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?

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230 replies
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  1. Tom G in TX
    Tom G in TX says:


    To avoid driving you nuts, I will say:
    1. Christmas is most definitely a religious holiday, at least to me and a lot of other people.
    2. Feel free to work on December 25.
    3. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. You may be cheery about it or not. It’s up to you.
    4. You don’t have to take Hannukkah off, either.
    5. Whether or not America is a Christian country, it is a country where a lot of people are Christians and therefore a lot of people celebrate Christian holidays. If I lived in England, I would not expect my company to close on July 4. If I lived in China, I would not expect Good Friday or Christmas holidays off from work.

    Maybe someday we will invent robots that do all our work. The robots will not have religious beliefs or personal problems or boredom. They will just work and work and work and no one will have to worry about who gets a holiday when.

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:


      That’s the best argument for robots I’ve heard to date. The problem is that somehow I think we’ll probably still be fighting viruses and malware on these robots and the humans will still find a way to complain about how much work somebody else is either doing or not doing and when. The burden to come up with a solution will fall on the humans. It’s something we have to work out for ourselves – technology may assist us but it only goes just so far.


  2. Ben
    Ben says:

    Penelope: You are on to something, particularly in light of this year’s utterly inappropriate White House Chrismas message as per below. Hard to make the case that we are not an *increasingly* Christian nation when this kind of Christian agitprop comes from the President….

    Christmas 2008

    “‘I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'”

    Luke 2:10-12

    Each year, Christmas brings together families, friends, and communities to rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ and celebrate the wonderful gifts God has bestowed upon us. During this season, we remember Jesus’ birth from the Virgin Mary, His justice and mercy that changed the world, and His ultimate sacrifice for all people. Though Jesus was born humbly in a manger, He was destined to be the Savior of the world. The light He brought into the world continues to break through darkness and change people’s lives two thousand years later.

    This holiday season, as you rejoice in the good news of Jesus’ love, forgiveness, acceptance, and peace, I encourage you to show grace to those less fortunate, just as God showed it to us. By serving those in need and through other acts of love and compassion, we can honor God’s goodness and affirm the immeasurable value God places on the sanctity of life. We remember the members of our Armed Forces serving to protect our country and secure God’s gift of freedom for others around the globe. All Americans are indebted to these men and women and their families for their sacrifice, devotion to duty, and patriotism.

    Laura and I send our best wishes for a very Merry Christmas. May you be surrounded by loved ones and blessed by the Author of Life during this joyous holiday and throughout the New Year.


  3. Respeto Para Todos
    Respeto Para Todos says:

    We should call it Religion Day. Having Congress enact a federal holiday called Christmas is hypocritical given the First Amendment of the Constitution which states, in part, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Declaring Christmas a federal holiday, which is protected by a federal statute, may not be inconsistent with the plain text of that clause, but it does not follow the spirit. It also harms diversity in the workplace. I never know what to say to my Jewish and Muslim colleagues as I walk around the office offering well wishes for the holiday season. But, let’s face it, we’re stuck with it. Congress would never pass a statute to rid us of this embarrassment. So, happy holidays!

  4. Karin Harting
    Karin Harting says:

    I celebrate Christmas as a family get together not personally as a Christian holiday. I am not Christian or religious at all but the rest of my family is Christian so I go to the Christmas dinner and buy Christmas gifts for the nieces and nephews as part of a family tradition. It does drive me crazy when store clerks etc say “Merry Christmas”. I often think how do they know if I celebrate Christmas? I make a point of replying “Happy Holidays” which to me means whatever you celebrate including New Year’s. So I am open to ideas on promoting diversity both in my words and actions. Thank you for the perspective.

  5. Dennis in VA
    Dennis in VA says:

    I too am agnostic but acknowledge that the majority of people in America practice Christianity. Given that, some concessions need to be made. I usually get invited to dinner by someone; that is the extent of my “celebration.” Oh, and I particiapted in the anonymous gift exchange at my last employer, which was organized by a Muslim in a company owned by Jews. I do concede the Christians have some nice songs for this time of the year, too.

  6. MarcyB
    MarcyB says:

    Even if I weren’t a Christian, I’d be longing for time off at Christmas. Why? Because I’m a parent. And my kiddo has two weeks off. Without local family (and the YMCA packed to the gills with a waiting list), my husband and I are forced to alternate days off, using what little vacation we have left to cover boyo’s school holiday. Heck yeah, I’m glad I have holiday time to use.

