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 Jewish.com 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?

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230 replies
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  1. diana
    diana says:

    I totally appreciate your “rant.” I’m pretty unreligious, believe in some sort of energy – spirit, but probably more in line with Native American beliefs or Buddhism. I remember as a kid telling my parents it wasn’t fair that Jewish people and others who didn’t celebrate Christmas, weren’t able to go shopping or out to dinner on that day. The assured me that Rite-Aid (thrifty drugs back then) was open if they really needed something, but agreed that it was unfair to them to close down an entire nation for one religion’s holiday.

    When I actually worked in an office (thankfully self employed for several years now), productivity came to a total standstill for weeks before Christmas, and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, was the worst. I love the idea of a floating holiday to companies that can reasonably accommodate that. But if the majority of employees want to have Christmas off, it may be impractical to have one or two people in the facility on that day. Perhaps the legal holidays should be given to all,and companies can give one floating holiday during the year to use as you want.

  2. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I wish there were a solution to the needing-to-take-floating-holidays problem–but I’m grateful that most places are closed on Christmas. Even if some offices chose to give their employees the option to work for pay, I’m not convinced much work would be done. As Kermit-as-Bob-Cratchit says in A Muppet Christmas Carol, “There’ll be no-one to do business with!” Maybe the solution should be that non-Christian holidays become national holidays as well. I’d love to learn more about, say, Yom Kippur if there were a way for gentiles like me to honor it without being sacrilegious.

    One other thing: please don’t be offended if someone wishes you a Merry Christmas because they used an exclusive term. The person just called a blessing down on your life. Just smile, wish them happy holidays, and enjoy the general good-will people at least try to feel this time of year.

  3. TA
    TA says:

    @ Frank-

    No, not feeling guilty at all. And I didn’t say you singled anybody out – I simply stated that I failed to see where anybody said Penelope couldn’t write what she wants.

    Of course she can write what she wants. Some of us suggested she could be more constructive with her writing instead of destructive. That’s called a critique. If we had suggested she not write at all, you’d have a point. But we didn’t, so I fail to see your point.

    Merry Christmas.

    • Frank B
      Frank B says:

      Hey TA.

      I simply said “Everybody remember, it’s Penelope’s blog, and as such she can write about whatever she wants” and followed that with her comment “One, single, Jewish blogger does not impact the Christmas spirit.” The end. It was a great line from her post. Your critique was fine, and I’m only responding to you because you obviously felt some measure of guilt, otherwise you wouldn’t have responded.

      We can continue this or end it in the Christmas spirit. Me I’m done. I will say I whole heartedly agree with your earlier comment “I don’t like the crowds.” I can’t stand them either.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  4. sabrina
    sabrina says:

    I like the floating holidays idea best. Mostly because it would allow me to randomly wander off someplace new every year. Happy Punxsutawney Phil Day!

  5. Nisha
    Nisha says:

    Thank you for this post, seriously. Not enough people speak up about this issue, and when we do, people tell us to quit whining. And it goes far beyond just Christians and Jews, which are the groups you emphasize in your post.

    And to the person above who said that you work with lots of people from India who don’t complain about Christmas: it’s a known fact that people who are in the minority are less likely to voice their opinion. google spiral of silence if you don’t know what I mean.

    I hope, in the future, more companies start thinking about different ways to handle this, and that more people start speaking up about it.

    Great post!

  6. JenK
    JenK says:

    Please don’t tell me I’m the only one who grew up with the “Preachers need to quit trying to put religion into Christmas!” relatives sniping at the Christian relatives and vice versa….

  7. Sydney
    Sydney says:

    I’ll tell you what I hate about Christmas at my “office” (read: restaurant). I hate my coworker that says “Merry Christmas” to guests as they leave. I told her we should probably say “Happy Holidays” so we don’t offend anyone, and she said “well I didn’t get that memo, and I’m saying Merry Christmas”.

    Barf.

