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Jewish Coworker Not Joining Christmas Gift Giving

Jewish Coworker Not Joining Christmas Gift Giving

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Question:

I have an office staff member who celebrates Hannukah. Everyone in the office is giving gifts but her. Why doesn’t she celebrate Christmas? Can you explain exactly what Hannukah means to Jewish people at Christmas time?

Answer:

It's very thoughtful of you to ask these questions and make the effort to respect your coworker's religion and wishes.

The most important thing to understand is that Christmas and Hanukkah are two entirely different holidays. Although they fall around the same time of year, they're not related to each other, and just as Christians don't celebrate Hanukkah, Jews don't celebrate Christmas.

I imagine your coworker is uncomfortable with gift giving and other typical holiday gestures simply because it's not her holiday. I'm sure she'll have no problem wishing you a happy new year, and she means it sincerely. If this isn't causing serious tension in the office, I'd let it go. I'm sure you'd rather have a positive office environment all year round than a strained atmosphere over a once a year holiday.

Let me know if this helps.

Malkie Janowski is an accomplished educator who lives in Coral Springs, Florida. Mrs. Janowski is also a responder on Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi team.
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Kayza Zajac Brooklyn, NY December 27, 2011

People REALLY don't know Plenty of JEWISH people don't realize how different Judaism and Christianity are. I've been told by non-religious Jews that they don't understand why I won't join the celebrations since "Christmas is an American holiday." Another one was shocked when I told her that Y2K has absolutely no theological significance to me, since we don't ascribe any (religious) significance to the birth of the founder of Christianity. Reply

Corporate Jew New York, NY December 26, 2011

Not extensive enough Malkie, though kind-hearted in her answer, did not elaborate and might paint the colleague as silly and childish. Question-Poser, thank you for asking so honest a question. In short, your colleague, while not celebrating the holiday, also does not believe in the nature of the holiday. In fact, she/he may feel that by joining in the holiday-gift-o-rama, he/she is emulating the holiday's nature. Judaism and Christianity share many tenets, but the belief in the birth of a savior isn't one of them. Your colleague probably wishes he/she could melt into the background and ride out this holiday season until it is safe to pop up again. Just as you wouldn't abstain from leavened products in April, don't expect gifts in December. Reply

tracy December 26, 2011

say wuuuuuut? WOW! this CANNOT be a REAL question.
how can anybody of working age not be aware that Judaism and Christianity are two different religions? Reply

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