Inaction Perhaps the Best Action Regarding Holiday Display

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Dear Miriam,

Someone at work decorated my office with a paper Christmas tree. The star on top has our boss’ name, and cut out ornament circles have everyone else’s name, including mine. At the bottom were Merry Christmas/Happy Chanukah/Happy Kwanzaa messages. I am not bothered by the decoration in general and fully support others showing off their spirit, so I don’t want the tree taken down, but I am uncomfortable about my name being on a Christmas tree. Thoughts on what to do?

Signed,

Merry But Not Me

Dear Merry,

The best news about this and all other Jews at Christmas queries is that the problem is very temporary. Do nothing, and the decoration is gone in a month. Do something, and it’ll still be gone by 2019. However, if handled poorly, the ramifications could stick with you and office morale for a while, so it’s worth thinking through before you do anything.

It sounds like someone created a well meaning but slightly misguided decoration, and if you can find it in yourself to live with your discomfort for a couple of weeks, I would suggest it. Compare the current scenario of your name on a tree to being left off entirely because you’re Jewish, or to you having your name all alone on a separate menorah. None of these are ideal, but I would personally opt for the current situation over the hypothetical ones.

Sure, it would be better if people kept Christmas out of their workplaces, but that’s not our current reality, and as such, there your name is, shining brightly in its construction paper ornament glory. If you really can’t stand it, take it down when no one is looking.

Or, if you know who made it and have any sort of pleasant relationship, you could send an email that says something like, “You made a really beautiful decoration. I just wanted to let you know I removed my name since I’m not comfortable having it on a Christmas tree since I’m Jewish. It’s not a big deal, and I appreciate the thoughtfulness of being included, but I’m more comfortable with my name not being there. Just wanted you to know I’m the one who took it down. Thanks so much for understanding.”

Next year, you can offer to make paper mugs of cocoa with all your co-workers’ names on them, or you can brace yourself to see your name show up on a paper gift under Santa’s paper tree. Whatever. There are a million unforeseen ways that being Jewish is complicated, and at the top of that list for many people is “December.” There’s no right or wrong way to feel about Christmas; as long as you’re showing respect, it’s great to expect the same in return.

Be well,

Miriam

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