    I hate that we’re tuned in to Sirius’ Christmas channel from the day after Thanksgiving on. I can only take so much of the carols. And the volume at which we project said music through the restaurant is at borderline obscene levels. Add to that my said coworker above LOVES to sing at the top of her lungs while making martinis for the regulars. It’s annoying.

    I hate going to the mall the day after Halloween and seeing the mall employees putting up Christmas stuff. We haven’t even gotten through Thanksgiving, and they have Christmas music playing. Please.

    More over, I hate the guilt that I feel, this year in particular, because I can’t afford to buy presents for people. Sorry, but I’d rather have a roof over my head and the electric paid. I’m a “starving” college student, I have maxed out all of my cards, I am living night to night on tips alone – I don’t have the money to get the stuff that you won’t buy for yourself.

    I applaud you for stirring it up a little – even if people’s comments are negative – at least they’re inclined to comment, and that speaks highly of the things you have to say, I think.

    Happy Holidays to you, your family and the Brazen family.

    -Sydney

  8. Mojito Chica
    Mojito Chica says:

    Penelope, I guess you didn’t get the memo on tone when dealing with priviliged people. The article focuses on race, but religion is easily applicable. Keep on doing what you’re doing Penelope.

  9. rachel
    rachel says:

    Penelope–thanks for having the guts to say what many are afraid to verbalize (or blog-ize–is that a word?) I totally agree with you—Students of Jewish History will know that acknowledging and/or celebrating Christmas as a holiday; secular or religious, is a personal affront to the many generations of Jews who were killed in the name of Jesus.

    I do not mean to say–by any stretch of the imagination–that Jews living today should hold this against Christians living today.

    Also, many of today’s companies operate in a global environment (i.e. Greek and Russian orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas later in January as well as many Moslem countries) and it is often beneficial to keep things going 24×7. I worked for a company where we presented a cafeteria menu of holidays (all national, religions and denominations) and employees selected 10 of those days in the beginning of the year. I got the most work done on Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and Independence Day!

    Wouldn’t it be nice, that in these days of cultural and religious diversity, if we’d open our minds (and hearts) and wish people “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” and not assume that everyone celebrates Christmas.

  10. Tom Parnell
    Tom Parnell says:

    What people are writing about ‘Merry Christmas’ being offensive to them … This, I do not get. I’m not a believer myself, though my background is clearly Christian, and I’ve always celebrated Christmas, in my family’s own secularised-but-spiced-up-with-handfuls-of-arbitrarily-selected-religiousity kind of way.

    So I’m the kind of person who might wish and be wished a happy Christmas and think nothing of it.

    But the thing is: I’d like a situation in which a Jew might say to me ‘Happy Hannukah’; a Muslim ‘Happy Ramadan’, or whatever. Because isn’t it pretty extraordinarily contrary to be *offended* by someone wishing you happiness? Whatever the occasion, I like to think I’d welcome positive wishes, not take offence from them.

    And if I wish someone a merry Christmas, I am expressing the hope that they be happy at this time of year. Just as I’d wish them a happy birthday. It’s an excuse to display affection or positive sentiment. And we should take as many of these excuses as are presented to us, not try and shut them down.

    In my opinion, the battle to be fought is *not* in preventing celebrators of Christmas from using ‘Happy Christmas’ as a greeting, but in encouraging, accepting and normalising other religions’ greetings equally.

  11. sifi
    sifi says:

    Great post as always. I think the tension around this is the unspoken (and perhaps unconcious) idea that Christmas Day is somehow sacrosant. Here is a solution for smart companies: Pull a group together and write a peer-reviewed policy on the year end holidays. The policy should begin with a discussion on how christmas day has been observed as a federal/bank holiday but go on to describe the diversity that now exists in the workplace. If the office needs to be closed for cost-effieciency purposes that should be stated as the reason for the holiday pay. Above all, it should be stated that in order to embrace diversity, the company is moving into a holiday model that respects everyone’s traditions and preferences, even the predominant (American) Christian one. Ways to accomplish this would be to give a floating holiday in addition to the Dec 25 one. Or two floating days if the office is going to be closed.

