PENNING: What if Christmas were only recognized by Christians?

I have a Jewish colleague who was upset earlier this year when a meeting was scheduled on a Jewish holiday. She felt disenfranchised because she could not participate in the meeting.
Dec 13, 2012


I see her point, to a point. It may seem frustrating when American workplaces have days off during major Christian holidays, but the special occasions of other faiths are not recognized or noticed.

On the other hand, where would we draw the line on days off for Jewish, Muslim and countless other holidays?

According to a 2010 survey, the U.S. does have more Jews than any other country besides Israel. But the number of Jews in the U.S. is 5 million, which is less than 2 percent of the U.S. population of around 300 million.

So, changing official holidays for a minority does not seem to make sense when a Gallup survey says 78 percent of Americans consider themselves Christian.          

But there is another thought that came to mind when I thought about the recognition of religious holidays. I actually sort of envied my Jewish friend.        

What if Christmas were only celebrated in churches? What if the day were only recognized by people who consider the occasion to be one only of spiritual significance? What if Christmas returned to being what a “holiday” really is supposed to be — a holy day?          

It might mean not having an automatic time off work for Christmas. But some are already calling the season a “winter break,” or something of that sort. I have no problem with that. We could still retain the worshipful celebration of the birth of the Son of God, the Savior of all who believe in Him. All the other aspects of our modern Christmas would cease, but I think that might be refreshing.          

I mean, my Jewish friend should be careful what she wishes for. Would she really want society to do to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Chanukah what has been done to Christmas? There would be a jolly, fat Rabbi appearing in silly movies and TV specials. There would be a plethora of record albums blending pop music with sacred songs. People would frantically invade shopping malls to participate in some tradition gone amok, largely missing the point and spirit of the season even as they refer vaguely to “the true meaning” of the holy day.          

My Jewish friend seemed offended that others did not recognize her holy days. She would likely be more offended if society embraced Jewish holidays to the extent that Jews no longer recognize them.          

Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of the cultural aspects of Christmas that I enjoy — the food, the lights, the time off, and even the Jim Carey version of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” But at times, I sit back and think about the true — really true — meaning of Christmas, and I get a little sad and even offended about what has become of a holy day.          

The goofy movies and TV “Christmas” specials rarely, if ever, mention Christ. There are movies focused on Santa Claus, elves, and all manner of tragic and hilarious family relationship issues that are resolved in the end because people remember the “true meaning of Christmas.” What that is exactly is always understated, left to the viewer, or ridiculously light of moral reason.          

I also do enjoy Christmas music. At our house, there is a whole separate CD tower of just Christmas music. But that’s also because a lot of what is played on commercial radio is just plain annoying.

It’s hard to name one professional musician who has not marketed a Christmas album. They don’t do this because they suddenly found Christ. They do this because Christmas albums are easy to make and sell. Many of them are not even very good.

I recently heard a free version of Rod Stewart singing “Silent Night.” I’m glad it was free. I would sooner pay for an album that was a recording of an actual silent night.          

The most upsetting is the commercialization of Christmas. I get annoyed when ads remind me that there are a certain number of “shopping days until Christmas” — as if buying things and boosting the economy is why God sent His Son into the world. I want to reply by asking sarcastically how many shopping days until Jesus comes again, because I may want to load up on stuff to take with me.          

My colleague is understandably upset that she is part of a minority faith group whose special days are not recognized at work or by society at large. But, to that, I want to tell her: count your blessings; your holidays are kept holy.

Tim Penning’s columns and other thoughts can be read on his PierPoints blog:



Tim Penning,

Thanks for another interesting and thought provoking column. I just thought it might be appropriate to point out that your Jewish friend may be closer to obtaining her apparent desire that Jewish Holidays be treated like Christmas as far as having time off from work so she would not feel disenfranchised than she realizes.

All she needs to do is get Hollywood, the mainstream media, and activists make this a cause they support to create the PERCEPTION that the Jewish population is significantly larger than it is, making the cause a civil rights and fairness issue. This might sound far-fetched, considering, as you noted, that the Jewish population is roughly 2% of the total population.

We know from our own experience that Hollywood and the media, prompted by activists, have promoted homosexuality relentlessly, and shoved it down our collective throats on a daily basis. This has been so successful that Gallup polling in 2011 shows, on average, Americans believe that about 25% of the population is homosexual, when the true number is around 2%. The Atlantic, May 31, 2102

So your friend should not abandon hope. However, given the number of people unemployed in the last 4 years it may be that the change would go unnoticed.


I will try and keep this short and sweet, or at least to the point. One of the reasons that I personally respect and admire the Jewish faith is because of there strength, determination and the respect that Jews have for there religion. Because all we need to do is read the Holy Scriptures, or even the daily news, or study world history and we can easily see the extreme hardships that this one faith and country has experienced, and all because of there religion and there personal love for G-d.
Even today Israel is being attacked daily by missiles and/or terrorists, murdering innocence civilians, all because of there faith in the One True G-d.
I cannot help but wonder, just what condition would the United States of America be in today, if we would respect and honor our own Christian heritage, and foundation of this nation? I am sure this comment will cause some people to write negative comments showing hate and lack of respect for what made this nation free and great. Oh well, God Bless the Constitution, a must read.


Hey, I agree. I wonder what the position of liberals would be if their community (Upper West Side, South Hampton, Beverly Hills,) were subjected to missile attacks on a daily basis, and their historical ally told them not to respond

Fortunately, at least to date, the Israelis have not followed the American model (really, the Obama model) and ignored the historical and current effects of the Moslem Brotherhood and Hamas.

I pray we have educated people and patriots here who know the history of Islam, who know the history of fascism/communism, and will fight for our children and grandchildren!


Lets not forget the history behind the event we call Christmas.We have morphed many pagan traditions with the stories from the bible,and added our own stories and songs to this yuletide season.If you're not familliar with some of these facts,I urge you to study some history.They all combine for a very nice "season" that combines many different faiths,customs,and tradition.Like most things,the holiday season is what you make it.We all have a right to choose what we celebrate and how.I choose to enjoy the music,food,lights,giving,sharing,and custom I have of bringing an evergreen tree into my home,decorating it,and placing gifts under it to celebrate our gift of everlasting life that the tree symbolizes.Merry Christmas!


Unfortunately, it seems that christians want to push their beliefs into the community,instead of keeping them in the church.

One of the side effects of this is that you get a watered down holy day. Keep it in the church and this wouldn't be a problem.


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