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What are you doing for Christmas?

What are you doing for Christmas or erev-Christmas? I get that question all the time from Jews, and until recently I never really thought about it. Should Jews celebrate Christmas? It doesn’t make much sense to me.

When I say should Jews celebrate Christmas, I mean it in terms of acknowledging its existence, and doing anything that could be considering using Christmas as some sort of holiday. To me it’s just another day that the banks and post offices are closed and a great day to ski because the slopes are always empty, but to many Jews, orthodox included, it becomes a holiday.

I am not sure if orthodox Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas, we never did and until recently I had never really heard of the minhag. But orthodox Jews do go to parties, Jew parties sure, but parties nevertheless and even though they are not actually celebrating Christmas it sure seems like they are. I wonder how many non-Jews show up to the Matzo Balls held around the country. I wonder if they think of it as the Jewish way to celebrate Christmas.

My father told me that many shuls will daven at a regular time if Christmas falls out on a weekday so as not to acknowledge that Christmas is a holiday. It’s kind of hard not to acknowledge, since you are off from work, but what if you could go into work? Or maybe move your car from one side of the street to other just to keep it like a regular day, should that be done? Or is Christmas really not such a big deal?

I am the opinion that Jews should not celebrate Christmas in any way shape or form.

What do you think?

Side point:My friends wife who is yeshivish thinks that modern orthodox people celebrate Christmas with the tree and everything

{ 34 comments… add one }
  • Yonitish December 24, 2009, 12:59 PM

    I agree with you. I would go into work if I could, but I work for a school. Not to sound too Jewish, but it’d be great to work that day because usually double pay is involved. Is that still acknowledging it though? I don’t know.
    I also didn’t know until a couple years ago about the Chinese food thing, but I feel like that wouldn’t be so bad. Chinese food is delicious and I’d take any excuse to eat it.
    We’re in Israel now so I’m hoping we won’t even feel Christmas at all here.

  • Mark December 24, 2009, 1:00 PM

    Definitely not having sex erev Christmas, in Jewish circles known as Nittel Nacht – http://www.slate.com/toolbar.aspx?action=print&id=2238708

    • yonah65 December 25, 2009, 2:31 AM

      NITTEL NACHT!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Phil December 25, 2009, 3:46 AM

      The articles wrongly quoted the Lubavitch custom. The Rebbe and his father in law played chess on Nittul.

  • Little Pom's Mom December 24, 2009, 1:16 PM

    From what I understand, the tradition of eating chinese on Christmas is mostly because it’s rare to find any other place that’s open.

  • yakov December 24, 2009, 1:22 PM

    i think you’re right L.P’s.M. and yoni i barely even remember it being christmas when i was in israel till some1 told : “oh hey its that time of year again”!
    and hesh if your anywhere near the east coast and want to hit the slopes please let me know im an avid skier!

  • BRO-D December 24, 2009, 2:07 PM

    I suggest you Listen to this he has an opiion on the matter too and its funny

  • red December 24, 2009, 8:31 PM

    Real Jews will eat chinese food and go see a movie.
    just kidding.
    i work in a chabad day school so we have school and kratzmach (that’s what we’re supposed to call it) and we always have. it really feels like any other day except the roads are empty.
    and i agree that you shouldn’t celebrate it. that just feels really wrong.

  • Schwartzie December 24, 2009, 9:48 PM

    So I was thinking that we would celebrate the ninth day of Chanukah tonight, because it went by too fast for me. I was going to make latkes and light the menorah, and then I had the idea to pull out our old lulavim from behind the fridge and put some lights on them. Everyone who comes over will have learned a few perakim of mishna is advance, and we’ll have a siyum.

    • Schwartzie December 24, 2009, 9:59 PM

      and at midnight, after we eat the afikoman, we sing leshana habah b’yerushalayim.

    • Anonymous December 25, 2009, 12:05 AM

      On Chanuka we read from the Torah every day, but since Chanuka is not mentioned in the Torah we read from the Chanukas HaMishkan (dedication of the Mishkan in the Desert). Funny how that was TWELVE days…..

  • flash December 24, 2009, 9:49 PM

    The frummies I am friendly with play cards, the MO’s I know, go to the movies, Obviously, I go t0 the movies, its my minhag for over 30 years.

  • Phil December 24, 2009, 10:04 PM

    Reposting the old joke poted in the forum by A. Nuran:

    Old joke…

    Three friends were talking about how they celebrate Xmas.

    The Protestant said “We get up early in the morning. The kids open their presents. We go to church and sit down to a big dinner.”

    The Catholic said “We take a nap the afternoon before. We go to midnight Mass. Then we go home and sleep. We get up, and the kids open their presents.”

    The Jew said “We sleep in. At about ten we roll out of bed and have a late breakfast. Then we stroll over to the warehouse, look at the empty shelves and sing ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ .

  • abandoning eden December 24, 2009, 10:30 PM


  • abandoning eden December 24, 2009, 10:34 PM

    No MO person I know would have a tree, wow. In fact, the MO people I know mostly don’t acknowledge it in any way.

