I’m Sorry, But Merry Christmas!

The following online internal memo was smuggled out by a source at great personal risk:

From: J. Doe, Director, Human Resources, Anti-Deformation Team, Holiday Sub-Group, Display Control Monitoring Section, XYZ Corp
To: All Employees, XYZ Corp.
Subj: Holiday Happiness Moderation and Spontaneity Scheduling; Employee Handbook Update

With the holiday season approaching, the tendency for the average company to relax its usual efforts to ensure zero tolerance of self-expressive activities outside accepted and regulated correct-speak parameters is common. Not so here at XYZ Corporation. We gladly align ourselves, mindlessly and without any effort to express individual courage or personal conviction, with the accepted trend du jour. The trend is good. All praise the trend. The following guideline updates will be available for download on the internal website, “Employee Correct Behavior Handbook” at www.xyzcorpisalwaysright.com within the next two or three working days. However, due to the temptation to stray and forget what is truly important this holiday season, I hasten to update you now, before it is too late and you unintentionally take action or actions that cannot be forgotten or forgiven. Holiday decorations within your personal workspace:

  • Must not cover more than 10% of total wall space in a cubicle, standard 6/8, or more than 5% in a standard workspace, 8/10.
  • Must not be visible in other than direct view angles within a distance of less than 3.7 feet.

Decorations must be non-denominational and cannot contain words or phrases such as:

  • “Brotherhood” (see also chapter VII, Section C, Paragraph 17, Heading “Common Gender Diminishing Phrases,” for further issues outside of those represented by holidays)
  • “The Lord Has Come”
  • “Bethlehem” (unless the reference is to the steel industry)

For gift exchanges:

  • All gifts must include a certificate signed by myself or my deputy, certifying that the gift is presented without obligation to acknowledge or accept the belief system expressed or implied by the gift giver.
  • The gift can be returned, opened or unopened, to the gift giver without prejudice, if the recipient decides that to accept it would represent an unacceptable acknowledgement of a selfless act and the receiver decide that their constitutional right to assume offense supercedes common sense.
  • The gift giver is then free to file a statement of forced inclusion against the gift giver.

Other important holiday points:

  • The playing of any holiday music of a “carols” nature that refers to a God, Supreme Being,” or Frosty the Snowman, is reason for immediate disciplinary action. Songs recorded by Bing Crosby are grounds for immediate termination if the backup singers are referred to as a “choir.”
  • Fruitcake, although not prohibited, is discouraged, at least until we get a lab report on exactly what goes into those things and why their half life is longer than plutonium 90.

The Human Resources Department here at XYZ Corporation encourages it’s employees to enjoy and benefit from all the joy and good tidings of the holiday season, as long as you are willing to subject your personal beliefs and convictions into compliance with policies designed to appease all possible negative responses to you self-expression. I again apologize for the delay in making this available for downloading, but the IT Department has informed me that the “Enforceable Employee Correct Behavior Guidelines” section has filled yet another server, and the additional servers will not be online for a few more days. Happy (politically correct and monitored) holidays, from all of us in the shadow enforcement team at XYZ Corp.! John Doe

“Proud to be guardian of your moral imperatives and controller of your religious expression.”

