the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: War on Christmas

Mistletoe 101 for Jews

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Happy Hannukah!   Thanks for the emails wishing me a happy holiday.   As  a Jew, I like Hanukkah, but at the same time I realize that it is a fairly minor holiday blown out of proportion to compete with Christmas.   Jews have been treated like shit in so many countries  throughout their history, that we are truly lucky to live in a country where the populace actually acknowledges our little holiday.

I’m pretty confident in my Jewishness that I don’t feel threatened by a Christmas season that seems to start the minute you eat your last bite of stuffing at Thanksgiving.  I can enjoy the carols and the festivities without feeling the need to convert or praise Jesus.   I know some Jews have “Christmas” trees in their houses, but I wouldn’t go that far, just because that seems a bit too much of “wanting to be part of the crowd,” like wearing a Von Dutch cap because you saw Justin Timberlake wearing one on Entertainment Tonight.  The Pope may wear what looks like a yarmulke, but I doubt he is at home lighting his menorah.

Just like Jews worry about the influence of Christmas on their kids, some Christians worry that they can’t celebrate their holiday as openly as they would like to.   I’m still reading bloggers grumbling about the use of “Seasons Greetings” rather than “Merry Christmas.”  Frankly, this issue is so 2005.

I’m all for Christians enjoying their religious holiday.  It doesn’t bother me if someone says “Merry Christmas.”  It DOES bother me that most of the complainers about the “War on Christmas” come from conservative commentators such as Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson.  Their interest in Christmas has more to do with politics than religion.  It is all part of a family values agenda.  Pushing for the public display of Christmas goes hand-in-hand with conservative ideology against the rights of other minorities, such as gays and women.  Whenever I read a 20-something talking how much he hates being politically-correct over Merry Christmas, I know this person is going to end up being a suburban “family values” person who watches FOX news every night.

Janet at The Art of Getting By wrote an amusing piece about how much it must “suck to be Jewish during Christmas.”  Personally, I don’t like eggnog, so I am jealous of the mistletoe.  Like being part of the “mile-high club,” kissing under the mistletoe is one of my unfulfilled fantasies.  Just in case I find myself at a Christmas Party this year, what exactly are the “rules.”  Can you kiss anyone standing under the mistletoe?  Do you HAVE to kiss the person?  What happens if she has a cold sore?  Can you bring someone under the mistletoe under false pretenses, just to kiss her —

Neil:  “Come here, Anne, I want to show you this new coffee maker in the kitchen.  Tricked you!  We’re under the mistletoe!  Give me your tongue!”

Washington Irving, famed early 19th Century writer, helped popularize the mistletoe tradition to Americans in “Christmas Eve” —

Here were kept up the old games of hoodman blind, shoe the wild mare, hot cockles, steal the white loaf, bob apple, and snap dragon; the Yule-clog and Christmas candle were regularly burnt, and the mistletoe with its white berries hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids.

The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.

Hot cockles!  Kissing the Girls!  Plucking Berries from the Bush!

Now you know why Jews are really jealous about Christmas.  Kissing under the mistletoe.  If you try kissing someone over the menorah, you just get your hair on fire.

THE HOLIDAY CONCERT IS THIS WEDNESDAY!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the MonthLL Cool Jew (more Jews!)

Sorry, Jews: My First Retraction (Sort of)

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After receiving numerous angry emails from fellow Jews, I feel a little bit like Philip Roth after writing about Jews masturbating in "Goodbye Columbus."  So, like a Supreme Court nominee, I feel it is important to clarify myself after writing my last post.

1)  I’m not really tired of other Jews.  I love Jews.  Sophia is Jewish.  My mother is Jewish.  Brooke, my long-time fantasy woman is Jewish, although she has yet to date a Jewish man.  Time will tell.

2)  I think Akaky had it right when he commented:

"Take advantage of your new ethnic hipness before the focus shifts to Armenians or Eskimoes or dyslexic Dravidian dwarves and being Jewish becomes so yesterday’s news."

Sophia, who loved the post, still said, "Neil, you are the schmendrik.  Better to be trendy and loved than hated, chased by Cossacks or Muslim fanatics."

3)  I actually think it is good that Walmart has its employees say "Happy Holidays" to its customers.  I don’t really want anyone saying "Merry Christmas" to me.  But if they do, I won’t drop dead on the spot.  But does it hurt you Christians so much to say, "Happy Holidays?"  We appreciate it.    Believe me, saying "Happy Holidays" isn’t the reason that Christmas has become such an overly commercialized, irreligious farce of a holiday.  Blame the retailers like Macy’s and the Gap and FAO Schwartz, all owned by…. uh, let’s move on…

4)  Recently I was quoted on this site.  It pretty much says what I believe:

Frankly, I think one of the things that makes our country so great is that the majority religion has tried so hard to make minorities feel comfortable. Where else have Jews and others been made to feel as equals and as comfortable with Christian holidays? Certainly not in many European countries where you are considered Jewish first, then a citizen of that country.

New York is not the rest of the country. I think it would be nice to bring back some of the religiosity to Christmas in big cities, so it isn’t such a consumerized holiday. Thank you, Christians, for being so good to the rest of us. You can now celebrate Christmas a little more openly.

However, things are different in smaller cities and towns around the country. Those places have a habit of mixing up religion and public policy. It is places like those where I don’t think it appropriate for the public sector to promote religion symbolism and ideology.

I think it is perfectly fine to have your friends and co-workers wish you a "Merry Christmas."  What’s the big deal?   But a "public" store like Walmart isn’t really the place  for religious exclusiveness.  And is Christmas in such trouble that it needs Walmart to save it? 

5)  I’m not into political correctness, but that doesn’t mean everyone should act like an asshole.  Unlike whatever Bill O’Reilly feels, I’m all for going all out with trying to respect minorities.  Christmas is not "under siege."  Look outside your window.  Christmas decorations were up five minutes after Thanksgiving.  Talk about shoving it in people’s face.  Sorry, but you’re the fucking majority and it’s up to you to be nice.  When the world is taken over by the billions of Chinese — and it will happen — let’s hope they respect us Americans as the minority.  (see Planet of the Apes for an example of what happens when the tables are turned).  Isn’t the whole point of the Judeo-Christian ethos to do unto others…

6)  Attacking political correctness has become so rampant that I firmly believe the MOST politically incorrect thing to do today is to defend it.  I had a long email conversation with Anne about whether Sarah Silverman is funny.  We both agree that she is.  But she is a professional comedian with a clever wit.  My fear is that every asshole will now think it is cool to tell slavery and Holocaust jokes at the dinner table and think they are the best thing since sliced challah.  I have a fear that everyone will laugh, not wanting to appear unhip, and the one who says that it isn’t funny will appear like a stick-in-the-mud. 

Sometimes, a little political correctness — when it doesn’t become the ruling party itself — can be good.

It’s weird that I use Bill O’Reilly and Sarah Silverman in the same sentence, but they are both talented entertainers making big money by saying outlandish things for people to blog about.   But in the real world, it is nice for people to say "Happy Holidays" and wrong to make racist jokes.  

Of course, as a high-paid blogger, I include myself as someone who can say whatever he wants without consequence.

7)  And finally, I’d like to apologize publicly to big-time blogger Andrew Krukoff.  I’m still not sure who you are, but congratulations on becoming a man.

Today on Blogebrity:  How to Tell if Your Cowboy is Gay  (about not only but also)

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