THE “C” WORD

American standard bearers regard certain words as inappropriate or offensive. One prominent “bad” word begins with the letter “C.” But we’re adults. We know that people frequently use this word, often in polite company. I refer, of course, to Christmas.

Should I feel guilty for mentioning this word during the Holiday Christmas Season? I don’t. Christmas is a fact of life. True, it’s not my holiday. For that I offer another “C” word: Chanukah. But according to a 2014 Pew survey, 71 percent of Americans identify as Christians. Another 23 percent claim no religious identity, although many probably have Christian backgrounds and celebrate Christmas in some manner. That’s why “Holiday Season” and “Happy Holidays” strike me as lame. Worse, they’re deceitful.

One example: An automobile company sent me a card. The photo on the front displays five of their vehicles parked on a snowy meadow. Each has a tree tied to its roof. The copy line says, “Happy Holidays from BMW.” Oops. I spilled the beans. But here’s the point. There’s no such thing as a Holiday tree. If by “Happy Holidays” BMW means both Christmas and Chanukah—and perhaps Kwanzaa (Devali was November 11 this year)—then the automaker has insulted me. Christians and some non-Christians who just like Christmas decorate trees. We Jews light candles in chanukiahs (menorahs have seven lights, chanukiahs nine). And don’t let anyone BS you about “Chanukah bushes.” They represent attempts to alleviate fears of feeling different (obviously we are in some ways) and being left out or even shunned.

“Happy Holidays” doesn’t cut it. While the term suggests inclusiveness, it totally ignores the holidays of non-Christians. That’s because “Holiday” symbols abound, all suggestive of Christmas. Like the decorated trees in malls, department stores and even public spaces, such as San Francisco’s Union Square. And the carols you hear at malls and in retail districts. Not to mention images of evergreens, snowflakes, snowmen and, of course, Santa Claus.

And how about “winter vacation” from school? As a kid and college student, I was off for Christmas vacation. It interrupted, not concluded, the first semester. Would schools close around December 25 if Christmas fell during the summer? Has anyone suggested moving “Winter break” to January? Government offices, banks, corporations, small businesses—almost everyone—close on Christmas. They don’t close on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur or on Muslim feast days, such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. But Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others all manage.

Yes, religious minorities also get Christmas off. Unless we volunteer to work at necessary jobs and free others to celebrate. One Christmas at Fort Sam Houston I filled the post of Officer of the Day so another officer could enjoy his holiday. I was glad to help someone out. Moreover, the Army never interfered with Jewish holidays. Unfortunately, some Jews outside the military still have a hard time taking off for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur even if the pressure on them remains covert. I doubt “Happy Holidays” will change that.

So if you celebrate Christmas—Merry Christmas! Jewish? Happy Chanukah! African-American? Happy Kwanzaa if you do that. In fact, it’s time to bring other “C” words out of the closet. Because life is complex and political correctness only makes us hypocrites.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

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6 Comments


  1. Carolyn Perlstein
    Dec 11, 2015

    I hear you. However, I also disagree to a point. When I’m in a public setting such as at Macy’s, I do say, “I hope you have a happy holiday, “ to the sales people. And that’s because not only do I mean it, but I have no idea what or how they celebrate. They work hard, get little time off and boy, do they smile back at me when I say that. It means something to them because it means something to me. I am wishing them good will and happiness. And I don’t think it gets any better than that in terms of simple human contact. I love the “Holiday Season” and with no apologies. I love the sparkling lights of Christmas trees, Chanukah menorahs and those decorating people’s homes. I love the good wishes, the gatherings and most of all being with family and friends. So when I say, Happy Holidays, that is precisely what I mean.


  2. Aaron
    Dec 11, 2015

    Good point Carolyn (mom)!

    I think the point of this article is to point out hypocrisy – images of Christmas trees, but verbiage of “happy holidays.” Images of Santa Claus but verbiage of “Seasons Greetings.”

    If you mean merry Christmas, just say it. If you mean Happy Holidays, then say that! I don’t see any hypocrisy in your greeting.

    David (dad) – It’s clear that you’re discussing hypocrisy here, but what result aside from clarifying mixed messages are you hoping for? Would you be happier if all Christmas decorations were kept but the messaging was more clear, or would you be happier if there was simply less Christmas decorations in public places?

    I agree that much messaging of holiday cheer is really just Christmas cheer disguised as being inclusive, but, if we assume positive intent we can see that it is actually an attempt at being inclusive. When we assume positive intent we remove barriers, remove friction, and work towards understanding.


    • David
      Dec 12, 2015

      I prefer clear messaging. If you mean Merry Christmas, say it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But do take Christmas out of the public square by which I mean any building or space that is government property and thus owned by all citizens. Beyond that, people who celebrate Christmas should do so unapologetically. And if someone wishes me “Merry Christmas,” I can say thanks and return the greeting or say, “Actually, I’m a Chanukah person but thank you. And Merry Christmas to you.”


  3. jesse Fink
    Dec 12, 2015

    What does “Merry Christmas ” exactly mean?
    I went to the bank a while ago and the teller said
    “did you get a tree for Christmas”? I said no, I am Jewish
    and She politely said “so” don’t you celebrate Christmas?
    (very politely and curiously). She, a sweet soul was from a
    town outside of Shanghai and new almost zero about “Jewish”.
    I asked if she celebrated Christmas and if She was Christian.
    She let me know she was Buddhist and “of course I celebrate
    Christmas”…when I asked “why” She said because I want to be an
    American”
    There is an exhausting part to not assimilating totally.
    Tonight is the 6th night and then the storm comes!


    • jesse Fink
      Dec 12, 2015

      Ten more days…sometimes I want to hide


    • David
      Dec 12, 2015

      No question, the Christmas season brings some awkward moments. I used to get upset about them. Now I take them in stride. Old age? Or just weariness? I don’t know.

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