For the curious, BTW, we are not "Jewies come-lately" to finding some compromise with Christmas.
Unfortunately, not all agree with this. DB posted this screed from Lawrence Kelemen, a writer over at a particularly dumb website I've discussed previously.
Kelemen, of course, cannot discuss anything about Christmas without going on a Crusade against it, and because his arguments are just too bad, and too dumb, I find myself, the usual family Scrooge, forced to defend, of all things, Jews celebrating Christmas.
This is going to be hilarious.
The first problem with Kelemen's essay is that he has not bothered to think about the emotional reasons some Jews celebrate or observe Christmas (many of whom are intermarried, apparently Kelemen's personal lepers). He therefore can't understand how to approach those issues. Instead he is reduced to pointing to his list of bulletpoints and shrilly yelling, "Don't you care?" No, Larry, they don't. If you approached the issue from a perspective of someone who is already observing the holiday in some fashion, rather than someone that has never thought about it, you might get a better sense as to why very few of your facts or arguments are likely to change their minds.
For starters, no Jews care when Jesus was born. I'm not sure why Kelemen bothers with a comparison of historical sources demonstrating the lack of consensus for JC's birth- that's all interesting but irrelevant. (I also find it amusing that he probably would balk at using some of those same academic/historical tools and applying them to the Torah.) Ditto for the Saturnalia background- why is he giving us info about the intricacies of the Catholic church? Come on, Larry, we aren't Christian converts, we've just decided to stick a tree in our living room (in my parents' case, it's a plastic tree that was re-gifted to my mother five years ago by a colleague which remains untouched gathering dust in our basement). Try to separate the two a little.
One of things I find most infuriating about Kelemen's piece are all his broad-brush statements:
Christmas has always been a holiday celebrated carelessly. For millennia, pagans, Christians, and even Jews have been swept away in the season’s festivities, and very few people ever pause to consider the celebration’s intrinsic meaning, history, or origins.
Yeah, not at all the paragon of intellectual honesty that Hanukkah is, right? Incidentally Larry, how would you know? You don't cite a single source in your essay.
Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christian god who came to rescue mankind from the “curse of the Torah.” It is a 24-hour declaration that Judaism is no longer valid.
Larry, according to your website, my Judaism isn't valid in the first place, and neither will any home I start with SG be, so I'm not sure how much secular-oriented Jews should care about this. In your eyes, we're already beyond the pale. So be it.
BTW, I find it pretty funny that Kelemen, supposedly so secure in his Jewish identity, seems so threatened by my hanging an oversized sock with a gift certificate in it.
Still not convinced? Don't worry, Larry has one last trick up his sleeve... a swastika!
Imagine that between 1933-45, the Nazi regime celebrated Adolf Hitler’s birthday – April 20 – as a holiday. Imagine that they named the day, “Hitlerday,” and observed the day with feasting, drunkenness, gift-giving, and various pagan practices. Imagine that on that day, Jews were historically subject to perverse tortures and abuse, and that this continued for centuries.
Now, imagine that your great-great-great-grandchildren were about to celebrate Hitlerday. April 20th arrived. They had long forgotten about Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. They had never heard of gas chambers or death marches. They had purchased champagne and caviar, and were about to begin the party, when someone reminded them of the day’s real history and their ancestors’ agony. Imagine that they initially objected, “We aren’t celebrating the Holocaust; we’re just having a little Hitlerday party.” If you could travel forward in time and meet them; if you could say a few words to them, what would you advise them to do on Hitlerday?
Needless to say, this is beyond stupid. As much as I have my issues with Christianity, there is nothing in early Christian celebrations of the holiday which is inherently antisemitic, and certainly very little in the holiday's present-day incarnation. No one contests that horrible things were done to Jews on that day during the centuries, but to compare it to the Nazi movement whose raison-d'etre was to murder every Jew they could get their hands on shows just how low (and dumb) Kelemen is willing to go in an attempt to shock his audience into conceding him a point. No dice, Larry, and you're a schmuck for trying.
But wait, there are even more Nazi connections to Christmas!
On December 25, 1941, Julius Streicher, one of the most vicious of Hitler’s assistants, celebrated Christmas by penning the following editorial in his rabidly Antisemitic newspaper, Der Stuermer:
What difference does it make if Streicher "celebrated" Christmas by writing something antisemitic? He was the editor of a daily paper. Presumably he did that every other day, too.
While I find the point about Christmas traditionally being a very bad one for Jews well taken, the Devil's Advocate (Maggid?) in me feels the need to point out that plenty of horrible things in Jewish history happened on Jewish holidays or Sabbaths. No one's going around claiming we should spend Rosh Hashanah sitting in sackcloth because the Nazis or the Cossacks or the Inquisition or whomever may have done something particularly awful to us on that day.
Lastly, the date of Christmas is indeed an estimate but calling it a "lie" as Keleman does is an unnecessary polemic. One could apply the same standard to plenty of other religious/traditional/superstitious practices or folk beliefs (Authorship of the Zohar? Hasidic miracle tales? The reason for 2-day yontiff? No Nun verse in the Ashrei?) As I said, most Jews are not celebrating Christmas because they're such passionate believers that it's JC's birthday. And Kelemen would have a much stronger leg to stand on if his whole catalog wasn't singularly devoted to uncritical Orthodox apologetics.
For a bad time, check out Larry's other brilliant pearls of crap: Besides Christmas he's also not a fan of New Year's, TV, or the Internet.