  7. Joselle Palacios
    Joselle Palacios says:

    Christmas is a Christian holiday. As many Christians say during this season (see, it’s not even just a day; it’s a season), “Jesus is the reason for the season.” And that is true no matter how many tacky reindeer you buy.

    For some of the Christians commenting that those who share Penelope’s concerns should just enjoy the day off and accept the holiday cheer (it’s possible to be critical and enjoy a day off, by the way), take a look at part of this Christian prayer to see why it’s important, indeed sacred, to extend your point of view beyond your narrow comfort zone:

    “Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.”

    Additionally, George Bush’s statement that Ben posted, is dangerous and wholly un-American. Read Naomi Wolf’s latest Give Me Liberty to see why we must preserve the separation of church and state and always, always consider and protect so-called minority points of view.

    Anyways, I’m used to getting lost in the Christmas shuffle, not because I am a lapsed Catholic but because Dec 25 is my birthday. I’ve learned to just go with the flow, bake, and enjoy the day by going to the movies.

    Happy Chanukah, Penelope. I am making rugelach as well as sugar cookies because rugelach is so damn good.

    • Respeto Para Todos
      Respeto Para Todos says:


      I enjoyed your comment. Thanks for referring me to the Naomi Wolf interview on You Tube. I’m glad there are citizens who are vigilant about how the federal government, in the name of security, can encroach upon the liberties our Constitution should guarantee us. While I do not share her urgency, her analysis is cogent and educational. The interview was taped before the November presidential election. Good thing change is on the way.

  8. Amy Nathan
    Amy Nathan says:

    This year Christmas falls right smack-dab in the middle ‘o Hanukkah, so my family is taking advantage of the day off to have a family Hanukkah party — latkes, dreidels, lox and all. Last night? Chinese! Tonight? The movies! Ah, glory be the Christmas traditions of a traditional Jewish clan!!

  9. Anthony
    Anthony says:

    When I lived in the states every year people were so sad for me that I wasn’t going home to Australia to see my family for thanksgiving. Every year people would invite me along to their thanksgiving dinners and I would go just because I figured it was nice of them to ask and it would be like having an early christmas dinner without all the presents and relatives to worry about. It was fun, everyone was nice and the food was good.

    But now seeing some of the “why don’t you just lighten up and let my traditions take a dominant place in the American workplace” comments above I wish I hadn’t gone to these dinners. Doing so only reinforced the notion that it was normal or sane to assume a non US citizen would even know what thanksgiving is, let alone care about not spending it with their family.

    P.S. The Japanese like christmas too!
    Though apparently for single women it’s morphed into a sort of Valentine’s day type ritual where you’ll be judged on whether or not your christmas eve was sufficiently romantic.

  10. Katybeth
    Katybeth says:

    How did you become such a successful victim? From bedbugs, September 11th, Divorce, farmers, and now Christmas? Really, you could wear a person out and by your own admission often do.
    Most of my Jewish friends celebrate the holiday with Chinese food and a movie. Having the day off does not seem to bother them. They wish me a Merry Christmas, and I sometimes envy the ease in which they move through the month of December.
    Recently, our Waldorf school had their annual Holiday Fair. Its not about Christmas but admittedly holds that tone. The night of set-up one of our talented 4th graders asked if he could draw a picture on the chalk board in one of the common rooms we use for the fair, we said sure….we did not ask what he planned to draw, we just agreed. On one side of the board he drew a beautiful Menorah. On the other side of the board he drew a beautiful creche scene. The kid got it, and so did his Orthodox parents who smiled when they saw it.
    I find your posts while often engaging to also be manipulative. I could ask you to change, or attempt to sell my point of view…or I could just take my own action…to cancel my RSS subscription and drop by your archives every once and awhile to pick and choose what post’s interest me.

    Hope Happy New Year…works for you! I don’t mean to suggest how you you should start your New Year…

  11. Hutchie
    Hutchie says:

    Hmmm. This is tough. I totally know what you are saying. And I know that you shouldn’t have to use up one of your vacation days on a holiday that has no significance for you. But I like the idea that everything just stops for a day. And it sucks that it’s mostly only Christian holidays when this happens, but I still like that it happens. And people who are commenting that Christmas is an American holiday, not a Christian holiday, are belittling the day they have invested so much in defending. Christ’s birthday. Christian holiday. No debate.

  12. Jay Reeder
    Jay Reeder says:

    You know, even as an atheist, I used to enjoy celebrating Christmas.

