In response to another person’s blog asking why retailers carry almost nothing for us Jews at this time of year, and whether they were thinking or not, I had this response.
The old saying is, “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.” Which is true, but… my argument with this aphorism is that there is a space between stupidity and malice. That space is thoughtlessness. That’s where the retailers are.
They don’t think, because we’re a numerical minority. Unless they live in one of the big urban areas near one of our small urban enclaves, they’re not really even aware of us. They don’t realize that not all Jews look like the young Mel Brooks.
They don’t think, because we’re not like them. Our holidays have weird names in a non-English language and they don’t stay put on their calendar. We don’t put up trees or lights (unless they’re blue and white) or say the holiday greetings that they say. We’re not interested in sitting on the lap of the fat man in the red suit (or in letting our kid sit on his lap either). And the fat guy? He’s probably just wishing that all these screeching kids and drunk adults would go home and let him go get a coffee or a brandy.
They don’t think. They don’t have to. They’re on Holiday Autopilot and it would never occur to them that other people have holidays they don’t understand. They think of Hanukkah as “Jewish Christmas” and wish us “Molotov!”, believing that they’re doing something “inclusive” by doing so.
I’d almost prefer stupidity to the proliferation of “Hams for Hanukkah” and “Want your menorah to arrive by Christmas? Just pay for ultra-fast shipping at checkout and we guarantee it’ll be there by December 24th!” I would almost prefer malice to the absolutely braindead non-thinking Holiday Autopilot.
I don’t have a Hanukkah bush or an Eitz haMoed. Instead, I have a bouquet of cut flowers with juniper sprigs mixed in on my dining table. I have a menorah waiting for me on my bookshelf for when I can light its first candle tomorrow night. I have dreidels on the coffee table and gelt making its way to me from a fair trade company through the mail. I have a feast planned for Shabbat, when I will have my children and my husband and my chosen family with me, and I plan to be as Jewish as I can be that night and cook for armies. When I think of the winter holidays now, I think back to last year, when my Jewish friend hesitantly asked if she could bring a travel menorah on the night she was visiting, and how I watched in awe and wonder while she sang the prayers over a lit birthday candle in a menorah smaller than my wallet.
I am trying to ignore the proliferation of green-and-red-and-white light displays and ostentatious (and tacky) inflatable snowmen and the awful music pouring out of the grocery store speakers. And mostly, I’m successful.
But yes. I get it. You’re not alone.
Shall we sing along with the Maccabeats to drown out the unthinking noise?
Now I want to make something clear: if you have an Eitz haMoed, I have nothing against that. It’s your practice, and it’s your tree. No skin off my nose.
I just get tired of the non-Jewish expectation that I’ll still celebrate a holiday that has nothing to do with my religion, or that I’ll go along to get along. It annoys me. Always has, always will.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have grades to finalize and a tzedakah box to plan a paint scheme for.