    My parents used to go on vacation around now because my dad had several days off from work that week. When I was in my late teens, they would go off and leave me and my brother at home and for 2 years in a row we had a big christmas jew party at my parents house, where all my friends (Most of whom were OTD former MO people) would get together and do what teens do…drink/party/hook up/etc.

    One year I did the chinese food and movie thing- I think I saw the life aquatic.

    Now I celebrate Christmas for reals though.

  • Talia December 24, 2009, 11:21 PM

    Yeah, I think the Chinese food thing happened because they are pretty much the only thing open on erev Christmas.

    In America it is impossible not to acknowledge Christmas, nor do I think we should. If we want our holidays to be acknowledged by the Christians, we need to do the same. Doesn’t mean we celebrate them. Growing up Reform, I had a handful of friends who celebrated both but most of my friends were Christian… as is the burden of being the rabbi’s daughter in a very small, very Christian town.

    What I did love, growing up, was sharing the holidays. We had a Christian family that had us come over to help decorate their tree and they would come over to light candles with us. I learned about their beliefs but in a manner that taught me that those are for someone else, not me.

    This year, I am going to Heebonism in Denver. It should be a great party. But I have a family that I am very close to who celebrates Christmas. I bought them Christmas presents and they got me a Chanukkah present. I brought my menorah over and we lit. I said the blessings and the 5 girls wanted to do it to so they repeated after me (Baruch… Baruch… ata… ata…), it was freaking cute. The older ones were offended that Santa doesn’t bring me presents (mad at him, not the Jews) and when we said the Shechianu and I said “Now do you know what that one means?” and Peyton said, “Merry Christmas!”

    No matter how we share and teach, kids will always be kids! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • eric December 24, 2009, 11:39 PM

    I agree with Talia. In 1870, Christmas was formally declared a United States Federal holiday, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant. Jews have off like everyone else. I remember in my high school on Christmas we would have a father/son breakfast since all of the fathers had off from work. After the breakfast they would come into shiur with us. It was a fun day.

    Jews go out Christmas eve because they do not have to go into work the next day, Same with minyans starting late. People want to sleep in on their days off.

    I do not think MO Jews are celebrating Christmas as much as they are celebrating the fact that they have a day off, can stay up late, hang out with friends and have an overall good time

  • Phil December 25, 2009, 12:06 AM

    Let us not lose sight of what this holiday represents, namely the birth of a mamzer that caused 2000 years of agony, suffering, torture and deaths to many millions of Jews.

    Yes, some of us profit big time from the increased shopping, others get paid to stay home from work, etc. But any Jew celebrating xmas for what it really is ,or going to xmas parties, is wrong, at least in my humble opinion.

    • yonah65 December 25, 2009, 2:40 AM

      Yoshke didn’t cause it, it was the goyim and apikorsim who were in control of the government that caused it. Why blame yidden when you can blame the goyim? Nevertheless, we should make every effort to ignore the day and treat it like a regular day.

    • Mark December 25, 2009, 4:40 AM

      Jesus didn’t cause the problems, though he might have been a mamzer ๐Ÿ™‚ It was the folks that created the whole new religion around his legend a hundred years later.

    • Talia December 25, 2009, 8:53 AM

      AND Jesus was really born in March, near Pesach… the “last supper” was a seder.

    • A. Nuran December 25, 2009, 10:39 AM

      Nah. It celebrates the birth of a nice Jewish boy who went into his father’s business.

  • David December 25, 2009, 3:05 AM

    I agree with not davening late shacharis on Xmass but we shouldn’t cut off our nose to spite our face. IE it doesn’t make sense to daven at 6:30am becuase ideally one shouldn’t daven earlier than 26 minutes before sunrise unless you have to and if you have off you could daven at 7ish. But I personally wouldn’t daven at 8:30am in honor of Xmass unless it was on a Sunday.

  • A. Nuran December 25, 2009, 10:38 AM

    Old joke…

    Three friends were talking about how they celebrate Xmas.

    The Protestant said “We get up early in the morning. The kids open their presents. We go to church and sit down to a big dinner.”

    The Catholic said “We take a nap the afternoon before. We go to midnight Mass. Then we go home and sleep. We get up, and the kids open their presents.”

    The Jew said “We sleep in. At about ten we roll out of bed and have a late breakfast. Then we stroll over to the warehouse, look at the empty shelves and sing ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ “

  • Lizardqueen11 December 25, 2009, 10:47 AM

    Whether or not you eat it, it’s still the best song ever
    Check out “Chinese Food on Christmas”

    Also, what do you do on “nittlenacht” which supposedly is a time you can’t learn Torah – not supposed to learn Torah, but can’t have fun – movies, etc…. sports is out cuz it’s freezing outside… any ideas?