    Then, the Christian culture warriors decided that when *they* said “Merry Christmas”, we should understand it to be a big in-your-face f-you to all those who preferred the more inclusive “Happy Holidays”.

    But what finally ruined it for me was the umpteenth time I heard the classic Christian rejoinder in any wintertime argument about church-state separation: “Well, you take the day off for Christmas, don’t you?”

    So, you can keep your we-are-all-Christian-consumers-today holiday, thank you very much. I’ve switched to celebrating Festivus.

  13. jenx67
    jenx67 says:

    Hmmm. I have several mixed points to make and feelings to bear witness to. First of all, I am a Christian, and by that I mean I really do try to follow the teachings of Christ. Secondly, for what it’s worth, I did a fair amount of graduate work in Jewish history, and have long been interested in Jewish ideas and issues – ever since Rabbi A. David Packman of Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City taught at my private Christian university in the late 1980s. (Through a program via the Chautauqua Society, NY.)

    During these years, I attended services a few times a year at Temple B’nai and I remember hearing about B’nai B’rith, an organization that promotes harmony among Jews and Christians. One thing the men of B’nai B’rith talked about doing was working in a Christian’s stead on Christian holidays. Christians in turn worked for Jews on Jewish holy days. They certainly did not share your attitude or opinions about Christmas, and I think it would be a shame for anyone reading your column to think that all American Jews feel the way you do.

    I mean, in Oklahoma, only 6 percent of the population is Jewish. I interviewed a young Jew recently about the opening of the Chabad in OKC – the first Judaic building in Oklahoma in 50 years. Really, there is nothing but overwhelming respect in this town for Jews, and nobody wants any of them to feel that Christmas is a huge inconvenience for them. It actually hurts to think of it this way. There is a real desire here to understand Judaism and integrate the Jewish community and honor diversity and make room for diverse ideas, etc. In fact, we all ask ourselves, Christians and Jews alike, how can we grow the Jewish community in Oklahoma? So, much of your world view seems impacted by WHERE you live or where you don’t live. I am not saying that it is utopic in Oklahoma. I’m just saying, leaders in the dominant paradigm share these perspectives.

    I think Christmas parties at work are a pain in the neck. I think they are an affront to what absolutely is a Christian holiday and I LOVE LOVE LOVE your point that only a Christian would feel high enough on the horse to say it wasn’t a Christian holiday. The notion that Christmas would be a floating holiday, puts the government in the position of recognizing Christmas as a Christian holy day. This could go quite far in underscoring the birth of Christ, for which December 25 is symbolic. So, I’d be all for that.

    Having said that, my husband, who works for the State of Oklahoma, also gets December 26 off. It’s all about economics. It costs more to run the heat in state buildings when 90 percent of state employees will take the day off when Christmas falls on a Thursday. Also, in terms of economics, we’ve all heard – if Christmas did not exist, there would be a need to invent it. (Thus, the extraordinary windows at NYC’s department stores.)

    For me, the most solemn of holy days is Good Friday, which is invisibile in corporate America. I’d love to have a floating holiday for that day. So, there are Christian holy days that many devout followers of Christ observe, but which are completely ignored by the “rest of the world.”

    If you really want to write a Christmas post that will generate loads of interest, next Christmas, write about how the Jewish dictionary defined Jesus – if I recall correctly – it is as “one of the greatest prophets that ever lived.” (Maybe even more highly regarded than Elijah??) Something to think about, and certainly something that NOBODY ever talks about. How come?

    And, all my respect, truly. Nothing I’m saying here is intended to be running a stick along a post. With harmony in mind, tell us the consequence of ignoring Jewish ideas. On this Christmas Day, I watched a special about the Jews in Russia. We still have a long way to go.

    Isaiah 58: 7-10 (Then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.)

    Oh, and shame on the editors that canceled the column over *that.* How idiotic.

  14. jenx67
    jenx67 says:

    p.s. your poll is flawed. The fourth answer:

    Christmas is a Christian holy day and thus, should not be a sanctioned holiday in corporate America or local, state and federal government.

  15. MCurie
    MCurie says:

    I am from India. Today I worked full-day alongside 1000+ colleagues. In these times, no Christmas holidays for us; even though most of our US clients have "forced-shutdowns" until 5 January 2009.

    @mcurie from twitter

  16. blondheretic
    blondheretic says:

    I don’t like Christmas at all for the reasons you mention. It is exclusionary not to other religions and cultures, but also by socio-economic status.