  12. Alan Wilensky
    Alan Wilensky says:

    I am not offended by “Merry Xmas”.

    I am fed up with Gentile culture.

    Repeat it like a mantra for I care. Play the music in the mall until the next poor sap with an AK goes postal because he can’t pay the alimony and child support and the gift list.

    G-wd.

  13. Alan Wilensky
    Alan Wilensky says:

    It would be a whole different thing if goy culture was interesting and innovative / mystical / rich. But it’s not…it’s canned eggnog and getting trampled at wallmart.

  14. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    My religion as a child forbade Christmas. Currently my husband and I are agnostics and not Christians at all. Yet, we celebrate Christmas. It’s a cultural/secular holiday to me. I like decorations, gifts, feasting, parties, cookies, and time off work. I spent my first 20 years of life being taught the origins of Christmas are pagan and sinful, felling guilty every time I hummed along to Christmas song. I’m so relieved to have grown up and choose participate in only the parts of Christmas I enjoy – and that certainly isn’t religion!

  15. mave
    mave says:

    This post made my day (that day being “christmas eve”). I am fed up with christmas and everything it’s come to stand for. As a non-religious, non-consumeristic person I have no interest in the holiday – either the religious or secular version, and I am offended that everyone tries to shove it down my throat this time of year. It strikes me as incredibly arrogant and narcissistic of people to think that everyone should take part in christmas events, celebrations, gift exchanges and so forth. And when I say “I don’t celebrate christmas” people look at me like I’m boiling babies. Listen, people, just because I don’t participate in the same cultural activities as you, that doesn’t make me somehow evil or mean-spirited.

    I think it’s shockingly inappropriate for workplaces to have christmas parties and gift exchanges, and mandated time off for everyone. A truly diverse workplace would give floating holiday time, end of story. And if you want to have a festive winter party, that’s fine – just make it the sort of event everyone can enjoy, and lay off the christmas theme. How hard is that for people to understand? NO, we AREN’T “censoring” the holiday, and NO, we AREN’T trying to prevent you from celebrating it in whatever way you choose – AT HOME, where PERSONAL things are best conducted. In an office and in the public sphere, people of all stripes must co-exist, and it behooves us all to do so with respect and understanding.

  16. sifi
    sifi says:

    Ooops! I meant two floaters if the office is OPEN on the 25th.
    @Alan: I hope you are just being funny! There is no such thing as “goy culture.”

  17. Deadhedge
    Deadhedge says:

    I am Jewish and it doesn’t bother me when people wish me Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Feliz Kwanza, or anything else. It doesn’t bother me that the US picked a majority religion’s holiday that has incorporate pagan traditions like a Christmas Tree. Someone’s holiday was going to be picked and someone was going to be annoyed.

    The only reason that I would consider dropping Christmas as an official holiday is because it would prevent everyone from having to travel during some of the worst weather of the year. Make Labor Day sacred so we get the end of August off.

  18. Lindsey
    Lindsey says:

    You know, this whole discussion comes across as petty to me. Full disclosure: I’m a Christian and have enjoyed Christmases all my life. I’m perfectly willing to accept that Christmas is a distinctly Christian holiday, and I’m all about respecting diversity and attempting to make accommodations for as many people as possible, particularly within the workplace.

    But come on, you guys. We’re OFFENDED now when people say “merry Christmas”? We’re offended when they don’t? Since when did we get so spoiled, so petty? Since when did we have a right not to be offended?

    “The Holiday Season” is an American tradition – one that began with the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s extravaganza but has since been expanded to include other religious and cultural traditions. I think we’d all be a lot better off it we put aside our silly bickering and tried to view this as a season of inclusion, instead of as one of separation.

  19. m
    m says:

    I haven’t written a blog comment in ages, but on this topic I couldn’t resist Penelope.