Fiction? Probably, but not definitely. I recently read that this year, more companies than ever have joined the legions of zombie corporations in enforcing zero tolerance of Christmas and have created more reference-based regulations than ever before in the history of political correctness, or “correct-speak” as George Orwell and I call it. I have to admit that my first reaction to this trend was that it made me feel good to know that we must have solved unemployment, fair hiring practices, EEO/AA issues, as well as world hunger if we actually have the time to get upset or offended at how somebody expresses their feelings of goodwill and joy. One would think in times like these restrictions on goodwill would be discouraged. It is not like we are overburdened with good thoughts. But alas, it isn’t so. “Christmas” is a word increasingly not tolerated in corporate America, or anywhere else for that matter, with the exception of retail stores, online catalogues, malls, and your own home. I was brought up celebrating Christmas, not “holiday,” an important religious and cultural event I love to share. But in a misdirected effort to create a sense of inclusion for all members of all religions and all cultures we have begun by trying to change history and exclude a segment of our religious and cultural population. Since the arrival of the second wave of settlers to the New World (the first wave were the Native Americans and they justifiably consider us invaders, not settlers), the primary source of immigrants was from Europe. Therefore many of the customs and cultural aspects of the American way of life reflect those European roots. Christianity was one of those roots. With that comes the celebration of Christmas on December 25th, not as a “holiday” but as a “holy day.” Tradition tells us that those employers’ traditional efforts to show the correct brotherhood of the season was by giving their workers the day off, with pay. Consider that this harkens back to the days when the average worker was given no vacation or sick days and was expected to work six days a week. So a day off with pay was a big deal. Later as affluence and workers rights expanded, the “Christmas bonus” grew beyond a “day’s pay.” Companies would hold a Christmas party to celebrate the common “holy day” together. The annual added wealth of an unexpected payday or bonus and general good spirits gave rise to increased and expanded gift buying. As affluence increased, so did the scope and domination of the season in our lives. But its cultural origin lies in the belief that the 25th of December represents the birth of Christ, and not the birth of “Holiday” to a substantial percentage of those in this culture. Whether he be viewed as God, revolutionary, or cultural myth, that the “well spring” from which the tradition springs forth. Yet in the spirit of offending as few as possible the legions of politically correct insist upon a program based on the premise that “denying the truth shall set us free.” Our culture is changing, new and diverse elements have been entering in increasing numbers over the last century, and the nation can no longer be considered exclusively Euro-Christian in composition ó and has not actually been for a period longer than we recognize. To all I say, “Welcome, and come share your culture with me, as I hope to share mine with you.” To those whose religious origins celebrate Hebrew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or other holy days, or those who celebrate none, bring the happiness and joy of your seasons or special activities to the workplace as I will mine, and together we will learn to share each other’s joy and peace, and not be frightened, threatened, or offended by our differences. Rather, by observing each other and accepting invitations to join and share, we will become better than we could have on our own. We will jointly elevate where we work from a frighteningly bland and vanilla place where we must accept a non-humanistic reconfiguration to one where we work and exchange in the open air of free speech and a willingness not to be offended by those who are not our own reflection. I was brought up an Irish Catholic in a place where Irish Catholics abound: Boston, Massachusetts (we are competitive with Dublin). The spirit of what this “holy day,” Christmas, brings to me is a combination of joy, happiness, fulfillment, and a sense of hope for the future. None of that need be seen as a threat or a form of marginalization by my brothers and sisters of the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or any other faith, lack of faith, or combination of one to more of the proceeding, in the celebration of that which brings joy and comfort to me as opposed to that which does the same for them. The joy in my life need not result in the diminishment of another’s. We cannot resent or be offended by something simply because we do not “own it.” In fact, if you ever find yourself needing another name on a mailing list for your religious celebration, “special occasion,” or “cultural event,” feel free to add mine. I assure you I will not be offended by your efforts to include me in that which brings you peace and joy or cultural and religious fulfillment. You do not need to “rename” it for my benefit. I will further be enhanced as a human being by showing my willingness to tolerate other than what is reflective of me. After all, if we are not tolerant, then we must be intolerant. Right? I doubt any culture is supported, fostered or enriched by intolerance of others. Ironically, it appears that it is the HR/Staffing community that has embraced the role as Obergruppenfurher responsible for the blind acceptance of the current intolerance to true and total diversity. To be truly diverse, should we not include the acceptance of religious diversity along with all other accepted forms of diversity? We again appear to lack the strength of will needed to reverse this trend of intolerance in the name of political correctness. We not only allow it to persist, we police, warn, and punish offenders. But that’s okay I guess, as we are only following orders. The Constitution declares that there shall be a separation of church and state to prevent religious intolerance enforced by law or law influenced by religious leadership. To that consideration I give total and unblemished support. But business is free to permit individual expression in all areas, and that includes allowing a person who celebrates Christmas to say “Merry Christmas” in their place of work without the HR/Staffing “correct speak” goon squad from saying, “Didn’t you mean [giggle] Happy Holidays? That’s what you meant to say, RIGHT!” (Get the thumbscrews; the Inquisition lives!) But if your company feels morally obligated to protect those who may be offended by the celebration of Christmas or its mere utterance or simple expression through decorations, all it has to do is make December 25th a working day and add an additional personal day to your corporate allowance. In addition you may want to eliminate the “holiday” bonus whose origin lies in a “Holy Day” observance. So doing would deny critics the opportunity to use words such as “hypocritical” when referring to your policies. That is to say, to allow the event, renamed, but deny the origin of the event to those who believe and practice that belief for the convenience of those who do not, but still want the day off, a bonus, and party. But that would also mean the possible cultural rethinking of new names for Mardi Gras, St. Valentines Day, and Easter. That is a lot of lost retail money due to re-branding, and I guess money is a religion unto itself for some. Before the “correct-speak” police arrive at my door to haul me off for reconfiguration and correct my thinking, let me exclaim at the top of my lungs, the most sincere wishes for you and yours ó in the spirit of brotherhood, sisterhood and sharing; across all faiths, belief systems, or naturalistic outlooks ó a totally politically incorrect and inappropriately phrased… Merry Christmas! Tell you what: end world hunger or bring about world peace and THEN come back to me about your concerns regarding the use of the word “Christmas” versus “holiday.” Seems like a fair and balanced set of priorities to me. Have a great Christmas recruiting!