    The thing I do like about the holiday at this time of year is that it is a true holiday. No one in the Western world really seems to expect anyone else to be working. It is a rarity in the world where work and life are increasingly blended together.

    I think once in awhile we need a day where all work stops (for most people – the emergency service providers never get this luxury). I’d rather this day was a world-wide holiday and not based in religion and not celebrating consumption, but you can’t always get what you wish for.

  17. Amy
    Amy says:

    Your poll needs another option for: “I see your point. As a cultural Christian, I’d be fine with a change in policy that required me to use a “floating holiday” if I wanted this particular day off.”

    Not everybody has to argue. *shrug*

  18. Cinthia
    Cinthia says:

    I am a Christian and would love for Christmas to come to a grinding halt. Everyone go back to work–I will gladly take a personal leave day to worship–but everyone else please forget the day exists. What is very personal to me is now a raging debate and a secularized spectacle. Find another time of the year to celebrate some idealized version of hope and good cheer and let the retailers be happy. I don’t want non-Christians celebrating the day in the same way I wouldnt’ want them taking communion. And, in the same way I don’t celebrate Hannukah. Why would I? I’m not Jewish. Christmas is a Christian day. No matter what you do. You can paint a coat of veneer on it and call it something else so you’ll feel better celebrating it but the bottom line is, it is a Christian High Festival Relgious Day. Don’t like it? Don’t celebrate it. I agree with Penelope. Give everyone a certain number of paid holidays and let them decide.

  19. Pat Rocchi
    Pat Rocchi says:

    Penelope, I am a lifelong Catholic who attends Mass every Sunday, goes on an annual religious retreat and sings regularly at church, and I totally agree with you. While this is a diversified country, the reality is that many Christians, including those who behave in an unchristian manner, want things to go their way every time. As you noted, they argue that “the United States is a Christian nation” You’re correct in asserting this is not true. Read this—> Where it becomes problematic is that Christmas has become a secular holiday rather than a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. This muddies the waters, making December 25 a holiday celebrated by most Americans (even Jews, I dare say). It is ingrained in our national culture. I for one support your pleas for fairer treatment of non-Christians.

  20. Ellie
    Ellie says:

    I was raised in a Christian household and would probably still identify myself as Christian, but I’m not that into Christmas. I don’t have children and I don’t live close to my parents, so it’s not a big deal for me – whilst I celebrate on the day, I take issue with the additional leave that we have to take at this time of year.

    I finished work on 23rd Dec, and my workplace is closed until 5th January. I’m sure many people reading this will think that’s great, but I would much rather go into work – not on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day, but certainly on 29th December, etc. Without family commitments, two weeks off in the middle of winter is boring – I would much rather take the time off in summer, when the weather is better and I could do things!

    (I should point out that I work in education in the UK. Our leave allowances are much more generous than the US, and we get “extra” days off for the period when the building is closed, but I’d like to use these on another occasion.)

  21. jenx67
    jenx67 says:

    I just thought of something else, and since I have nothing better to do on Christmas that post long comments on a Jewish blogger’s Christmas rant (ha!) here’s one more. Christians really don’t know very much about Jewish life. They understand very little about Jewish holy days or holidays, and their view of Hanukkah as the Jewish equivalent of Christmas can probably be blamed on Anne Frank. We were all so taken with that part of her diary where she creatively comes up with Hanukkah gifts for everyone living in the attic – especially those ear plugs she made for Mr. Dussell so he wouldn’t have to hear her tossing and turning at night.

  22. kerrjac
    kerrjac says:

    I grew up Jewish as well and had a similar attitude along the lines of ‘what’s the big whoop?’. But you can’t deny X-Mas’ importance. Approximately one-quarter of all consumer spending occurs during the holiday season. Think about that. During 1 month each year we spend as if that month were 3 months. That’s all Christmas. And it’s not Hanukkah: Outside of America, Hanukkah is not an big holiday. It’s only become important in America in relation to Christians getting gifts, kind of like an artificial Christmas for Jews. Which is to say that the spike in consumer spending in December – even the percent from Jews – is really in reaction to Christmas.

    Diversity is important, but think of it this way: Say 3/4’s of an office celebrated Christmas with their family, and 1/4 didn’t, and that quarter kind of felt alienated because they had nothing to do on Christmas and because their holidays weren’t celebrated. Flipping things around, appeasing the minority by having work on Christmas is only going to upset 3/4’s of the workers. Luckily tho, no individual does this kind of manipulation, but instead, society decides on which days it deems important and which days it doesn’t.

