I Changed My Mind About Saying “Merry Christmas,” and You Should Too

Nir Eyal
5 min readDec 17, 2020
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

In fifth grade, I was the only Jewish kid in my elementary school class. This was the 1980’s in Central Florida and even though it was a public school, unaffiliated with any church and funded with taxpayer dollars, my teacher taped a poster to the wall in her classroom that read, “Jesus Is The Reason For The Season.”

I wasn’t offended per se. I’m pretty sure at ten, I didn’t know what that word meant. But I could tell the teacher was sending a message to anyone in her class who might have different beliefs — such as, say, that the tilt of the earth on its axis is the reason for the seasons.

Around Christmastime, my family celebrated Hanukkah, and though I didn’t expect to see any menorahs and dreidels on display, I started to resent the inescapable morass of a celebration that clearly wasn’t meant for me.

The Christmas specials on TV said Santa visited “all the children in the world.” The good ones got gifts. The naughty ones got lumps of coal. The Jewish ones got told Santa wasn’t coming to their house.

Why? Because, as every disillusioned Jewish kid learns, it was the parents, not Santa putting gifts under the trees. “No big whoop.” we’d hear from our own parents. “But don’t tell your friends that Santa isn’t real because we don’t want to spoil the holidays for the gentiles’ kids. Just keep the lie going, okay?”

Okay, I guess. But isn’t the 9th Commandment something about bearing false witness?

Whatever, pass a latke.

Along with the life-sized nativity scenes on residential lawns, the occasional giant wooden crosses outside particularly zealous households, and the incessant Christmas music blasting on repeat in every shopping mall and public space — it could all be a bit much.

At some point, I started to bristle when anyone would do so much as wish me a “Merry Christmas.” Didn’t they consider whether I even celebrated the holiday? 69 percent of the world is not Christian, after all. Why couldn’t they at least say something more generic, like “Happy Holidays?”

Hearing “Merry Christmas” started to give me the same feelings that the poster in the fifth grade had.

Nir Eyal

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