I’m not volunteering to work any more than I have to.

    Personally, I would prefer people say Happy Holidays, as it is all-inclusive but I don’t believe that saying Merry Christmas is imposing someone’s religious beliefs on me. If someone greets me by saying Hola, I don’t assume that they insist that I learn & speak Spanish for the rest of my life. If someone thanks me saying merci, they’re not imposing their French culture on me. I recognize that it is just the way that those people communicate, just as Christmas wishes are merely the way Christians observe their holiday. I also know that some religions & cultures do intend to impose their beliefs on me, but how I choose to receive the message is more important than how it is sent. I don’t have control over their intent, but I can control my reaction.

    Bottom line, I respect your right to “criticize” Christmas, but know that it comes with my right (if I so choose) to criticize Judaism/Israel as well.

    • andy
      andy says:

      I don’t think anyone really wants to criticize Christmas. I am glad people enjoy it.

      The criticism is at the office. A place that claims to be neutral and once a year is very biased in favor of a particular religion.

  27. Frank B
    Frank B says:

    Everybody remember, it’s Penelope’s blog, and as such she can write about whatever she wants:

    “One, single, Jewish blogger does not impact the Christmas spirit.”

    No it doesn’t, and if it does, your spirit and faith are fragile. Take it from this Christmas celebrating Christian, this was a good post. You engaged people and got them talking. Keep it up!

  28. Kristen
    Kristen says:

    I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I am certainly not going to complain about a PAID vacation day when in this country we have fewer paid vacation days than many other countries. My husband’s company decided to close the week between Christmas and New Years to save money, and force employees to use vacation days or take these days unpaid. Believe me, I am not celebrating their spirit of diversity right now.

    And don’t be naive to think that if Christmas was not an automatic paid Holiday that companies would give us MORE vacation days to use to cover it. Everyone would still have their 10-15-or 20 days/year and have to find a way to deal with it.

    Happy Holidays.

  29. Ken H
    Ken H says:

    You’re right in so many of your complaints about Christmas. But, I think you miss the essence…

    The human urge to celebrate at the winter solstice predates written history, just as summer solstice, vernal equinox, and autumnal equinox celebrations go way, way, way back. Humanity also has linked these seasonal cycles to religious beliefs, though the urge to celebrate goes deeper, I think, to seasonality surrounding food, survival, hunting, and so on. Virtually (maybe literally) every culture has some sort of important celebration near the winter solstice, and likewise, so do most religions.

    Figure out a way for it to fit your belief system, ‘cuz you’re missing an important deep echo of your humanity if you deny these seasonal celebrations.

    • Lane
      Lane says:

      This is very interesting, Ken. I’d agree, actually. I am not Christian (used to celebrate Yule), but I feel an urge to spend time with family, to look inward, and to give of myself during these times. I’d agree that it has to do with seasonal effects of the solstice and growing cycle.

      It just seems “right” to do something connected to other people at this time. That hails from something more than religion, something more than tradition even.

  30. Ask a Manager
    Ask a Manager says:

    I’m Jewish. The way I’ve always thought of it is that the federal government has chosen to make Christmas one of the federal holidays (defined as days that banks, post offices, and the government close on), so it’s reasonable for companies to close that day just like they close on other federal holidays.

    (But I’m making a distinction between that and the idea that we’re a “Christian country,” which we’re not.)

    But if I had an employee who wanted to work on Christmas in exchange for getting an extra holiday day to take another time, I’d be fine with that, assuming they had a job that permitted them to work when no one else was around (or from home) and to work unsupervised.

  31. Steve
    Steve says:

    Christmas was declared a Federal Holiday in America on June 26, 1870 under the government headed by President Ulysses S. Grant during the period of reconstruction following the American Civil War.

    Christmas IS an American Federal Holiday however people in many other countries celebrate it as well.