  23. Reality Check
    Reality Check says:

    Ok, let me give a crack at this one.

    Penny, nobody is forcing you to do anything you do not want to do. If you want to work on Christmas, by all means, knock yourself out. You can refuse Christmas gifts from people if you like and you can turn down invitations from Christmas parties — it is truly your choice.

    As far as I know, no company I’ve been around makes anyone use a “religious” holiday for Christmas. It’s a holiday for everyone; Christian or not. I’ve never heard of floating “religious” holidays to begin with either — most people have some vacation days and the company doesn’t care what you do on them.

    Here’s reality: these neo-Libs (like Penny) want everyone to do as they say (not as they do). “I hate Christmas so we should eliminate it from everywhere because it’s best for everyone. If you think different, you don’t get it. But lets keep the religious holidays I like.”

    Real libs (like myself) stick with “Live and let live”. I work with lots of Jews and most of them are smart enough to realize it’s nice to have a day off. Free your mind, Penny — you are your greatest enemy.

  24. Ken
    Ken says:

    Ebenezer Scrooge,

    You use “Circular Reasoning” to support a premise with the premise rather than a conclusion.

    The blog offers no evidence – it simply repeats the claim that was already presented. Don't be fooled into believing that using the word "because" in an argument automatically provides a valid reason. You do not provide clear evidence to support your claims, not a version of the premise (the initial statement in an argument).

    Merry Christmas Ebenezer Scrooge!

  25. Kristina
    Kristina says:

    I hate the thousands of ways that American blends church and state and workplaces and religion. However, for better or worse, your rant isn’t practical or helpful. I’m agnostic, yet I celebrate Christmas as a generic holiday. So do most Americans. In fact, most of my Jewish friends also use the day for holiday celebrations. In fact, I spent today (Christmas) at a giant family brunch hosted by my Jewish friends. I generally think this has become a “holiday season” and that’s not going to change.

    Also, even if we just used roaming holiday days rather than automatically giving Christmas off, this wouldn’t be practical for most work places. I work in a large law firm in Washington, DC. The vast majority of people would take Christmas off even if it weren’t an official holiday. This makes it impossible to go to work and actually be effective. I wouldn’t have a secretary, I wouldn’t have any support staff, the courts would be closed, most opposing counsel wouldn’t be in their offices, and the building itself would be closed because they wouldn’t have enough staff to staff it. So, you might want to try to move beyond your bitterness for your own sake.

  26. Javier
    Javier says:

    Santa is not Christian, if any reads the Bible, you won’t find any of the fairy Scandinavian pagan rites that create the World of Santa Claus, the Grinch, the Christmas Tree, etc.

    I hoped that someone like Ms. Trunk would already noticed the difference between Holidays and Christmas, the first one being am american born Tradition (excelled by a consumer economy where selling is a must), and the second one a very different thing whose name has been stoled by the former….

    (BTW, have you ever been through a Yom Kippur, or just a plain sabbath, in Jerusalem…you’ll have a lot of stuff to adress future rants about imposing the “cultural religious habits” of the Majority to other non believers….)

    shalom haberim

    • Someone
      Someone says:

      Good point Javier. When I was in Israel, I was forced to follow shabbat (the orange juice machines didn’t work since they were electric, no public transit etc). Now THERE’s an example of a relgious tradition being forced on non believers. Annoyed the crap out of me.

  27. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:

    Reading the comments that suggest ‘minorities are afraid to dissent’ makes me laugh! Really? On which planet?

    I work with plenty of people from India and nobody hesitates to voice their opinions. I am a minority in the UK and some of my clients really would like me to stop dissenting, but if I did not show them a better way, they would not pay me.

    It may be hard to argue but the issue is disenfranchisement and in liberal democracies, it is hard to argue that case for business-employees. Those who really are disenfranchised do not have the luxury to argue about one Xmas holiday!

    Come to the UK, people, you will see what the tyranny of minorities look like. We live in perpetual ‘fear of offending’ some minorities, when most of those minorities – me included – are happy to enjoy the holiday. A propos, I can’t help but think of this great post from Stuff White People Like:

    And as I said in my last comment, if one must complain, why not do so about the few days of paid leave that Americans get, which seems to take out any generosity about holidays from many?

