Friday, December 10, 2021

Celebration Appreciation: Secret Subject Swap


Peanut Butter S’more Snacks, a snack of threes, 3 ingredients, bake in 3 minutes, and disappear almost as fast. | recipe developed by | #recipe #chocolate


Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This month 5 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. Read through mine and at the bottom you’ll find links to all of today’s other Secret Subject participants.



My subject is: Tell us a Christmas story. Your choice.

It was submitted by: Rena of Wandering Web Designer.
I find it pretty funny that it seems to be the Jewish girl who keeps getting all of the Christmas themed prompts. It's not like I'm in charge of the subject assignment or anything. 

Well, OK, I actually am. But it's not about picking and choosing, that not only wouldn't be fair, but it would be a whole lot less fun. No, the assignment process is tedious, and is about what's best for everyone based on everything but what the actual prompt is.
When the process was completed, last month my prompt ended up being about my holiday decoration schedule. I called the post Holiday Mash Up, and I explained how it turns out that the best decorations aren't the ones that are displayed, they're the ones that arrive.
You'd think that not celebrating Christmas would mean I don't have a Christmas story to tell, but I do. It's a story not of Christian beliefs, but of acceptance, appreciation, and community.
Let me tell you two things that stand out to me. First, when I was in religious school, we visited area churches. I think it was an early and important lesson about differences not dividing, about accepting and living with each other. I never forgot it.
The second thing is that we celebrated Christmas. Sort of. Santa Claus visited our home and filled the living room with gifts on Christmas morning. I think this was because there was no way my mom was going to have her Jewish kids tell the little Christian children that there was no Santa Claus. This practice ended once the other kids knew.
But other things continued. Participation in events that continued to foster the concept that religion was not an us-vs-them. We loved traveling the neighborhood and picking out our favorite light display. Each year the neighbor across the street had us over to decorate the tree with her family. I had an aunt who wasn't Jewish and who had a beautiful voice, we attended midnight mass to hear her sing. We, of course, attended Christmas parties and dinners and pot lucks. 
Peanut Butter S’more Snacks, a snack of threes, 3 ingredients, bake in 3 minutes, and disappear almost as fast. | recipe developed by | #recipe #chocolate
Peanut Butter S'more Snacks
Peanut Butter S’more Snacks, a snack of threes, 3 ingredients, bake in 3 minutes, and disappear almost as fast. | recipe developed by | #recipe #chocolate
The holiday celebrations, once I had kids, were a different experience. We live in the Midwest. I don't know if you'd call religion an us-vs-them, but it is definitely viewed among many as a right vs wrong. So I had to tread lightly. 

Santa came to our house when the boys were little, as he had to my childhood home, for the same reason. We loved looking at holiday lights and when we found out that one of the houses featured on the Today show was just 1/2 hour from here, we sat in our car for hours in line to see it.
We not only attended our friends' and neighbors' holiday celebrations, but I threw a Hanukkah party at our house every year. We were the only Jewish attendees, but it was so satisfying that friends were willing to share not only the celebration of their holiday but ours.
And each year that the boys were in elementary school, their teachers would allow me into their classrooms for a Hanukkah presentation. Deliberately, nothing in my visit was religious, just highlighting traditions. I'd bring the kids donuts (sufganiyut are eaten on Hanukkah), read a book about celebrating Hanukkah (which I then donated to the classroom), brought in dreidels and broke the kids up in groups to learn to play the game (using starburst candies instead of pennies). The kids all loved it. Many parents contacted me later asking me if I could give them a dreidel and written instructions on how to play.

But there were also disappointments. Every year the sign at the school said "Merry Christmas," for the month of December. Once the boys could read, I asked if they could change it to say "happy holidays." Apparently not. Rather than display a sentiment for all (there were one or two Muslims at the school too, btw), they took all the lettering down and left a blank sign.

I resented that I was required to pay neighborhood dues, some of which was used as a cash prize to the best Christmas decorated house. When I mentioned it (I believe it's even illegal to use those dues for anything religious), I was told that it did not exclude those of other religions, I was welcome to put up Christmas decorations too. It continues to this day.
Shortly after mentioning it to the head of the homeowner's association (a lawyer, btw) I had to turn over a threatening letter I received to the police. Yes, it was that bad.

