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A ‘Dear Santa’ letter from the rabbi | Interfaith | Dec. 3
Shalom! I know that this is a very busy time for you, and I send these words with the heartfelt wish that, despite the tumult, you, Mrs. Claus, and your loved ones are finding time to enjoy the Christmas season.
You may have noticed from the return address on this letter that I am a rabbi. If so, you would be correct to surmise that I do not celebrate Christmas. Thousands of my neighbors celebrate it, of course, but it is their holiday, not mine. My own Christmas joy comes from watching the yuletide festivities around me, knowing they bring warmth and cheer to many of my friends.
Please don’t feel sorry for me, Santa. We Jews have countless holidays of our own – Passover, Purim, Sukkot, the Sabbath, and others – so we’re doing just fine in the celebration department.
But I digress. The reason I am writing to you is that I have a request. And even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you won’t think it improper of me to ask you for a small gift – not a Christmas gift, of course (oy, what a stir that would cause at my synagogue!). No, let’s just call it a “December gift.”
What I’d like, Santa, is this: When you speak with the people who celebrate Christmas – boys and girls and men and women of all ages – would you please remind them that not everybody celebrates Christmas?
Please understand that, as joyous a time as it is for you and the Christmas-celebrating majority, it can also be a difficult time for those who don’t celebrate the holiday.
Christmas fervor starts before Halloween now – sometimes even July – with Christmas greetings, parties, gifts and Christmas wishes from stores’ cashiers.
The wishes are all well-intentioned, of course. But when directed toward us they’re misplaced. Christmas wishes throw many of us into an internal dialogue. Should we just smile and say thank you when we hear them? Should we politely remind the “Merry Christmaser” that not everyone celebrates the holiday? Maybe it would help to whip out our Chanukah menorahs and light them on the spot.
Getting “Merry Christma-ed” as often as we do can be exhausting for us Jews. Imagine how it would feel if your birthday were in March, and everyone you encountered made sure to wish you a happy birthday at the beginning of September each year. Would you smile and say thank you? Correct them? Or kick them in the shins?
Whatever your answer, I hope that this helps you understand what it’s like for us to be Jewish when December rolls around.
We Jews don’t want to be Grinches, Scrooges, or party-poopers of any kind. Christmas can be a beautiful holiday, and our world is certainly much better off with Christmas than it would be without it. At the same time, we don’t want to allow the Christmas spirit to co-opt us into celebrating a holiday that’s not ours.
So Santa, as you go about making your list, checking it twice, and Ho-Ho-Ho-ing your way through the Christmas season this year, please remind your many petitioners that our world teems with people who embrace different faiths and practices of all kinds.
Remind them that even though most of us around here celebrate Christmas, not everyone does. And as the Christmas fervor grows, it would be a good idea to keep this in mind.
Is this too much to ask? I certainly hope not.
Santa, once again, I wish you, your loved ones, and everyone who celebrates with you, a blessed and very merry Christmas.
Rabbi Mark S. Glickman leads Congregation Kol Shalom on Bainbridge Island.