    Lovely to see seasonal cheer doesn’t infect many ;-)

  28. David
    David says:


    Christmas in the US as a holiday has nothing to do with religion at all. It’s tradition and culture.

    That’s it, simply. The vast majority of people in America feel that Christmas (just like July 4th and Thanksgiving) is a cultural holiday.

  29. Danny
    Danny says:

    Wow, apparently I have been a fan for more than a year now since I remember last years post well. So, you do have a point but I think you may be blowing it out of proportion. Are you sure what you are looking for in a solution is not already in place in most businesses? For example – If any of my staff actually want to work for Christmas and take a different day off, I would certainly not stop them. In fact, I would welcome it because I’m sure they would get a lot of work done on such a quiet day.
    I just got back from Singapore last week. It’s no America, but a nice city none-the-less. Good timing on this subject because they are a mixed culture that has more of the bases covered. Christians, Muslims, Buddhism, and Hindu (and that was only what was obvious and visible to me) all equally as popular out there. Yet, they do not debate each other beliefs. They celebrate them all. It is common to hear a Hindu in Singapore tell you Merry Christmas if they suspect you are a Christian Westerner. Since we are an American based company, our Singapore staff do have the 25th as an optional holiday. If they choose to work, they can take a different day off. Here is the interesting part, 95% of them take if off and I would guess only 10% of them are Christian.
    My point – Most of us don’t take this day off because a company forces us to.

    Happy Hanukah

  30. rennie
    rennie says:

    OK. Where do I begin? I’m amazed at the scrooginess (bitterness) of people commenting on this basically bad-attitude post.

    I’m a Christian so I celebrate Christmas for religious reasons. That said, I celebrate it for other reasons as well – reasons I could easily apply to Hannukka, Kwanza or any other holiday.

    #1: When in Rome… Christmas, whether a religious, commercial or family celebration, is part of our American tradition. If I go to Isreal or Iraq, I would expect to have holiday breaks different than my own. I would expect that my traditions may not be fully recognized.

    #2: No one works at Christmas. Go ahead and work on Christmas if you want to, but how much do you plan to accomplish if no one else is working?

    #3: Christmas is what you make it. I hate the commercialism. I hate when stores start playing cheesy, secular music the day after Halloween. But I can CHOOSE to ignore it. I can CHOOSE to be happy in spite of the things that don’t go my way. I can CHOOSE to make Christmas what I want it to be.

    #4: Snow. I live in the Midwest and we’ve been getting some expreme weather. It’s affecting travel and convenience. But, hey, it’s beautiful and I can look for the fun in it – see #3. Life is an adventure.

    #5: Time to take a break. Americans NEED a physical and mental break away from work. Christmas provides such a time. It forces us to take that break, because some will never do it on their own.

    #6: Time for family and friends. Americans NEED to spend meaningful time with family and friends. And, like #5, some people must be forced to do so. Christmas does that. My husband and I always take the week from Christmas to New Years off. We spend it with our kids. We visit/entertain out-of-town family. It’s the time that creates memories and binds us together. Penelope, have you ever taken a full week off of work for family? No blackberry. No computer. No phone calls. Just family?

    #7: Love for mankind. Outside of natural disasters or acts of terror, Christmas offers the greatest outpouring of generosity and human compassion. The best cure for depression/bitterness at Christmas is to do something for someone else. Host a needy family. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Spend time with a lonely, elderly person. Christmas is not about you. It’s about what you do for others.

    These are things I like about Christmas. True, they could easily be applied to any other holiday and it’s probably not fair that we put them only to Christmas. But, hey, it’s what we do and better at Christmas than not at all. If you want this to be for your Hannukka or some other holiday, quit your crabbin’ and make it happen.

    PS: If you wished me Happy Hannukka, I would love it. I would feel the joy of the season and feel like spreading it to someone else. People, please quit the negativity. We don’t need it.

  31. Angela Norton Tyler
    Angela Norton Tyler says:

    I understand the people that miss the way Christmas used to be: singing carols in the school auditorium; saying “Merry Christmas;” eating white bread, red meat, loads of sugar with abandon; buying and getting guns and Barbies for presents- those were good times! And, here’s the other thing I understand: those days are over. We can no longer assume that Christian means American, and that everybody else had better just put up with it or “go home.” But, people hate to accept that times are changing OR that, possibly, they are doing something wrong or hurtful. It is easier for them to get mad at YOU for pointing things out to them. Keep up the good work, Penelope!

