I was next in line to order at Starbucks the other day. The woman in front of me asked the cashier, “What’s the difference between the red wrapped Christmas coffee blend and the silver wrapped Holiday coffee blend?” The cashier answered, “Nothing. It’s the same coffee. The silver package is for those who don’t celebrate Christmas.”
I chuckled quietly and said out loud to no one in particular, “That’s amusing.” I thought it was clever marketing. Well, the woman who asked the question did not find this amusing. “We can’t celebrate Christmas anywhere anymore,” she complained to me in a friendly tone. I was dressed in a business suit, no kipah. She had no idea that I was a rabbi, let alone someone who did not celebrate Christmas. She mistook my amusement as confirmation of her annoyance. Then she let it rip!
“In school my kids learn history as BCE and CE, not BC and AD. It’s crazy. What has happened to Christian culture in this country?” I smiled, surprised that whatever school her children attend teaches history with “Before the Common Era” and “Common Era” as the time markers. Maybe it’s a teacher’s preference. I don’t know.
The woman finished her purchase (I don’t think she bought any Christmas or Holiday coffee) and started to leave. As she walked past me I wished her a “Merry Christmas.” She thanked me with a wide grin and headed toward the door.
It’s really not complicated. If we can’t validate and appreciate the importance of Christmas to Christians, something I suggest most Jews simply don’t understand, then we have no right to expect that same deference and dignity in the celebration of our own religious traditions and principles.
Common sense says, let those who clamor to protect their holiday have their season. And let those of us, and so many others, who don’t celebrate Christmas model the very pluralism and sincerity everyone should receive when bringing holiday greetings to people of different faiths.
There’s no war against Christmas. There is just the hyperbole of a few voices unclear that diverse cultures actually strengthen the larger community they share through co-existence and respect.