Article Continues Below

Ken Gaffey (kengaffey@comcast.net) is currently an employee of CPS Personal Services (www.cps.ca.gov) and has been involved in the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration project since its inception. Prior to this National Security project Ken was an independent human resources and staffing consultant with an extensive career of diversified human resources and staffing experience in the high-tech, financial services, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries. His past clients include Hewlett Packard, First Data Corporation, Fidelity Investments, Fleet Bank, Rational Software, Ericsson, Astra Pharmaceutical, G&D Engineering, and other national and international industry leaders. In addition to contributing articles and book reviews to publications like ERE, Monster.com, AIRS, HR Today, and the International Recruiters Newsletter, Ken is a speaker at national and international conferences, training seminars, and other staffing industry events. Ken is a Boston native and has lived in the greater Boston area most of his life. Ken attended the University of South Carolina and was an officer in the United States Marine Corps.

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12 Comments on “I’m Sorry, But Merry Christmas!

  1. Ken –

    Well-written, and courageous – Thanks for sticking up for the real deal. I am glad that others can come here to America and practice their own religion (or non-religion) freely, without fear of censors and “thought police.” I hope they will not force the ones already living here to go into hiding to celebrate the birth of Christ.

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  2. Ken —
    I always admire someone who is willing to take a stand on what they consider a matter of principal, especially when they can anticipate some criticism, and perhaps even anger. Hopefully the resulting dialog will lead to an increased appreciation of all the issues and over the course of time, we can improve the human condition through increased awareness of how our words and actions affect others.
    So let me start by noting where I agree with you. Clearly, a heavy-handed approach in establishing a politically correct environment is not the way to go. Telling people how to behave without explanation or education engenders resentment that often results in the opposite of what is intended. A group that is told, without the benefit of the reasons why, not to engage in some action that reflects that group’s fundamental beliefs, may very well come to resent the other groups whose beliefs may be offended by the prohibited action.
    On the other, educating employees why saying “Merry Christmas” could be considered offensive to various individuals and groups cannot be said to be a bad thing.
    Your thesis is that by saying Merry Christmas, you are merely sharing your beliefs. Well said, but you are burying your head in the sand if you don’t see understand some people could be offended — under all the circumstances of how we celebrate, with a government recognized holiday, the birth of Jesus — by hearing those words.
    Let’s try an analogy using a fictitious country called the Federated States of Comerica. The FSC was founded by a group who believed in three pagan dieties. These dieties were collectively referred to as GOSPOS, and under the various religions that basically believed in GOSPOS, there was a shared practice in celebrating the day the three deities united to banish the bad spirit Gabrila forever.
    Ok, you’re a Catholic whose forefathers emigrated to the the FSG during a famine in their home country b/c it was the worlds’ most open democracy and capitalisic country, with more jobs and economic opportunities than anywhere else. Your family has continued to practice Catholicism ever since and on Christmas day, you go to work and try to get to mass on your lunch hour or that nite. Then, beginning in February comes the big build-up to MordiGrabila Day. For weeks there are songs on the radio, etc etc etc and of couse, everyone is saying to you: “Happy MordiGabrial!” You get the picture…
    Ken, I’m Catholic too, and I wld not be thrilled with this scenario. I could’ve added other elements to add some “tensions” between the Gosposians and Catholics similiar to the issues that have created problems between Muslims, Jews and Christians, but even w/o that, my hypothetical illustrates why for non-believers in Jesus, saying Merry Christmas could be percieved as one more reminder that they live in a country that espouses, in a very big way, religuous beliefs that are different, if not contrary, to theirs.
    If I lived in the FSC and people in my workplace showed that they recognized that some might not share their belief in GOSPOS by saying to me: “Happy Holiday!” I know I wld appreciate it. Very much.
    One last thought. If Jesus were here, I have the funny feeling he’d simply say: “Have a wonderful and blessed day.” But he’d say it every day.
    So, here’s to an enlightened and educated workforce that recognizes and celebrates the diversity that made this country great, and to a workplace where all are free to practice their relegions while demonstrating their sensitivity to the beliefs of others.

