Q. I'd like to invite some Jewish friends to my Christmas party, but I'm not sure what to tell them about what will be going on.
Only the most insulated Jew doesn't know what goes on at Christmas parties: Yule logs, Xmas carols, mistletoe, eggnog, and Jack Frost nipping at your nose are all a large part of American culture. TV, films, Bing Crosby, Rudolph ("with your nose so bright!"), and decorations in just about every store window and town square have guaranteed that the "message" of Christmas--too often, a largely commercial and secular message--has infiltrated just about every nook and cranny of America. And, as even the biggest party pooper knows, Christmas parties are usually not an excuse to welcome the baby Jesus but to get more than a wee bit tipsy. Most Christmas parties are not religious affairs, other than maybe the singing of a carol or two and a crèche on display.
So just about any Jew (or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist, for that matter) going to a Christmas party will not be like a stranger going to a strange land. And the issue then becomes not what to tell your Jewish friends but how comfortable they might feel at your party, and why they're going to begin with. What determines the "comfort factor" might be how relaxed a non-Christian feels in a setting that's largely ruled by Christian values and imagery. And, anyway, maybe a non-Jew would go to a Christmas party for most of the reasons you're having one: to enjoy well-made eggnog, a not-so-illicit smooch under the mistletoe--and the bonhomie of the holiday season.