  32. Becky
    Becky says:

    Can we differentiate between taking the day off, and having music/decorations/activities related to Christmas in the office?

    I think that it is practical to make Christmas a holiday. The majority of employees at most companies in the U.S. will take the day off whether it’s an official holiday or not. If a company stays open, the low-paid/junior people will end up working although they want to take the day off, which is pretty rotten. It’s one of three days a year that people with non-corporate jobs (retail, restaurants, etc) actually get to take time off when the rest of their families are off too. If Christmas was not a holiday, don’t think everybody would get that day off to take at some other time … we’d all just lose a day off.

    HOWEVER, I (culturally Christian although not religiously Christian) really dislike workplace Christmas activities – secret Santa, decorations, and especially Christmas music. I think that *is* a rude imposition of religious/cultural opinions on others. I don’t like shopping in grocery stores with tons of Christmas decorations up.

    So I’d like to see everybody have the day off but banish the red and green and Santa and so on on so forth. People would still be free to be extra cheerful and peaceable and generous if they wish. :-) That seems like a reasonable and culturally sensitive compromise,at least to me.

  33. Teri
    Teri says:

    Dear PT,
    I’ve come up with a way to enjoy winter festivities while offending everyone…please feel free to steal my new Season’s Greeting…



  34. Phil
    Phil says:

    Christmas is one of the few things this overly PC nation has got left. This country is built upon a doctrine of religious freedom and a separation of church and state. That doctrine is there simply to ensure that the “church” is not in fact running the country and influencing our republic in negative lights…whatever the religion may be. Celebrating Christmas in the work place in no way infringes on peoples’ rights. Would I get pissed off if I see a menorah sitting on someone’s desk? Nope. Do I get upset if I see a Christmas tree? Nope. It is called tolerance to other religions Penelope. You have every right to practice whatever religion you want. The fact that Christmas is a national holiday does not infringe upon that. This country while it may not be technically a Christian nation, is built upon Christian fundamental ideals and it is only appropriate that Christmas is a national holiday. Christmas means many different things to many different people. It is funny how you always see non Christians protesting the one time of year that “good will” is actually practiced by most. Stop acting like you even have an office to go into to work at on Christmas. Traditions aren’t always a bad thing Ebeneezer!

  35. Amy
    Amy says:

    I am Jewish and manage a Jewish non-profit (most of our employees are Jewish) and we are closed on Christmas! Why? Because no one else is working and it is a federal holiday. Everyone appreciates the paid day off and many of our employees go to non-Jewish friends and relatives homes for Christmas celebrations. Even my employee who just moved here from Israel went to a Christmas celebration, and felt like it was a chance to experience another culture. It is a total waste of energy to get upset about the observance of Christmas in this county. We also get Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shavuot and a number of other Jewish holidays off and our non-Jewish employees aren’t complaining about those.

  36. Mike Hunt
    Mike Hunt says:

    What about Memorial Day? Why should I have to take a day off from work when I am not even related to a veteran! Or Labor Day? I don’t belong to a union! Hell, I wasn’t ever a pilgrim either, so what the hell is this Thanksgiving crap?

  37. Patrick
    Patrick says:

    It’s a shame most people completely missed Penelope’s point, and immediately word-vomited their kneejerk reactions.

    Penelope, I’m not Jewish. But I’m a gay man, and I completely understand what it’s like to have a group of people miss what you’re saying or what you’re about because they simply can’t grasp a concept that isn’t about them or that they’ve never experienced.

    I also love Christmas, but I DO agree that people who do NOT celebrate that holiday should have a choice to, perhaps, work from home that day and have the religious holiday of their choice off….or in some way not be forced to use a well-earned paid day off.

    Having said all that, I would disagree with the “Christmas is bad at the office” premise. True diversity happens when all of us – ALL OF US – are aware of each other’s lives and the differences in them, and work together to provide a way to support those differences. Companies should work with employees to find alternatives. And I’d welcome a Haunakkah card, or, as several of my friends send me, a Solstice greeting.

  38. Candice
    Candice says:

    Thanks for this post. As an atheist, I also feel aliented by the the ubiquitous Christmas each year. From Halloween to New Year’s Eve, there’s no escape. I tried to persuade those in my family and social circle to skip presents and donate cash to agreed-upon causes, and that’s helped me avoid the retail hell of the season, at least. But I still feel like I’m a closet-case Grinch, just clenching my teeth each year and waiting for it to be over so we can all get back to work.

