Posted by Julia Bendis
When you receive your first holiday card, you realize that you’re officially in the holiday season, or as I like to call it, “The Holiday card nightmare”. As we enter the holidays, we also enter the awkward holiday greeting card etiquette. The other day a long-time friend asked me if I get offended when people send me “Merry Christmas” cards, instead of the obvious Hanukkah cards. Well - I replied, do you like getting “Happy Hanukkah” cards instead of “Merry Christmas” cards? No need for explanation here…
If you don’t know someone well, I understand the general “Merry Christmas” statement, but if you know that person is anything but a Christian, why not order an extra set of plain “Happy Holiday” cards? My friend’s reaction was, so am I supposed to order separate Hanukkah cards even though I don’t celebrate it? No, I like getting the ones with Merry Christmas crossed out and Happy Hanukkah hand-written on them, right next to the baby Jesus and folk chanting: Our savior has been born, let’s rejoice! But Happy Hanukkah anyway, you sad, sad Jew who’s missing out on all the saving and rejoicing that’s about to go on in here!
We (and by we, I mean the Jews) get that unless you live in Israel, are in the minority in this country and throughout the world, however that does not mean that all Gentiles have to completely ignore the fact that there are millions of people that don’t celebrate Christmas. Anywhere you go its an automatic “Merry Christmas” greeting; from grocery stores to workplaces. Do we (the Jews) go around saying “Happy Hanukkah” to strangers and store workers? Can you imagine checking out at the local supermarket and just as you are about to leave announce: Happy Hanukkah to you and your family, may the spirit of Hanukkah light up your Menorah! Actually, I have done that last week to a store clerk, just so I could beat her before the usual “Merry Christmas”. You know the reaction I received? A blank stare followed by an awkward “I am not Jewish” statement. Doesn’t feel so good, store clerk, does it? Didn’t think so.
My parents on the other hand take a very different approach to all of this; they just accept and deal with it. That’s their advice to me as well, just deal with it like all the Jews have dealt with it for thousands of years. Then they proceed to remind me how we used to “deal” with it back home in Russia: walk home fast during the holidays, making sure that the Menorah you have wrapped in newspaper is tucked far enough into your coat that it doesn’t resemble anything “Jewish”, if anyone asks what you have under there simply reply with a “Oh, this? It’s just a dead chicken I was able to find at the store on Minskaya and Leningradskaya street. You might want to hurry, I heard they were about to run out of them!” Then you proceed to distract the gentile with something as you reposition the Menorah and walk briskly towards home. Usually the whole ‘they-are-selling-chickens’ routine gets people distracted enough to make them forget they might be talking to a Jew, since chicken was comparable to a diamond in those days. Another way how the Jews have been so-called dealing with it, mainly in the former Soviet Union is to pretend they are not Jewish or have ever been one. It’s a very common practice, which many families still participate in to this day… Our family however did not, only for the simple fact that there was no getting around ‘looking Jewish’ as my Father put it.
As much as I appreciate my parents input on how to deal with the holidays, they very well know I am not the one to ‘just deal’ with anything. My approach is more of a head-on-attack kind of way, which usually means pissing off a lot of neighbors, friends, strangers and parents in the schools that my kids belong to… People seem to forget that World War 2 started because people chose to ignore, and deal with the way things were changing in Europe. Even the Jews went along with what they were told to do by the Nazis, only because they were afraid to rock the boat, and in a way they didn’t want to think that something so awful would ever be allowed to happen to them. But it did happen, and in a way because people ‘just went along’ with every change that was happening. That’s part of the reason I refuse to go along with this whole ‘do as you are told, say Merry Christmas and blend in’ routine. Sorry, but if you send me a Christmas card with baby Jesus on it, you bet I am sending back a Hanukkah card that may say something like this:
” Happy Hannukkah, let’s celebrate our people’s battle from oppression and genocide, after the Greek-Syrians destroyed our Temple for the second time, massacring thousands of Jews, desecrating the city’s holy Second Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs within its sacred walls, making the Jewish people pray to the Greek Gods and outlawing Judaism. But thanks to Judah Macabbee and his brave army of twelve little Jews (all proudly under 5 feet 4 inches), who drove the Greek army (of 1,000 mind you) and finally rebuild the Temple. Let’s celebrate the many failed attempts of trying to wipe out the whole species of Jews - 5772 years later, somehow we are still here! Happy Hanukkah! We are still here, Biatches! Not going anywhere, so stop trying!”
Well, maybe I’d leave out the ‘biatches’ part, but either way you get the point. So, to quote Adam Sandler: drink your ginatonica, and smoke your marijuanica, and have a happy, happy Hanukkah!
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