    I think a point that is integral to this conversation, which a few commenters have noted, is the larger issue of Christmas being a national holiday, as well as the fact that Christmas is officially celebrated through our government in the form of White House Christmas, etc.

    Companies generally follow the national holiday schedule, and I don’t think this issue can be addressed in full without looking at the bigger picture of the “favoring” of Christianity in our nation on a governmental level.

    You say this is not a Christian nation and statistically that may be true, but look at our government and then argue the same–I think it’s hard to do. We still swear in court on bibles. Our government gives us Christmas off but not holidays of other nonChristian religions and cultures, etc.

    Perhaps change will come from companies first and eventually lead to some changes in government rather than the other way around. I have no problem with Christmas cheer (I’m not Christian but do celebrate a secular Christmas), nor with the time off, etc. but I do agree that it can be difficult for some when celebrating Christmas seems validated and supported by so many “offical” channels but other holidays may not.

    I also agree with some commenters that this is more than just about Jews and Christians. There is far greater diveristy that just those two groups in this nation but your post does seems to imply that commenters are divided mostly among just those two camps.

    I do agree with those who cite the practicality of closing down for Christmas and also relate to those who may feel left out or feel their traditions get little notice or validation in comparison. I like how our government has tried to be more inclusive recently, celebrating holidays from a variety of traditions, and I think as offices begin to embrace similar practices, the workplace will feel more inclusive as well.

    Those who feel left out can play a part in that by helping to promote new practices in their workplace. For example one office I know celebrate multicultural day, in which empoyees share the foods and traditions of their cultures, and other places I’ve worked do offer floating holidays for people to use as they wish (although they had Christmas off for everyone due to the practicality of the situation, as there was no work for us at that time since related businesses were all closed as well).

    Those for whom such issues are important may wish to suggest similar alternatives to their workplace and see if they may have any luck in getting them put in place. Over time, I believe such change will occur as best suits the workplace and its employees–so long as people speak up and work for that change.

    Happy holidays to all–whatever and whenever you celebrate.

  20. Aileen Journey
    Aileen Journey says:

    I am totally and utterly and completely with you. I’m tired of being steamrollered by Christmas. I’m annoyed with not feeling like I want to tell my children the truth about Santa because I don’t want them to tell other children. I’m perfectly happy for Christian children to believe in Santa, but it just hurts my children feeling that they’re missing out on some special magic reserved for Christians.

    I’m glad you’re ranting. Keep it up. We’re with you. We’ll meet up with you at the movies and the Chinese restaurants tomorrow!

  21. Janet
    Janet says:

    I have to take issue with your poll options. There should be a “None of the above” choice. I don’t think it’s an American Holiday in any way except as a celebration of consumerism. I don’t think you should just shut up and enjoy the day off because that’s just insensitive and rude. And I don’t think closing the office on Christmas is completely undermining the diversity in the workplace (I think it is a symptom of a lack of diversity, not a cause).

    I think that the company a friend of mine worked for had it right. They were based in the US but had a large number of Indian employees in both the US and India. When hired, everyone was given the choice between Hindu holidays and Christian holidays. I don’t see a reason not to offer that option to everyone. Give days based on your religion.

  22. LisaMarie
    LisaMarie says:

    I don’t necessarily see the problem in employees receiving a federal holiday as a paid vacation day. Change the federal status and then worry about what every individual company does.

    I have always worked at companies that also give floating holidays to everyone, so it’s pretty even steven: you use yours to celebrate solstice or Arbor Day, and I can use mine to to celebrate Diwali. Is it a burden to have to actually use your floating holiday on your holiday vs. using it for a bonus mental health day? Do you see Christmas as a forced mental health day for non-observers?

    I do agree that any kind of decoration or gift exchange in an office is not for me. Christmas music aggravates me. However, what about holiday bonuses? How do we feel about those? I like a bonus any time, even if I am not a Christian. Generic “happy holidays” December parties? Free dinner is free dinner.

