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Offer Greetings and Gifts With Thoughtfulness, Etiquette

Before wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” be sure to take into consideration that they may not share the same religion or holiday traditions. Thoughtfulness around the holidays can help all of us enjoy a peaceful season. Holiday etiquette from the article, “How Do I Not Get Angry With Fundamentalists?” by Rabbi Rami Shapiro offers a helpful guide to appropriate holiday greetings, gifts and decorations.

I’m not Christian and hate it when store clerks wish me “Merry Christmas.” How do you handle this?
For me this goes way beyond Christmas. I resent being told to “Have a nice day!” Maybe I want a crappy day. And when people say, ” Take Care!” I’m infuriated by the assumption that without their intervention I would live carelessly. And when they say “God bless you” I demand to know what God they have in mind. So yes, when people wish me “Merry Christmas” — by which they mean “May this be a season of hope and peace for you and all mankind” — I, like you, am deeply offended. Then I realize how silly this is, and say with all sincerity, “Thanks! Merry Christmas to you, too.”

I don’t want to offend anyone, so what’s the right Christmas gift to give my Jewish and Muslim friends?

Jews and Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas, and no gift is necessary. If you still want to give something, however, let me be clear as to what not to give: fruitcake; especially a regifted fruitcake from last Christmas. And avoid giving anything even remotely associated with pork or pork products. Other than that feel free to gift friends with anything you think they would appreciate. No real friend will take offense at a sincere act of gift giving.

We’re Muslim Americans and my kids want a Christmas tree. This may be a crazy thing to ask a rabbi, but is it kosher for a Muslim to have a Christmas tree?

You asking the question is no crazier than me answering it, but I would say no it isn’t hallel for a Muslim to have a Christmas tree. Here’s why: whether you associate the tree with pre-Christian paganism or with 15th century German Christianity it has nothing to do with Islam. I suggest you use the Christian season to share with your children what Muslims do believe about Isa and his mother Maryam. So yes to Jesus, yes to Mary, yes to presents, but no to tree.

Read the article: Shapiro, Rabbi Rami. “How Do I Not Get Angry With Fundamentalists? Roadside Assistance For The Spiritual Traveler” Spirituality & Health, November/December 2015, p.17-18.