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  3. Ken,
    Great article. Can’t understand why someone…anyone…would say that “Christmas” would be offensive to others. Apologensia at work. I am not offended by Kwanzaa, the Jewish holidays or any other religious or secular holidays that others celebrate. At least they are rejoicing about something. Why is it we tend to find fault? Why do we set each other up to want to take away our respective happiness? No one forces anyone to celebrate Christmas. As a matter of fact, in my community, Jewish doctors volunteer to work for those doctors celebrating Christmas day. Go figure. Tolerance at work.

    By the way. I just received a humorous e-mail, which touches on how far out of hand the PC issue can go. It’s somewhat along the lines of the “memo” in your article. Here it is:

    Subject: Holiday Party

    FROM: Ms. Pat Smith, Human Resources Director
    TO: Everyone
    RE: Christmas Party
    DATE: December 1

    I’m happy to inform you that the office Christmas Party will take place on December 22, starting at noon in the banquet room at Luigi’s Open Pit
    Barbecue. No-host bar, but plenty of eggnog! We’ll have a small band playing traditional carols… feel free to sing along. And don’t be
    surprised if our General Manager shows up dressed as Santa Claus!
    —————————-

    FROM: Pat Smith, Human Resources Director
    DATE: December 4
    RE: Christmas Party

    In no way was yesterday’s memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Chanukah is an important holiday which often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year. However, from now on we’re
    calling it our “Holiday Party.” The same policy applies to employees who are celebrating Kwanzaa at this time. Happy now?
    – —————————
    FROM: Pat Smith, Human Resources Director
    DATE: December 5
    RE: Holiday Party

    Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table…you didn’t sign your name. I’m happy to
    accommodate this request, but if I put a sign on a table that reads,”AA Only,” you wouldn’t be anonymous anymore. How am I supposed to
    handle this? Somebody?
    – —————————
    FROM: Pat Smith, Human Resources Director
    DATE: December 6
    RE: Holiday Party

    What a diverse company we are! I had no idea that November 27 was the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating,
    drinking and intimacy during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employees beliefs. Perhaps Luigi’s can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party, or else package everything for take-home in little foil swans. Will that work? Meanwhile, I’ve arranged
    for members of Overeaters Anonymous to sit farthest from the dessert buffet and pregnant women will get the table closest to the restrooms. Did I miss anything?
    – —————————
    FROM: Pat Smith, Human Resources Director
    DATE: December 7
    RE: Holiday Party

    So December 21 marks the Winter Solstice…what do you expect me to do, a tap-dance on your heads? Fire regulations at Luigi’s prohibit the burning of sage by our “earth-based Goddess worshipping” employees, but we’ll try to
    accommodate your shamanic drumming circle during the band’s breaks. Okay???
    – —————————
    FROM: Pat Smith, Human Resources Director
    DATE: December 8
    RE: Holiday Party