  23. Meg Bear
    Meg Bear says:

    My thoughts are as follows (and that and $2.00 will get you a coffee)
    1) I don’t understand anyone taking offense at being wished Merry Christmas. I think all holidays are awesome. I love being told happy Hanukkah and if it weren’t so hard for me to spell, I’d wish it to others as well. Just because I don’t personally celebrate a holiday doesn’t mean that I’m not happy to see others express joy and help educate me on new reasons to celebrate. With the possible exception of fasting and cleaning holidays. Those I really don’t have much interest to adopt but that’s my personal bias.
    2) I think the real problem you are protesting is that there are not enough public holidays in the US. This I think would be something great to mobilize around. Probably this would be most effectively done without getting people on edge trying to defend a specific holiday (that they are used to getting as a public holiday).
    3) FWIW in my office we also celebrate Diwali since we have a large population of people who initiate the festivities. Some of the office issues are really just about the number of people willing to organize a party.

    So if the topic is specifically Jewish holidays I suggest that more Jews share their holiday traditions with the rest of us (vs. just letting pushy Christians get all the airtime). If the topic is more floating holidays I think that is also a great suggestion.

    – Meg

    • Dr. Pepper
      Dr. Pepper says:

      I agree, we need more public holidays in this country, but we also need to celebrate them. We can’t just throw one in just for the heck of it. It needs to mean something :-)

  24. Dr. Pepper
    Dr. Pepper says:

    I am a non-practicing Christian.
    I like the season. I like the day off. I often wish people health, happiness and longevity (we almost never say Merry Christmas where I come from, it’s just not a common wish among people-to-people communications – it is on cards though). I like the feeling that people actually care about one another.

    What I don’t like is the commercialization, the stupid fake santas, the stupid mass produced greeting cards with no personal touch to them that says “you are not a friend, you are a number in my addressbook”, the fake camaraderie that comes out during company parties (if we were all really chummy chum, we should practice this brotherly love all year long), and so on.

  25. monogodo
    monogodo says:

    I didn’t vote in the poll because I agree with none of the options.

    To me, Christmas is just like any other holiday that I get off from work. I’ve always treated holidays as just another day, except I don’t have to work.

    I agree that giving everyone Christmas off, but requiring the use of floating holidays for non-Christians to take their holidays off is preferential treatment. It makes sense for some companies to close on Christmas because of the lack of business being done that day, but not every industry is the same. I used to work for a copy center that always closed on major holidays. Then they changed their policy to be open every day of the year, because not everyone who used their services observes the same holidays. There was resistance from the workers, but we went along with it. I worked both Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day that first year. We were actually busy both days. And I’d be willing to bet that most of the customers were Christians.

    As for what you, Penelope, should or should not do, I say keep doing what you want to do. If your yearly Christmas at work rants turn off some readers, well, then so be it.

  26. Alan Wilensky
    Alan Wilensky says:

    For all of those, Jew, Gentile, and other that Penelope popped the steam valve on:

    Nothing can be done, or will be done. The culture is set, and is set upon its ultimate destruction under the most Christian of Presidents, and his entourage.

    For eight years, we have lived with the man who answered that “jesus”, was his hero (1St Presidential Debate of W).

    Well, now we have our payoff for the far Christian rights having the remote control. Decent public healthcare policy – can’t afford it, any program you name before TARP, can’t afford it.

    Massive uncontrolled blast of YOUR cash to banks that have no plans for the tax dollars given, other than to pay bonuses?? Thank you Jesus, W’s hero.

    To all Christendom – thanks for the last 2k years – its been a blast, literally.

  27. Dan Erwin
    Dan Erwin says:

    Penelope: For what it’s worth, I agree with you totally about Xmas parties at work. This info may put a different spin on it too. I’m an exminister–and I had a great run, but climbed that mountain. Twenty-five years as consultant. Still celebrate Christmas, but largely at church–where it should be celebrated. Your constitutional perspective about the USA is quite correct. Oh yeah, post boomer, member of the so-called silent generation with one motto: NEVER, NEVER,NEVER, NEVER, NEVER RETIRE. It’s too much fun out there–especially with my clients and proteges–including fun Millennials.