  32. Nichole
    Nichole says:

    I understand your point as someone in “Corporate” America, but you should also consider the point from the perspective of employees who do not work a 9-5, M-F work week, and, Christian, Jewish, or anything else, actually enjoy the fact that much of the service sector is actually closed for the one rare day of the year. If my company stayed open on Christmas, we would not have the option of taking the day off, because there simply would not be enough people to work and run the place. As for keeping offices open, think about the staff that runs the place, such as security and janitorial services, who would not be ABLE to take the day off. Being closed on Christmas is not just a Christian thing, but a rare occasion that families who don’t have the pleasure of a corporate job almost ALL get the day off at the same time. Trust me, the rest of the year, that is very disappointingly rare. And trust me, if Corporate America stays open, there is little to know chance that the service sector would be able to close. And then you took away the Christmas day off that so many people value just because it bugs some people that they can’t work.

    Personally, I think we should do like the Russians and celebrate with new New Years traditions of trees and lights and presents for everyone.

  33. Chris
    Chris says:

    Given that celebrating Christmas is the vast majority of their religious observance for the majority of American “Christians,” and that many avowed non-Christians (the irreligious as well as Jews and Buddhists, etc) observe Christmas, I think you can make a reasonable case that it is as much, if not more, a civil holiday in American as a religious one.

    As you kind of alluded to above, you should be glad you’re in a country with such a strong Christian-ish culture. There are a lot worse things in this world than Jews having to take a day off in December.

    But I’m curious how you think most companies can operate with 90% of their staff off? Hospitals and things like that can let all their office staff off, but they have to keep a good number of their clinical staff to continue to function on Christmas or even the day after.

    If you want to work on Christmas, by all means do so, but if this is the best example of religious oppression you’ve got, you need to let it go.

  34. Glad Doggett
    Glad Doggett says:

    Thank you Thank you THANK YOU. I am neither Christian or Jewish, but I completely agree that Christmas is force fed at the work place. My cubicle should be one place where I should not be forced to endure it.

    Penelope, you are saying publically what many non-Christians think privately. I feel people should limit their religous/holiday celebrations to their homes and places of worship.

    Imagine a work place where EVERY religiious celebration were given equal air time. I don’t think most CEOs or employees would embrace it — much less, tolerate it. Yet we are all expected to embrace Christmas with a smile and a cheer.

    • TA
      TA says:

      Maybe because so many businesses make a lot of money off of Christmas? I’m sure business would celebrate Kwanzaa if it generated the billions of dollars that Christmas does.

  35. prklypr
    prklypr says:

    Maybe the reason these annual posts generate so many comments is that you are so overtly negative! I too like the idea of floating holidays, being able to take the time you need to practice your own religion. But unless this concept is adapted worldwide, we will never be able to have a productive work day on Christmas. It’s a federal holiday, world markets are closed, etc.
    I work in an office where I am both the newest employee and the only one who doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Yes, we have a tree – and this year, a menorah too. Yes, we do Secret Santa – this year, called holiday grab bag. Baby steps, Penelope, baby steps. And try to accent the positive next year.
    P.S. Poll choices are terrible

  36. Mr. Reed
    Mr. Reed says:

    I totally agree that Christmas is a religious holiday. Just the fact that it is a National holiday in America destroys your argument that America is not a Christian nation. Also, if America is not a Christian nation, why is Barack Obama taking the oath of office using a Bible?

    I realize that America may not appear to be a Christian nation because many do not live according to the Bible, but this nation was obviously founded on Christian principles.

  37. Someone
    Someone says:

    I think I may have mentioned this last year, but I have a most unusual story to tell as an American Christian, working for a large company run by Israelis. I am in the minority here—and believe me, I feel it every day. The way they talk Hebrew in front of us when they don’t want us to hear what they say; the way there is absolutely NO holiday slow down. None. The way during the high holy days in September and October, I’m one of the few people in the office actually working. One of my jewish employees gave me a bunch of really lovely cookies—in a Happy Hanukah bag. They work on Sundays in Israel, so when I come into the office on Monday, i’m already 2 days behind. The world in this company, revolves around the Jewish calendar. That said, they hung some lovely, lovely lights in the lobby the last few years. They took us all to a lovely restaurant which was decorated for Christmas. They’re giving us in the US both Christmas and the day after Christmas off for a long weekend.

