A festive discomfort: being Jewish around Christmas

Bailey Kirkeby, Co-Editor-in-Chief

As soon as Thanksgiving ends — and often earlier — Santa hats, reindeer figurines and inflatable snowmen fill the shelves of various stores, and companies begin marketing their Christmas sales and implementing Christmas decorum in their stores and merchandise.

According to a 2017 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas in some form.  Although there are currently no definitive statistics on the percent of Americans who celebrate similar holidays, such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, the number of people who participate in these holidays in the United States is undoubtedly smaller than those who celebrate Christmas.

Due to the prevalence of Christmas in the United States, it’s understandable that companies profit off of the holiday.  However, other holidays that occur near Christmas are seemingly completely forgotten about, causing those who celebrate other holidays to succumb to the Christmas craze to feel the holiday spirit that their own holiday lacks.

As Ben Shapiro wrote in a 2018 article for “Jewish Journal,” “The prominence of Christmas in America means that American Jews often attempt to ride the Christmas coattails, to get into the ‘holiday spirit.’”

Unfortunately, Jewish Americans have had to adapt to the Christmas craze for over a century.  According to “My Jewish Learning,” in the early 1900s, Jewish immigrants often exchanged gifts at Christmastime to show that they had shed their European ways and have adapted to the American way of life. 

Although the United States has progressed over the century and has come to embrace the country’s cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, the Christmas craze remains to be a difficult obstacle that Americans who celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other religious holidays must overcome.