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Virtual Talmud


Putting the ‘Daze’ Back in ‘Holidays’

A lot of attention has been given lately to a small but vocal segment of the population that sees Christmas–and, by extension, Christians–under attack, with the increasing use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Exhibit A has been the alleged banishing of any and all Christmas references in department stores, whether clerks have been instructed to wish patrons a non-specific “Happy Holidays” or whether such Christmas objects as ornaments have been repurposed as “holiday ornaments” to be hung on “holiday trees.”

On its face, there’s a certain logic to the complaint. Eighty percent of Americans are Christian (note carefully: meaning that they don’t belong to a non-Christian religion, not that they are necessarily practicing Christians), and certainly in many parts of the country that percentage is much higher. Isn’t it only appropriate to acknowledge the obvious fact that most Americans celebrate “Christmas,” not “Holiday”?

And the idea of a “holiday ornament” is particularly silly. Are Jews suddenly going to start hanging glass baubles with pictures of Santa Claus and reindeer from their menorahs now that these are generic holiday ornaments and not Christmas ornaments?

Clearly, the symbols of Christmas need to be identified for what they actually are, and this cuts to the point of the whole debate. Because there is no shortage of Christian symbols this time of year–I haven’t personally heard any department stores swapping “Deck the Halls” for “We Wish You a Merry Kwanzaa”–or of Americans celebrating Christmas.

Christmas appears alive and well, which is why the question of the motives of the anti-Happy Holidays campaign comes into play. Sadly, the purpose of the effort isn’t to get out a religious message: it’s to spread a political and cultural message that America is a Christian nation and that anyone who doesn’t fit the standard is less than a good American, a point none-too-subtly made when the conservative New York Post charged a Jewish Long Island town supervisor opposing Christian prayers at a tree-lighting ceremony with “Treeson.” In fact, the New York Times web site has reported that there is a deeply disturbing trend of these attacks on the “anti-Christmas” camp taking on an anti-Semitic tinge.

The fact is that the Save Christmas folks are trying to use this issue as a wedge in the cultural wars. It’s particularly ironic that the main battleground is department stores, because those who are arguing for these merchandizers to proudly proclaim “Merry Christmas” ultimately end up highlighting the commercial aspect of the holiday, detracting from the spiritual meaning of the celebration.

As a rabbi and a person who cares deeply about religious messages, I’m angered by these attempts at creating division and saddened by the cheapening of Christmas by using it to score political points. Christians should take joy and pride in the celebration of their holiday at this season, just as Jews do in Hanukkah and observers of Kwanzaa do in theirs.

The genius of America is that we don’t need to pretend we’re all the same in order to all be Americans. And as I light my Hanukkah candles this year, I’ll be reflecting on the blessings of this country and the religious freedom that the Maccabees fought to protect.

May we all enjoy a healthy and blessed holiday season.



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Firecracker

posted December 22, 2005 at 6:24 pm


Isn’t it possible that some Christians truly feel marginalized in some way in contemporary America with its pluralistic, syncretistic popular culture and increasingly diverse population? It’s hard for us Jews to believe, because there are so many more nominal Christians than Jews, but our 21st-century culture may be confusing for many folks who want things to be more like the idealized “good old days,” when each community was more isolated from the other and we had no mass media to mix it all up. It’s the homogenization of our globalized world that seems to scare so many conservatives–whether they’re Jews, Muslims, or Christians.



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Tom

posted December 31, 2005 at 3:38 pm


I agree that technology has certainly pushed each ethno-cultural-religious group in each others faces. That is part of the problem with the civilizational-confrontation seen with the Muslim world vs the Judaeo-Christian world. Yet, there are still the Amamleks/Hamans of the earth; those nations, tribes, cultures that will not be peaceful with those unlike themselves. Therefore, I hope the more civilized nations/tribes will be ready to get tough; if necessary. I am so impressed that Sweden has broken all ties with Iran’s government after Iran’s President threatened Israel’s existence. When the bully countries of the world are marginalized; socially and economically, we will be able to begin to correct ugly nations behavior; hopefully with out as much much war.



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Linda Diemer

posted January 2, 2006 at 3:45 am


Dear Rabbi Waxman, My name is Linda and would like to thank you for the words I have just read regarding “happy holiday” hijaking Merry Christmas. As a true “believer” Christian (I have no affiliation with any man made religious dogma, I found your words truly hit the proverbial “nail on the head”. I would like to thank you for your words which profoundly made me think. And in my opinion, making someone “think” about the fact that during this time of the year, Christians do not have the right to deny others their beliefs which happen to coincide with the timing of what we call “Christmas”. I would again thank you for your opening my eyes and taking off the scales to the feelings and plight of the “non-christmas” people. And you are so very correct in saying that many who are arguing again the “happy holiday” versus “Merry Christmas” are people who call themselves Christians yet may only go to church on Christmas eve or Christmas day, and during the rest of the year, live a life apart from G–. Not praying and praising His Holly name every day. I call them pseudo-cristians. Not just Lukewarm, but alsmost frozen. They are the ones hurting the true Christians who feel as you, that the meaning of this time of year is to share our love with one and another. A time to reflect on the wonderful diversity of America. That G– would rather we respect each other who have a true belief in His words that we love one another and that utmost we have this season to worship and praise His Holy Name. Again thank you for your wonderful words. May I wish you a Happy Hanukkah and a blessed New Year. Linda Diemer



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HASH(0x212e450c)

posted January 16, 2006 at 11:59 pm


Dont tell me what to do,say,, Let me t li hink what I want do what I feel like doing.



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marciango@aol.com

posted January 17, 2006 at 12:04 am


THE PROBLEM WITH US HUMANS IS THAT WE KNOW BETTER BUT REFUSETO DO IT. wHAT IS THE REASON FOR A UNION BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN, IS TO PROCREATE OR TO ENGAGE IN ALL SORTS OF DEVIANT BEHAVIORS FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF BLISS AND PLESASURE.



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marciango@aol.com

posted January 17, 2006 at 12:09 am


IF PEOPLE WERE TO UNDERSTAND OUR PURPOSE IN LIFE, THEN WE MIGHT BE ABLE TOUNDERSTAND THE FRAGILITY OF OUR EXISTENCE, IF THE SO CALLED EDUCATED WERE WISE WE MIGHT BE ABLE TO COMPREHEND THAT THE FEAR OF THE LORD IS WHAT MAKES US WISE.



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marciango@aol.com

posted January 17, 2006 at 12:14 am


ANY ONE CAN JUDGE, BUT JUDGE NOT UNLESS YOU BE JUDGE ALSO,EVERY ONE WILL ONE DAY BE JUDGE YHAT WILL BE PERFECT JUSTICE.WE ARE GIVEN THAT PREROGATIVE, BECAUSE WE HAVE LIMITED KNOWLEDGE.AND REASON.



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