  28. Person Person
    Person Person says:

    I am Jewish and I love Christmas.
    I love it because I get all the benefits of the holiday without any of the stress. I do not have to go crazy over relatives’ visit, cooking, decorating, buying gifts etc.
    I get to enjoy empty beautifully decorated malls – or empty slopes at ski resorts.
    I just do not understand why do sane people, who are not even practicing Christians would go through all the troubles.
    And why – for a practicing Christian – a dubious date of birth of a baby who later became a Messiah is more important than the date when his nature was actually revealed – Easter.
    When I was younger I enjoyed answering “we do not do Christmas” to Christmas-related inquires, but now I do not care.
    Yes, I’d rather have days off when I choose to, but with kids in school it does not matter that much – they get winter vacation anyway.
    I think it’s pretty useless to rally for making Christmas day a non-holiday on a federal level, but at your work place – if one can arrange it with one’s own boss – sure, why not.

  29. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I have written a response to this post on my personal blog and Penelope has asked me to share the link here. Really, I’m just elaborating at more length on some of the points I’ve made here and in previous posts. http://www.niltiac.net/2008/12/the-true-meaning-of-christmas-its-not-what-you-think/

    What I would really like to do is to write a more personal post about what Christmas means to me. It will take a bit of time and thought and I don’t want to go off half-cocked on it. I’m not sure if I’ll get to it this year or not (though technically I suppose we still have 12 more days of Christmas).

    Oh and Alan, I don’t think I’ve ever had canned eggnog in my life.

    • Lane
      Lane says:

      Actually, canned eggnog is better than the carton stuff, and much better mixed with Rum. It’s an older creation and not very available these days.

  30. Barb Giamanco
    Barb Giamanco says:

    I discovered Penelope’s post via Twitter – gotta love technology! I thought it was such a great topic that I blogged about it on my own site at http://www.salestoday.wordpress.com The “diversity” topic and dialog is heating up, especially in light of the recent election. If people really want to get behind diversity they have to stop paying lip service to it or agreeing with it when it suits them. Penelope’s points are totally right on! Way to go.

  31. sarah
    sarah says:

    Christmas is “American” like the Fourth of July?????

    Do you live under a rock? Are you aware of the origin of Christmas? The name? “Christ” for Jesus Christ, the father of the religion that is called Christianity, after, you know, the son of God–Christ.

    Guess what? Christianity is a global religion, practiced on every continent and predominantly in Europe, North/Central and South America, and parts of Africa. Check it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity

    I realize that the substandard educational system in this country produces mindless robots who never look past their TVs for knowledge, but to call Christmas “American” is one of the most insipid, insulting, and idiotic things I’ve ever heard. And don’t even think of suggesting I’m saying this because I’m some Jesus-freak or rabid Christian because I’m not. I don’t practice ANY formal religion, nor do I believe in “God” as Christianity imagines him.

    I’m affronted the sheer lunacy of the statement and the extent to which people have shut off their brains, that’s all. I think Penelope’s idea of floating religious holidays is awesome and I look forward to working somewhere that enlightened.

  32. Miss M
    Miss M says:

    I can generally agree with you at least a little bit, but every Christmas the same thing? Get over it! Tomorrow I am going to have just as many Jews to my Christmas dinner as Christians because it is about being together.
    This year not only did you complain about Christmas, but made it seem that only Jewish people have been held down. I got news, get in line. I am “black,” at least Jews have a fighting chance with they walk into the room. I don’t, I have to overcome their stereotypes (which I often do when they find out I am British – not sure why that is!)
    Next year please share your knowledge of the Festival of Lights and leave Christmas alone.

