Dear Mariah Carey, All I Want for Christmas Is a Non-Denominational Version of Your Song
“Last Christmas,” the 1980s hit by pop duo Wham! could just as easily have been called “Last Pesach.” John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” is a Vietnam War protest, not a Christian song. And, while “White Hanukkah” is not quite as catchy as Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” there is nothing overtly religious about dreaming of a winter wonderland.
A surprising number of songs in the vast canon of Christmas music are secular. So why do all these fun, seasonal tunes have to be categorized as Christmas songs?
There is a long history of Jews writing Christmas songs; enough think pieces have been written on the subject to last all 12 days. Twelve of the 25 most popular holiday tunes were penned by the chosen people, including the aforementioned “White Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red- Nosed Reindeer” and “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.”
Even the songs written by Christians are, for the most part, nonreligious. For every “Ave Maria” or “O Holy Night” there are dozens of covers of “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty the Snowman.”
In 2016, Christmas is as much a corporate holiday as anything else. According to a Pew Research Center survey, more young Americans see it as a cultural celebration than as a religious one. A full 80% of non-Christians in America celebrate Christmas in some fashion.
So I submit to you that, nowadays, “Christmas music” is too broad of a category. While the majority of holiday songs mention Christmas, most of them do so in passing. They’re seasonal songs, not religious.
This is not the new frontline in the War on Christmas – I promise to be completely neutral about Starbucks’s red cups. And no, my love of Christmas music does not mean that you will find me going door-to-door, singing carols. I have never had a Christmas tree, and I have eaten more than my fair share of December 25 Chinese food.
So, what is the problem with Jews consuming Christmas music? I’m Jewish and I love holiday music of all shapes and sizes. Santa Claus will not slide down my chimney this year, and I plan on skipping the Christmas ham. But come December 24 (conveniently the first night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve this year), my dreidel will be spinning along to the tune of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time.”
Good tidings I bring, to you and your kin. I wish you a merry Hanukkah, and a happy New Year.