Update: The State of the War on Christmas

“You know,” I said to my husband, Ralf, “the war against Christmas is not going well.”

After all, where I live, Christmas ornaments and decorations fill the stores after Halloween. Christmas music sounds from every store speaker after Thanksgiving. Even a few days before the New Year, folks at stores are still so attached to the past that they invariably ask me how my Christmas went.

Obviously, I tell myself, these are folks who don’t know I am Jewish.

I suppose any one of them could say, with some justice, that I don’t “look Jewish,” though that would cause all sorts of internal discombobulation in my head. But no matter. This is about the war against Christmas.

It’s going badly.

Ralf went shopping just before Christmas. This is a dangerous thing to do. Folks start casing the aisles, desperately looking for items on their shopping list that they never otherwise buy. This is due to mad attempts to make some new kind of cookie. The recipes discovered in the newspaper or online almost always require exotic, unknown ingredients which might be located in the baking aisle but could just as well be found in the “international” aisle. The stress makes folk a bit emotional.

Be that as it may, Ralf remained calm. He found all the items on our list. At checkout, he met an old student of his working at the grocery store. (This happens to both of us, which is worrisome, of course. One prefers to imagine one’s students being gainfully employed after graduation and not struggling to make their own ends meet in the produce section.)

“Merry Christmas!” the student said.

Sometimes, we don’t bother, but since Ralf knew the person in question, he did.

“We celebrate Hanukkah,” he said as his student continued stacking spinach. The two then chatted about various items of interest. We like talking to sales people; they are invariably the most cheerful folk we get to meet out in public. That’s the nature of capitalism: Make sure all your underpaid employees behave like happy underpaid employees.

“Merry Christmas!” the student said again as Ralf wheeled away the cart.

“Crazy,” Ralf told me later. “Like, I had just told him we were Jewish…”

But I can top Ralf’s experience easy.

On my desk are those stickers we all get as freebies when people want our donations. You know, the one with your name and your address next to some cute design? Animals, if you donate to wildlife groups, flowers and fields for environmental one,… you get the idea.

The ones on my desk feature Christmas ornaments, poinsettias, and other wintery motifs. And this is what the text reads: “Rabbi Barbara Thiede….(plus address).”

Everyone celebrates Christmas. Jews, too, are celebrating Christmas. Even ordained rabbis are celebrating Christmas.

Look, I get it. The vast majority of Americans are Christian. Add up Jews (1.9%), Muslims (.9%), Buddhists (.7%), Hindus (.7%) and “other world religions” and “other faiths” you get a grand total, according to the grand Pew-ba, of 5.9% non-Christians. (See “Religions” at http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/ )

No one ever actually says who is waging the war against Christmas. I’m guessing it’s not the tiny 5.9% of folk who are representing minorities who are so minor that you can hardly tell they are there.  Nor am I sure that the war is being waged by the “nones” who likely have Christmas trees just because they are sparkly and fun.

Obviously, the war isn’t going well.

That’s fine, really. It’s not New Year’s Day just yet, and there were still Christmas melodies playing on one public place I visited yesterday. I can listen to another rendition of “Let is Snow” or “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Or other Christmas classics authored by nice Jewish boys. Why not?

Rabbi Thiede wishes (most of America) a Merry Christmas.


Make it so!

Shortly after Independence Day had come and gone, my son, Erik and I left the relative cool of our home and dared to endure the dreadful heat of midsummer in the South to go on a series of purchasing-related errands.

This was a chore. Erik and I dislike shopping for just about anything except odd spices, variants of dahl, and music.

We especially detest having to buy small and stupid items, like plastic organizers. On the other hand, these things are often necessary. The recent rediscovery of bagged buttons had inspired me to sort the same. Now, I needed a plastic organizer.

So we waited until other errands of similar ilk presented themselves. They did so on a day that measured 100 degrees in the shade.

After sweating, cooling, shopping, and sweating, we ended our excursion at a local hobby center.  Upon entering, we were greeted by large orange objects, which turned out to be stacked plastic pumpkins.

I noted that it was not yet mid-July.

“Halloween is just around the corner!” Erik said cheerfully.

I made a face, muttered to myself and we pressed on. We discovered the wall filled with said plastic organizers, and bought two.

On the way out, we were greeted by large stacks of silvery balls. I stopped short.

“Oh, look!” Erik said. “It’s the Captain Picard Christmas ornaments!

The packages were labeled: “Make it so! Christmas ornaments.”

“What the…?” I said. “I am reading this right, right?”

“It’s July!” Erik announced. “But it’s Christmas! Make it so!”

“Stop talking in exclamation points. You sound like a listserve I subscribe to. Every email has at least three exclamation points for every five sentences.”

“A hostile listserve has been spotted. Unsubscribe, captain?” Erik asked.

“Make it so!” I replied firmly.

We pressed on toward the checkout counter.

As the cashier rang up our purchase, Erik and I watched a second cashier unpacking Christmas ornaments. She held one up for our cashier to admire. It was a metal strawberry, coated in the sort of paint that was meant to evoke chocolate.

“That’s another one I’m going to try and snag,” our cashier said.

“Uh huh,” the other woman agreed. “Makes me hungry.”

I tried not to look at Erik. He appeared to be making the same effort. We left the store.

“Wow,” Erik said. “Makes even us Jews want to put Christ back into Christmas.”



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