    People, people, nothing sinister was intended by having our GM dress up like Santa Claus! Even if the anagram of “Santa” does happen to be Satan,” there is no evil connotation to our own “little man in a red suit.” It’s a tradition, folks, like sugar shock at Halloween or family feuds over the Thanksgiving turkey or broken hearts on Valentine’s Day. Could we lighten up?
    – —————————
    FROM: Pat Smith, Human Resources Director
    DATE: December 11
    RE: Holiday Party

    Vegetarians!? I’ve had it with you people! We’re going to keep this party at Luigi’s Open Pit Barbecue whether you like it or not, so you can sit quietly at the table furthest from the “grill of death,” as you so quaintly
    put it, and you’ll get your #$%^&*! salad bar, including hydroponic tomatoes…but you know, they have feelings, too. Tomatoes scream when you
    slice them. I’ve heard them scream, I’m hearing them scream right now!
    – —————————
    FROM: Karen Jones, Acting Human Resources Director
    DATE: December 12
    RE:Ms. Pat Smith and Holiday Party

    I’m sure I speak for all of us in wishing Pat Smith a speedy recovery from her stress-related illness and I’ll continue to forward your cards to her at the sanitarium. In the meantime, management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party and give everyone the afternoon of the 22nd off with full pay.

    Happy Holidays

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  4. Hey Rod,

    It’s easy to over-intellectualize these things; the “political correctness problem”. DON’T be excessively sensitive to “THEIR beliefs”.

    If I lived in a land where “Happy MordiGabrial!”, was thrown in my face, every day. I would see it as a “joyous time, where this particular group of humans, conveys goodwill, fellowship and tolerance”.

    What in anybody’s world, could be wrong with this?

    Yours truly,

    Yours truly,

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  5. Rod,

    I agree with Ken 100%.

    I take exception with your comment: (but defend to the death your write to say it)
    “On the other, (hand) educating employees why saying “Merry Christmas” could be considered offensive to various individuals and groups cannot be said to be a bad thing.”

    I think it IS a bad thing to encourage the type of thinking that says it’s okay to be hypersensitive or that it’s okay to take protection to the extreme or it’s right to sue someone for a nice word or compliment that’s truly meant.

    Personally, I’ve had it “up to here” with politically correct. I’m all in favor of equal pay for equal work. I’m all in favor of people, be they man, woman, child, black, white, hispanic, muslim, jew, christian or any other group being able to work in a place where they are not sexually harrassed. (or any type of harrassed)
    But I believe we’ve gone just a little (that’s an understatement) too far with a helping hand from the lawyers in this country in “protecting” the rights of all.

    Do we really have to worry about someone being offended because they were wished a Merry Christmas? Are people truly that sensitive? As a jew (non-practicing except when it gets me an extra day off) I have no problem with anyone who wishes me a Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, Blessed Ramadan or anything else associated with the sharing of joy. Do employers really have to spend time and money educating their staff regarding the perils of the possible offense someone might take when we wish them a Merry Christmas? If so, kill me now.

    Look, as I get older I find myself being less and less tolerant and less and less patient. At this point in my life I firmly believe in the death penalty for anyone who changes lanes without using their turn signal or who is in front of me at the supermarket, waits for their grocery purchase to be all rung up and then searches for their checkbook and begins to excrutiatingly fill out a check for payment. (instead of filling it out in advance and just filling in the amount when the order is done…or, better yet, use a debit card or cash and get us all home quicker!) But we have to draw the line somewhere and say, “enough is enough.”

    Perhaps we should educate our employees on the benefits of being just a tad less sensitive. Perhaps we should teach them that Merry Christmas (or, “Gosh Sylvia, you look very nice today”) isn’t meant to demean them as a person but, rather, to make them feel good. (yes, I know that SOMETIMES saying Sylvia looks nice isn’t only meant to make Sylvia feel good and in those situations Sylvia should be protected)

    Right on Ken. When we fix the unemployment and economic situation in the country, when we cure cancer and aids, (or the disease/s of your choice) when CEOs stop lining their pockets at investors expense, when I can let my kids play in front of my house without fear that some wacko will snatch them (obviously I could go on and on and on and on) THEN we can worry about who gets offended by the sharing of joy when a person cares enough to wish us a Merry Christmas. (or a Happy MordiGabriel!)