    Do I sometimes feel sad and alone that I have to censor my “Merry Christmases” all the time and work so hard to be”respectful”? Yes. But Am I offended, Penelope?? No, I’m not. The world is full enough of hatred and intolerance. So many people died because of intolerance and hatred of “other” religions. I don’t buy into that—my religion taught me that everyone is equal in God’s eyes, and as long as the people are honest, pay me fairly for my labor, and treat me with respect, I do not care what their religion is. I’ve got too many other things to worry about rather than make something up to be offended at.

  38. rhonda
    rhonda says:

    First of all, I think the idea of floating holidays makes wonderful sense.

    That being said, in one of your previous posts on this subject, you stated:
    “The majority of the country is not New York and Los Angeles”…

    And my question is, why does those areas feel it is okay to have THEIR views, but the rest of the country is not allowed to thier own???

    As to the insanity around secular christmas (the musak, shopping etc) I find it offensive too..I always finish my shopping by Dec 1 so I can avoid it. If I have to be out in it, I try extra hard to be nice to the retail people who have to put up with it.

    I think many of the things you mentioned are problems with america, that are simply amplified at christmas, or for that matter during summer vacation time when everyone is vacationing at the same time because its a holiday or their kids are out of school (i.e. Memorial Day and Labor Day)…

    Perhaps we ought to focus on the character of the american people, and the other issues will take care of themselves…

  39. Lance Haun
    Lance Haun says:

    How are you dealing with it at your workplace Penelope? Are you allowing just so many days off to use as they like or is everyone gone due to the holiday except you?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Hey, Lance. Thanks for asking. Since Brazen Careerist is a startup (eight people), we almost never stop working. And we each feel a pretty huge responsibility to the company. So there are no official holidays. We all just get our work done when it needs to be done and we take time for not-work stuff when we need to do that.

      I spent a lot of years in corporate America before I started my own companies. And I see how this doesn’t work for most large companies. Which is why I think we need a discussion about what does work.

      And, Lance, as a human resource blogger, why not weigh in on alternatives? I bet you have some good ideas.


  40. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    So P- what are you potential solutions to this grave injustice you have handed to you every year? How have you handled Holidays in your company? Isn’t religion one of thhe things that intersects work and life?

    I get it, you hate Christmas, but what is the solution? Have no Federal Holiday, ditch the traditions of most so that some aren’t offended. There is more to to consider than just Big Business. Why would my company of 30 people remain open if 29 were to use their floating Holiday? (oh and the 30th person would use her’s too- as she married a Christian and they celebrate both religions)

    And I am offended by the people who seem to feel so inconvenienced by having a day off when there aren’t any stores open. You can’t find anything else to do but go to Target? Is there really a rule that says you are not allowed to get together with your friends and family on Christmas day- even if its not your religion’s holiday? You can’t do anything else?

    And furthermore, if someone states that they are not a christian then they aren’t. You seem to lump anyone who is not a Jew or a Muslim into the category of Christian. It’s funny, many people have no religion and they are doing just fine.

  41. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    The quality of your posts went down in general lately. Here’s a good-willed comment: In all your posts you want to be authentic. All I see is a woman, who seems overemotional and out-of control.

    • Lane
      Lane says:

      What do you say to people who get vehement about the fact that Christmas is a Christian holiday? The number of people who have asked me to “keep the Christ in Christmas?” Those who have commented here and said, “Get over it America is a Christian nation?”

  42. Erin
    Erin says:

    What I hate most about Christmas at the office is the obligation to bake something, or swap something, or otherwise engage in things that waste time. What I do enjoy are charitable projects and time off. I agree that giving time off from work in a more progressive, non holiday oriented manner is the way to go.