  39. Paul
    Paul says:

    This is interesting. I’m wondering if anyone else is making the connection that I am between this post and Obama asking a conservative “christian” to officiate at his swearing in? In both cases, they’re doing things that their “core constituancy” might not approve of, but probably need to hear.

    Here’s the thing, folks. It’s Penelope’s post, she can do with it what she wants. If you want to read someone who thinks JUST LIKE you, says WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR, then maybe you should ask yourself what it is that you’re really looking for. I read Penelope because she challenges me intellectually and writes about interesting stuff.
    I might occassionaly disagree with her, but big picture wise she’s smarter than me and fun to read. That’s a pretty good buy, especially when you consider the low low price we pay to read what she writes. If I had the money I’d invest in Penelope Trunk in a HEARTBEAT.

    Happy New Year to all!

  40. Emma
    Emma says:

    Is there any reason that those wanting the floating paid holiday can’t negotiate it prior to taking a job or at annual appraisals? Tell the boss you’ll be working from home (or hell, the office) on xmas day and provide the material/deliverables/contact to prove it, and ask for a day off on XYZholiday in lieu. That would certainly be acceptable almost everywhere I’ve worked, where the work doesn’t stop coming in on december 23rd.

  41. anonymous
    anonymous says:

    Thank you for being brave enough to broach this topic. I didn’t vote in the poll because I would have preferred a fourth option: I’m ok with Christmas because I’m happy to have the day off, but I would like other religious holidays to be recognized and for employees to have floating days in addition that they can use. (Good idea.)

    At my workplace, a government institution, I have a problem with the way they celebrate the holidays. There are about 7-10 huge Christmas trees set up in the lobby, where the public enter to visit, and then on a tiny table in the corner, a small menorah. I am grateful for the menorah but really, must it be so small?

    One year they didn’t put it up at all and I had to approach Human Resources about it. My coworkers thought I was making a big deal out of nothing and that I should just shut up because I’m a minority. That made me feel hurt. I didn’t do it inappropriately or in anger, simply asked and pursued even when initially blown off.

    I am an interesting mix myself: One Jewish parent (mother, so I am technically Jewish and very tied to my Jewish heritage culturally), one Catholic father, and myself an atheist. I celebrate all and nothing at the same time.

    I enjoy embracing diversity and I am happy to respect other people’s differing views and wish the same respect were returned. I wish people would be more open-minded around the holidays. It is the spirit of community and honor of family that I respect the most.

  42. Marsha Keeffer
    Marsha Keeffer says:

    Thank you for bringing this up, P.

    I’m a non-church affiliated shiksa with a spiritual practice. I have many Jewish friends and I know they often grit their teeth during this season. Christmas is indeed a religious holiday and I’d actually like to see more separation of church and state, not less. Floating is the best solution I’ve heard so far and I think it’s fair.

    Oh, wait – I can hear the retailers (department, discount and grocery stores) squealing in the background. Too bad – get over it!

  43. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Christmas pre-dated Christianity by a few thousand years. The old name was Yule. It’s very pagan. It’s not Christian.

    Please don’t take this the wrong way, but you Americans tend to get your knickers in a twist a lot about religion. It’s one of those weird things. We Canadians and Europeans scratch our heads a lot about that. Why do you talk about it so much? Why is religion so much about power, anger, and “turf” in your country?

    Your Christmas needs a neutral make-over.

  44. Paul
    Paul says:

    I’m sorry, did you just say Americans make a big deal out of Religion compared to other countries? I’ll buy the Canadian part, but Europe? Um, Crusades anyone? Ireland, anyone? HITLER, anyone?

    Just stickin’ up for the USA. We might get our knickers in a twist over ChrismaKwanzukka, but we don’t quite have the history of waging war over religion that compares with the rest of the world.

  45. JKM
    JKM says:

    In my area of the country, we have a significant Jewish population, Arab population and Christian population. The schools actually close for all of the significant holidays in all the religions. The schools talk about all of the various religions. Yes, it’s a lot of holidays. A lot of Christian friends complain about a slew of holidays in September and October every year when they have to take vacation because schools are closed. Then there is Passover where the schools close for 1 day at the start and one day at the end of the 8 days – assuming they don’t fall on weekends. We are not Jewish but my daughter went to a Jewish Community Center day care. It was great to have her learn about both.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I personally chose to celebrate the fact that we have a diversity of populations that my children and I now are learning about.

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