  33. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    Sadly, what I think is most universally American is the excessively consumptive way that so many people “celebrate” Christmas. I’ve been to many celebrations tied to religious occasions, eg Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, christenings, and I’ve never felt that a particular religious belief was prerequisite for participating in those celebrations. Christmas certainly has its roots as a religious holiday, and I put it in that category, so it never matter to me that people of other religions didn’t, or did, celebrate the holiday. If you embrace Christmas as a religious holiday, I think we’ve gone over the top. If you embrace Christmas as a secular occasion, I think we’ve gone over the top. That’s a share truth and crosses all religious lines!

  34. JC
    JC says:

    I’m curious as to exactly how much of this furor over Christmas actually has to do with the secular/religious views of the holiday, and how much of it has to do with:

    [people who want everyone to know exactly how hard they’re working 24/7 and complain loudly about not knowing what their kids look like]
    vs.
    [people who get the job done, quietly, but have no interest in being a drama queen about it]

    I was raised Christian. I ‘celebrate’ Christmas, though I mostly just take the time off to spend with my family, because I frankly don’t take time off otherwise to do so. This is a cultural thing [in the US] – and we’re at a crossroads with The Guilt of Family Time versus The Very Good Employee.

    ‘The Holidays’ have become the only acceptable time we can take a long break from work, guilt-free, to be with our families. For better or worse, it’s universally understood. The ginormous company where I work issued a statement to all associates from the CEO advising us to enjoy The Holidays this year because massive layoffs begin in ’09.

    I sympathize with people of other faiths who do not receive time off automatically for their holy days. However, concessions can be (and are) made for individuals in most of my experiences.

    This controversy isn’t about me celebrating with you, or you celebrating with me; it’s about respecting family time. We can wrap this up in Christian versus everyone else, but I don’t think it’s necessary. If I can ignore the materialism/Christmas music/demur on participating in celebrations at work if invited (and I do), then so can anyone else, regardless of personal faith.

  35. Erik
    Erik says:

    For the poll…what about “No one is at work, so i wouldn’t be able to get anything done if i did show up at work, so employers are just acting in their best interests making me stay home.” I’m not sure it’s a lot different, considering the US’s demographic tilt towards Christians, than me saying that i want to be able to work Sunday through Thursday rather than M-F.

  36. Jess
    Jess says:

    Personally, I’m an atheist, and so Christmas celebrations are something I accept as being a socially sanctioned time to gather with my extended family whom I almost never see otherwise.

    I would prefer New Years to be the main holiday and celebration, as this is (while obviously based on the Christian calendar) a more appropriate time for those of us who are not religious or are from other faiths to celebrate.

    I do think it is important to have a set time each year when almost everyone (lets not forget those in care industries for whom today is just another day to take care of someone) has a holiday. It creates a sense of peace and relaxation across our whole community, and I would be sad to see this communal time off lost altogether.

  37. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    We are looking forward to taking in a movie tomorrow (maybe Australia?) and taking it easy without any hectic gift exchanges. Having a day off in the middle of the week works for us no matter what the official occasion. Slowing down is a gift that we all need now and again.

  38. Joseph Zitt
    Joseph Zitt says:

    The poll leaves out one massive practical consideration: if an office were open on Christmas day, odds are that so large a percentage of the workers (as mapped to the percentage of people in various religions in the US) that staying open might well be utterly pointless. The expense of keeping the office running might not be justified by the amount of work that would get done.

    And I’m saying this in a public post as the one yarmulke-wearin’ shabbat-observin’ kosher-keepin’ Jew at my workplace. Yeah, I would come in to work on Christmas day (and did so when I worked for majority-Jewish companies in Brooklyn that *did* stay open). But I know that enough of my coworkers would be taking the day off that little to nothing would effectively get done.