    To all the people who shit on Penelope for ranting about Christmas, stop commenting on it. By commenting on how Penelope should be more positive and how you’re sick of her rants, and generally shitting all over her, you, my friends, are being negative. Why don’t we all focus on her most important point:

    “Please consider the idea that progressive companies come up with good ways to accommodate many religions. How about if we discuss possible solutions?”

    Finding viable solutions to paid time off that works for everyone and has less to do with religion and more to do with being able to achieve work-life balance (if you want that) is a great idea.

    What a nice place the world would be if people could respect other people’s opinions, rather than tearing them down. We should all try to be more constructive.

  43. Rob Salkowitz
    Rob Salkowitz says:

    As a cultural Jew and a religious atheist, I’m all for scheduled holidays, even ones that commemorate stuff I don’t believe in. Here’s why: when you close big offices, like government buildings, banks, etc., you save lots of energy. And, no one is commuting that day. You don’t get those savings or economies of scale by giving individual believers a few days off to use as they wish. And frankly, the material benefits of shutting stuff down every so often are worth indulging a little bit of religiosity and sentimentalism.

    In England, they call these “bank holidays” – just random days off when everything is closed. Here, because the majority of Americans cling to God and guns :-) we’ve got Christmas as a general furlough day. Stay home and get work done if you want.

  44. Susan
    Susan says:

    I agree that there is too much emphasis on Christmas, BUT… I see it is a general winding down End of the Year thing. People are closing out the year. Work is winding down. I think it’s just as much about New Year’s as it is about Christmas, in terms of office closings, etc.

  45. david rees
    david rees says:


    One of the things I love about you is that despite being brilliant and logical and pragmatic, you are not above the occasional human moment.

    Now this article from the woman who said that reporting sexual harassment will ruin your career so justice must bow to personal achievement.

    Sexual equality and justice is OK to sacrifice on the altar of pragmatism, but not Christmas?

    I will be pondering this in the days ahead.

    Please have an enjoyable week celebrating or not celebrating whatever you deem appropriate and in the manner you prefer. Please do not take this to imply you should celebrate anything or that you need my permission to celebrate or not celebrate anything or that I am trying, in any way, to burden you with any cultural or religious expectations. Just feel the happy thoughts I am sending you. If you want to.

  46. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:


    Perhaps Americans should fight for more paid days off rather than a soul destroying 2-week/ 10 days annually. Then you can allocate your own holidays to Hanukkah/ Eid/ Diwali/ Christmas and this debate of a ‘wasted day off’ can end. As far as I know, most non-Christians find themselves unable to work in the few days before Christmas because their Christian clients are off shopping for gifts in extended lunch hour, so why pretend?

    As things stand, many British companies allocate 2-3 days of everyone’s annual 20-day (minimum; some senior execs get up to 35 days off) to the period from Christmas to New Year, and that way they save operating costs of keeping offices open and everyone gets to enjoy a short winter break with their families and friends.

    As far as I know, nobody on their death bed ever said: I wish I had spent more holidays working!

    PS: In America, where Thanksgiving is the main holiday, Christmas may not be Christian; in Britain and Europe, it most certainly is. Non-Christians exchange presents with Christian friends and can chill without needing to cook turkeys etc. For cooking delicacies from latke to goat biryani to rasmalai, we have our own Hanukkah, Eid, Diwali etc.

  47. Katherine
    Katherine says:

    I’m a non-Jew who celebrates Christmas who works at a Synagogue. I used to work as an HR consultant in start-ups.

    Thought the results are flipped, the attitude from the organizations is the same: These are the company holidays, tough noogies, enjoy your day(s) off.

    Here’s the thing: Everything about people management is about making exceptions and adapting to your people, no matter what SHRM says.

    When organizations don’t give people the flexibility to be adults and choose when and how to spend their time off, the only message that they get is “You don’t matter.”

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