  • Sergeant J December 25, 2009, 9:03 PM

    The people who think that MO’s are “celebrating” the holiday are beyond ignorant. Even most Reform Jews don’t “celebrate’ it.
    I have had people in my line of work complain when I want Jewish holidays off as paid, saying If I get those days off, I should work on their holidays. I agree completely. So far, I have yet to get anyone to come in to open the secure facilities I work in in order to let me in to work.

    • Phil December 25, 2009, 9:28 PM


      Before I was self employed, I always volunteered to work on non Jewish holidays. Under Quebec law, besides getting paid for for the entire day, I got time and a half for every hour worked on a legal holiday, so each of those days were the equivalent of 2.5 regular work days.

      Those were by far the best days to work on, as their were no phone calls coming in every minute, it was usually just a matter of sitting around and yacking with co workers while doing paperwork in between coffee breaks.

  • Jon Katz December 25, 2009, 9:21 PM

    Hi, Heshy and all- We live in a hopefully pluralistic society where tolerance will increase by interacting and socializing with people from many walks of life. On the one hand, there is no need for Jewish people to SEEK to celebrate on Christmas eve and day. On the other hand, I advise against ignoring the holiday, as opposed to respecting that Christians are celebrating the holiday, just as Jewish people want their multiple annual holiday celebrations and 52 annual Sabbaths and kashrut observances to be respected.

    Jesus and millions of today’s Christians have not been responsible for the centuries of persecution of Jews in the name of Jesus. There is no sin to accept an invitation to attend a Christmas party given by Christians unless non-attending is meant to be a statement against a perception that the inviter or attendees would not honor Jewish celebrations or accept an invitation to a Jewish wedding, a Passover seder, or Sabbath seder or the like.

    For those going to shul on Christmas, has the shul given its Christian employees the day off, paid, in respect for their hoiday observance? That would be nice.

    There will be more ethnic and religious understandins, harmony and tolerance if we try to find ways to spend time with people from other religious and social paths rather than finding reasons to create barriers. For instance, I read a great story about how some Orthodox Jewish people perhaps in Crown Heights would not allow their children to play at the houses of non-Jews, lest they eat treife food there. Fortunately, one Jewish woman called that hogwash, saying that she solves the problem by sending a bag of kosher snacks along with her children to the homes of non-Jews, with plenty to share with all.

    From reading your postings, Heshy, my understanding is that you share my goal of ending racism and bigotry in society. I do not know how that goal will be fully achieved if we do not integrate socially with people who follow other religions and even accept some of their invitations to join those celebrations.

    Happy Festivus for the rest of us.


    Disclosure:I grew up attending a Reform synagogue, and now attend Jewish Renewal gatherings.

  • Phil December 25, 2009, 9:39 PM


    I see the reform synagogue has left it’s mark of falsehood on your ideas. The church that was responsible for what we’ve gone through over the past 2000 years or so is the same church that exists today. Don’t let anyone fool you by telling you otherwise.

    15th century Jews in Spain and German Jews in the 1920’s thought exactly the way you did. They foolishly believed that “enlightened” and “modern” people were beyond hate, largely due to the total B.S. they were taught by so called enlightened Jewish institutions such as the early reformers.

    They couldn’t have been more wrong. When it came down to it, they were gassed along with the frummies. All it took was a few racists to ignite their hatred. Speak to any holocaust survivors, and they’ll confirm that their best friends, neighbors and coworkers were the first to turn them in.

    Halacha says Eisav hates Yaakov. The ruling is eternal, and will never change. Anyone that thinks otherwise is delusional.

  • anon1 December 25, 2009, 11:54 PM

    love your blog

    kol hakavod

  • conservative scifi December 26, 2009, 2:37 AM

    I used to love going in to work on X-mas, since the lab was virtually empty and I could use all of the equipment without waiting. It was a great time to get three times the work done in half the time.

    We did eat chinese food at the Royal Dragon, but didn’t manage to see a movie.

  • aztecqueen2000 December 26, 2009, 7:52 PM

    I write a rant about the holiday season. This year’s rant was about Chanukah being the most assimilated holiday on the calendar.
    And frankly, I’m appalled by the idea of Nittul Nacht. To me it gives credence to the idea that Yoshke was someone important.

  • Chris_B December 27, 2009, 2:09 AM

    Dec 25 was a Friday this year so that night I went down to Chabad. Otherwise the 25th is a normal work day here in Japan (a non xtian country) so for the last 13 years if it was a weekday I just showed up to work as usual.

    I do say merry xmas to my christian friends and acquaintances tho since there’s no reason to be a jerk on my part. My non Jewish friends all said happy hanukkah to me this year as well. Since the dates of hanukkah arent well known to non Jews, I thought that was pretty nice of them.

  • Michaltastik December 27, 2009, 2:15 PM

    I worked and to me Xmas came and went more so this year than any other year. It’s my first year back in college so, I was pretty much studying for finals a lot and so, I didn’t notice much except for the few times I went to the regular grocery store or the drug store and they had music playing. I live in a Jewish/Muslim neighborhood so there weren’t TOOO aweful many decorations up.

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