    And while I’m at it, may I wish everyone a Happy Festivus!

    All the best for a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2003!

    Jeff

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  6. I love your analogy but it falls apart because you assume that gosposianism is the equal of, and just as true as christianity and the poor gosposians should remain in comfortable darkness.Suppose the gospodians believed that knocking down tall buildings and killing the people inside was a blessed thing that ensured paradise ? (you may find this too outlandish,but remember, we play in a make-believe world here).Some things must be true and others not. I prefer to share what I believe is true rather than leave my brothers behind.It’s a greater duty than not making people uncomfortable. Jesus made everbody uncomfortable.
    Truth is generally uncomfortable.

    Merry Christmas

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  7. Thanks for the article…and Merry Christmas to you and yours. By the way, the word holiday comes from the middle English word holidai, which means holy day (what a surprise). The word holy is defined as “Belonging to, derived from, or associated with a divine power; sacred”. So if we have people who don’t believe in God telling us to have Happy Holidays, they in essence are telling us to enjoy the days of God. Whats up with that?

    By the way, the dictionary definition of Easter is: “1. A Christian feast commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus. 2. The day on which this feast is observed, the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or next after the vernal equinox.”

    How come we aren’t told to say happy [insert non-religios name here] at Easter? Why do the political correctness police let us get away with that?

    Political Correctness is so inane. God help us. And have a Merry Christmas..

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  8. Roderick, I appreciate your tolerance of various religions and cultures. However, I respectfully disagree with your point. If we become so sensitive to the possibility that we might ?offend? other cultures or religions by being true to our own, then we are missing the whole point of the freedoms our forefathers fought so hard to ensure.

    I?m not Jewish, but I take absolutely no offense when someone wishes me Happy Hanukah in celebration of his or her religious holiday. I?m not Catholic, but I take no offense when someone returns to work from Ash Wednesday service with ash on their forehead. Even though the majority of the people in my workplace are Catholic, I don?t feel threatened or excluded when they live true to their faith. As a Christian, and an American, I enjoy my God-given right to celebrate and live my faith. When I wish people Merry Christmas, I am not merely wishing them good thoughts during this ?holiday season?. I am celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, and wishing upon them the peace and joy that I believe come from the life of Jesus. To say ?happy holidays? instead of ?merry Christmas? is, to me, a different expression.

    So to my friends and colleagues on the Forum, I join Ken in wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

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  9. One comment to all. Those who practice no belief therefore, say I should not practice mine when I am around them have the advantage when I buy into that logic. Reason being, they get to practive theirs, and I even end up practicing theirs, which is nothing. You can not live in this world and function without belief. Sorry that is the wrong statement, because you can, and that is why we have the recruiters who have given those who try to operate with principles to still be lumped with those who have no beliefs.

    To All A Blessed and Merry Christmas.

    Gary Turnbull
    People Placement Solutions.

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  10. Question – In keeping with the Political Correctness/Incorrectness of this issue was the artist who depicted a crucified Santa Claus politically correct or incorrect?

    I haven’t gone to Mass for awhile because I would have felt hypricritical but this thread has just talked me into what my local fanatics could not. Have a wonderful holiday all (…and to all a goodnight).

    Joanie

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  11. I am Jewish and have a pratice.
    I hate all this stuff about not using XMAS, crosses on buildings, trees, manger settings, and school celebrations. IT IS CHRISTMAS TIME. If someone wishes me a Merry Xmas I say thanks. If someone offers me a piece of non kosher meat I say no thanks. I love x mas . It is not muy holiday and I can relax and enjoy it.It is a lovelty time of year. As a kid we used to drive around Flushing and look at the decorated houses.
    And come into Manhattan to look at the ‘windows’ on x-mas day(all christians at families homes)I don’t have to worry about large family gatherings. And more importantly I am not focused on the self examination that the major Jeaiwh Holydays require, that require lots of time (and should).
    And most most important: Chanukah is a VERY VERY
    minor holiday. (e mail me if you want a rant about it). So let us all celebrate Christmas, as a religious holiday or the Hoilday of our friends
    and retailers.
    l’shalom (peace)
    Mike Mantel

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