That is my little town’s Christmas tree, at the top of the main street, beautifully decorated by a local tree company (they have done work for me and they are great!). And notice the star at the top?
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
— Matthew 2:7-13
There’s no way around that quotation. No obfuscation or post-modern interpretation or areligious significance can be granted it. It is the beginning of Christianity. And almost 1,800 years later our country was founded on some of the principles that emerged from that tumultuous time. Judeo-Christian philosophy, morality and culture was (and still is) an incredibly powerful force in the creation of the modern, liberal, free West.
Most of our science and technology and pluralism and liberty emerged from the radical change in Man’s thinking over the last 2,500 years, centered overwhelmingly in Europe and then the tremendous experiment that was America.
There is no way to separate us from Judeo-Christian…everything, and there is no way to separate The United States from the Christianity that helped form it and nurture it and create the greatest country in human history.
So when I — a Jew — am wished a “Happy Holidays,” I respond with a firm and loud, “Merry Christmas!” I have no interest in Jesus as anything other than a historical figure, but the reality is that The United States of America is culturally Christian, and the connection to the birth of Jesus cannot easily be severed. It is an integral part of our wonderful country, and I am profoundly grateful that I am a part of this grand experiment.
What makes it even nicer is that the Christmas season is a lovely time…people seem to be more friendly and pleasant; maybe the apocryphal Christmas spirit truly exists!
As for Hanukkah? Well, it is a minor Jewish holiday that among other things celebrates a significant pushback against secularization!
And that other thing? A revolt against government oppression.
Come to think about it, maybe Hanukkah should become more mainstream.