Oy, itís December again, which means that we are each faced with the annual dilemma: should I get agitated about Christmas? While each of us has an innate feeling about the holiday and the season of greetings, so much has been written, spoken and analyzed about the "December dilemma" that we have developed a virtually halakhic approach to jingle bells, mistletoe and the omnipresent Tree.
Relax. Keep in mind two things and you will actually enjoy this time of year without guilt. The first is: Christmas is not our holiday. Sure, you get a day off of work, and there are decorations around the office, but there is no pride of ownership among the Jews. If you need a respite from the holiday spirit, go home and read the Jewish book you got for Chanukkah. The second thing to remember is: Christmas is someone elseís holiday. For Christians the world over, but most especially in the United States, it is, quite literally, the most wonderful time of the year. With good will toward men (and women) the rest of America is invited to share the joy which Christians feel in the season. For very few is the purpose of Christmas cheer evangelical. The excesses which we term insensitive or offensive are mostly (note: mostly) simply naive.
That is not to say that we should not be vigilant about the difference between the public expressions of private citizens and the public endorsement of private beliefs. Religious symbols, including Jewish ones, on public land are inappropriate. Prayer in public schools is just as inappropriate when set to beautiful seasonal music as when it is broadcast over the public address system on an October Tuesday.
We open the doors of the synagogue to all who want to learn about Judaism, and we take the messages of our tradition into the public arena. Our goal is to share, not to convert nor to impose. Please do not ascribe motives more sinister to our Christian neighbors just because there are so many more of them. And perhaps by modeling what it means to respect another tradition and to enjoy it from a modest distance, the favor will be returned when our sacred and joyous seasons come around next spring and fall.