    • monogodo
      monogodo says:

      Actually, had I been able to go in to work on the 25th & 26th (we got both days off), and had I wanted to go in, I’d have had quite a bit of work to do. But that’s the nature of my job (production in a copy center). I can think of 2 specific orders that are currently waiting to be run, plus a 3rd that needs finishing, and a 4th that needs a proof. Had I gone in, I’d have been able to have 16 hours of nearly uninterrupted work, and could have probably finished most, if not all, of the work.

      Aww, who am I kidding? If I’d gone in to work either or both of those days I’d have spent the time surfing the internet.

  39. Khushi
    Khushi says:

    I come from India, which is also a secular country. So as part of our 10 yearly paid holidays, we celebrate major holidays of all our major religions – so in fact we get two ‘Christian’ holidays (Good Friday and Christmas) – much to the surprise of some of my American colleagues who work with offshore teams. As we do for Moharram and Id, for Dusshera and Diwali and Guru Nanak Birthday, Buddha Jayanti and so on. I think there is some merit to that approach as it makes us celebrate and look forward to celebrating holidays of other religions along with our own, instead of the US, when Christmas is the only religious holiday celebtrated.

  40. NYC
    NYC says:

    Thanks for the post, love it.

    I am pissed off every Christmas because I have to pretend to feel “occasional” but can’t bring myself to feel that way. And then when I don’t feel occasional (aka home alone), I feel like somehow I am missing out or being lonely – when really, it’s just me being me.

    Basically, Christmas makes me feel bad, like somehow I’m not doing something right.

  41. Mark F.
    Mark F. says:

    I used to work for a retail company run by orthodox sephardic jews, they closed their stores during the High Holy days. most of the employees were not jewish…Most of the employees felt a little strange about the whole thing (greatful for the time off, but it was not their holiday so it was like taking any day off with no significance). When you see it from a minority perspective things can look very different.
    My point is that how you feel about this issue depends on your own beliefs as well as how you have been socialized to religious celebrations…I agree with Penelope’s argument take religion out of the equation and use floaters…this would discriminate against no particular group or person…Only non-religous holidays should be National holidays…Our country was founded on the principle of the seperation of church and state, as well as the right to practice any religion without persecution…Lets practice what our founding fathers wanted…you can still take christmas off if you want under this premise…

  42. Mauri
    Mauri says:

    Okay. I have some food for thought. Never mind the christmas spirit or whether or not Christmas is an “American” holiday. My husband’s company decided to shut down from christmas to new years and force all its employees to take vacation. Why? This makes economic sense. Shutting the entire office down saves money.

    So, when the majority of people take a holiday off, would it be more reasonable to close down the factories and offices to save money?

  43. Anca
    Anca says:

    I think the government needs to ASAP reverse the law that made Christmas a federal holiday. That is a clear violation of the first amendment, even if some people (like a commenter in one of your other Christmas posts) want to argue that the wording of the amendment does not explicitly state separation of church and state.

    The government is then more than welcome to make companies give workers more vacation/floating-holiday time. Don’t Europeans get a month worth of time off? Then we could spend that extra time whenever, celebrating whatever holidays we want, or traveling, or with family. And people who claim the point of the holiday is to “spend time with family”: didn’t I just do that a month ago at Thanksgiving? Why do I need to feel compelled to buy plane tickets twice within the span of 30 days?

    If Christmas is necessary to bolster up the American economy then there is something wrong with how we judge the success of our economy (in general, not just this current one). The insanity of gift-giving bankrupts adults and spoils children.

  44. hyrax
    hyrax says:

    Thank you for your posts on this.

    I don’t celebrate Xmas at all and this time of year is especially hard for me at work, where the assumption is that I do. I mostly say “You too” when people wish me a good holiday, and then make sure to be available to work for others when it seems reasonable. If anyone asks how my holiday was I’ll saying something like that I had a good week, or that I watched movies with my friend, or that I got a lot done around the house and just not get into it.

    My natural personality is to be more forthcoming but in some sense I’ve given up deeper communication about it. Floating holidays would rock and would give the other people who don’t celebrate Xmas either (and/or do celebrate other important cultural or religious holidays) a break.

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