For the love of all that is holy, don’t buy your Jewish friends Christmas gifts! As a Jew, it’s disrespectful to Christianity.
Christmas is a Christian holiday. Celebrating the birth of your lord and savior with people who don’t believe in him does a disservice to your holiday. Some people might argue that Christmas is a cultural extravaganza and not a religious event, but that’s not kosher. Christians have celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday since 336 BCE. Exchanging gifts is part and parcel of that celebration as a reminder of the gifts the Three Wise Men bestowed upon their newborn savior. And just because some people treat it as a secular holiday doesn’t mean you can divorce it from its religious roots.
You’re welcome to buy your Jewish friends Hanukkah gifts if you’d really like, but Hanukkah wasn’t originally intended to be a gift-giving holiday. It only became one after Jewish kids felt left out of all the public, widespread Christmas celebrations. In fact, that feeling might explain why 32% of American Jews celebrate Christmas today.
Jewish people aren't the only non-Christians who celebrate Christmas in the U.S.: 73% of Hindus, 76% of Buddhists, and 87% of religiously unaffiliated people – including atheists – all deck their halls, too. While this gives more weight to the “Christmas is a cultural event, not a religious holiday” argument, remember: there would be no Christmas without Christ.
It’s okay that Christmas is a religious holiday. Christianity is the #1 religion worldwide, with literally billions of followers and an astounding 41,000 denominations. Of course, it’s going to be huge! Judaism only has a handful of followers in comparison – approximately 14 million – with most of these Jews residing in the U.S. and Israel. The best gift you can give your Jewish friends this Christmas is to be mindful of them and their religious practices, too. Hell, why not impress them by brushing up on your Hanukkah history?
Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Jewish Maccabees over their Greek oppressors. Two centuries before Christ was born, a Greek king outlawed Judaism and forced Jews to worship Greek gods. To add insult to injury, the king’s soldiers stole the Jew’s holy Second Temple from them and desecrated it.
Judah the Maccabee led a revolt against the king and his soldiers, reclaimed the Second Temple, and rededicated it to Judaism by lighting a menorah. The “miracle” of Hanukkah comes into play when – as if an outnumbered, ragtag gang of Jews defeating a host of hunky Greek soldiers wasn’t enough of a miracle – there was only enough oil to keep the menorah’s candles lit for one day. Still, the flames roared on for eight full nights. To put that into perspective, imagine your phone has a 1% battery but lasts the entire 16 hour flight from LA to Jerusalem!
Many people treat Hanukkah as “Christmas lite” when it’s actually about protecting Judaism. Why not help your Jewish friends protect their holiday while fulfilling your charitable heart by buying gifts for people in need instead? Every year, millions of Christian children feel left out because their parents simply can’t afford to buy them Christmas gifts. You’re better off spending your hard-earned dollars on these children rather than your Jewish friends, who are already blessed with your friendship.
Whatever you celebrate or whether you celebrate nothing at all, wishing you and your loved ones happy, healthy days ahead.