As a Jew, and a religious one at that, I want to wish my fellow Americans a Merry Christmas.
Not “Happy Holidays.” Merry Christmas.
I write, “my fellow Americans” because, as reported by the Pew Research poll released just last Wednesday, nine in 10 Americans say they celebrate Christmas.
Apparently, many Americans have forgotten that Christmas is not only a Christian holy day, but also an American national holiday. Just as we wish one another a “Happy Thanksgiving” or a “Happy Fourth,” so, too, we should wish fellow Americans a “Merry Christmas.”
It doesn’t matter with which religion or ethnic group you identify; Christmas in America is as American as the proverbial apple pie. That is why some of the most famous and beloved Christmas songs were written by guess who? Jews.
“White Christmas” was written by Irving Berlin (birth name: Israel Isidore Baline).
“Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” — Johnny Marks.
“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” — composed by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn.
“Silver Bells” — by Jay Livingston (Jacob Harold Levison) and Ray Evans (Raymond Bernard Evans).
“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” — Mel Torme and Robert Wells (Robert Levinson), both Jews.
“Sleigh Ride” — lyrics by Mitchell Parish (Michael Hyman Pashelinsky).
There are many others as well.
The notion that non-Christians are excluded is absurd.
Americans who feel “excluded” are not excluded. They have decided to feel excluded. Which is, of course, entirely their right to do; no one forces anyone to celebrate any American holiday. But attempts to remove Christmas from the public sphere are destructive to our society. It would be as if Jehovah’s Witnesses attempted to remove public celebrations and references to the Fourth of July because they don’t celebrate national holidays.
Why are these attempts destructive? Because the entire society — Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists as well as Christians — all benefit from the goodness and joy that the Christmas season engenders.
It never occurred to my Orthodox Jewish family not to enjoy this season. It was a tradition in our home to watch the Christmas Mass from the Vatican every Christmas Eve (unless it was a Friday evening, and therefore the Sabbath, when no television watching was allowed). Had you visited our home, you would have seen my mother — and my father, my brother and I all wearing our kippot (Jewish skullcaps) — watching Catholics celebrate Christmas.
Nor did it ever occur to my brother, Dr. Kenneth Prager, an Orthodox Jew, not to sing Christmas songs when he was a member of the Columbia University Glee Club. He happily sang not only secular Christmas songs, but religious Christ-centered Christmas songs as well.
So when and why did this pernicious nonsense of non-Christians being “excluded” by public celebration of Christmas develop?
It is nothing more than another destructive product of the 1960s and ’70s when the left came to dominate much of the culture.
One way in which the left has done this has been through “multiculturalism,” the left’s way of dividing Americans by religion, ethnicity, race, and national origins.
The other way has been through its aim of secularizing America — which means, first and foremost, the removal of as many Christian references as possible.
The left regularly mocks the notion that there is a war against Christmas, a description that left-wing writers almost place within quotation marks, as if it is a manufactured falsehood.
The most obvious and ubiquitous example of this war is the substitution of “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas” almost throughout the culture. Employees in most retail operations are told not to say “Merry Christmas.” As a result, in much of America today, wishing a stranger “Merry Christmas” is almost an act of courage.
And, of course, many, if not most, public schools have banned Christmas trees and the singing of any Christmas song that hints of Christianity. Last week, for example, the school choir at a Long Island school, the Ralph J. Osgood Intermediate School, sang “Silent Night” with the lyrics changed. “Holy infant,” “Christ the savior” and “Round yon virgin, mother and child” were all deleted.
Let me end where I began: speaking as a Jew.
Overwhelmingly, the Jews who are active in the removal of Christmas from society — such as Mikey Weinstein, the anti-Christian activist (with a soft spot for Islamists) who led the campaign to remove the manger scene from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina — are not religious Jews. They are animated by one or both of two factors: One is leftism, which serves as a substitute religion for Judaism (and among many non-Jews for Christianity). The other is a psychological need to see Christianity suppressed; many people who have little or no religious identity resent those who do.
According to Fox News, Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation “said they were alerted by an undisclosed number of Airmen who said they were emotionally troubled by the sight of [the nativity scene].” That sentence should be reworded. Those who claim to be emotionally troubled by the sight of a nativity scene are not emotionally troubled by the sight of a nativity scene. They are emotionally troubled.
Dennis Prager’s latest book, “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph,” was published April 24 by HarperCollins.