And the store employees around here say "Merry Christmas." Period. Businesses make it clear that is their corporate policy. Somehow the idea of wishing everyone a happy holiday diminishes Christmas to them. I'm not exactly sure how that could possibly be, then again I'm also not sure there's logic involved. But the pervasive attitude around here is that religion does divide and it should, you are Christian or you are wrong.

I feel sorry for them. I think they totally miss the point. Religion is meant to guide and comfort us, inspire us to live to a higher standard. Honestly, I think I have a greater understanding of some aspects of Christmas than they do.

Welcome All | graphic designed by, property of, and featured on

This is the graphic I created for a piece I wrote many years ago called Blasphemy. I talk about how religion is used and manipulated as opposed to followed. I ended my post by saying "religion is a blanket, not a sword."

I'll end this one by saying that religion needs to go back to being a blanket, not a sword. The tenets of all religions require us to look a little deeper into what our beliefs actually are, and how we manifest them in our daily lives. 

Happy holidays, my friends. May you find peace, inspiration, and direction in whatever you celebrate.

Take comfort. And give it.


Secret Subject Swap, a multi-blogger writing challenge | developed and run by | #MyGraphics Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Wandering Web Designer


What TF Sarah

Part-time Working Hockey Mom 

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Peanut Butter S'more Snacks       

Printable Recipe

1 bag (7.6 oz) mini Reese's cups
1 bag (16 oz) mini pretzel twists
60 mini marshmallows

*Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
*Place 60 pretzels in a single layer onto each of the baking sheets.
*Place a mini Reese's cup onto each pretzel on one baking sheet and a mini marshmallow onto each pretzel on the second baking sheet.
*Bake both sheets for 3 minutes, then remove from the oven. Immediately take each Reese's topped pretzel and sandwich them (with both pretzels on the outside) with a marshmallow topped pretzel, and press together gently.
*Allow to cool and set. NOTE: placing them in the refrigerator will allow them to set faster.


  1. Beautifully put, Karen! I love the analogy that religion is a blanket, not a sword. I couldn't agree more! We have always been THAT family who goes to everyone else's celebrations. And our lives have been so much richer for it! And Happy Holidays to you!

    1. I figured you were one of those families, your open heart shows.

  2. Replies
    1. A richer life requires introspection, living a life where we don't just say what we believe, but live it. I know you do.

  3. Beautiful and thoughtful post, Karen. I had interesting experiences both growing up in New York City and then living, later on, in the Midwest, which ranged all over the spectrum of understanding. For me, because I'm intermarried and my last name isn't "Jewish", sometimes I get to see things that would be hidden from me if people knew I was Jewish. It's been an experience, to say the least. Alana

    1. I'm in the same position as you, Jewish but with not a Jewish last name and yes, it's been interesting.

  4. I love how your Mom (and later you) gave the kids the best of both worlds - because what's not to love? Two (or more) kinds of celebrations, festivities, games and foods! Being exposed to different customs helps broadening people's horizons.
    Too bad that some are so narrow-minded. Does it hurt anyone to say "happy Holidays", especially in retail where pretty much everything is an empty phrase anyway?

    1. I was recently on an online chat with an Amazon rep and while he was looking into resolving my issues, he was going on and on about it being Christmas time, the most wonderful time of the year . . . so I guess Amazon doesn't tell their reps to stay away from anything religious.

  5. When I worked at a mall customer service desk I sold a lot of gift cards in December. I gathered that the vast majority were to be given as Christmas presents, but a good handful were not. Instead of offering a "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" to the buyers, I just started telling them to have a good day. Who doesn't need a good day at this time of year?

  6. Happy Holidays to you, too. Since December has lots of wonderful days to celebrate, including Beethoven's Birthday (Dec. 16), it seems logical to me to use that greeting. After all, "holiday" is a mash-up of "holy day," and that can be any day that is holy to the person being greeted and the greeter alike.

  7. I say "Happy Holidays". My dad gets upset about this but I don't care. Thanks for sharing some inciteful things about your background.

    1. I just don't get what makes people so upset about saying "happy holidays," I really dont.

  8. I just don't understand the way people think these days. It makes me so sad, learning about how other people celebrate the same holidays is about acceptance and education. The more I learn the better person I become. I find that I look for things that you've taught me in my everyday life. It's sad that I don't see it nearly enough. I love that you used it as a teaching tool for the kids. We had two Jewish children in our class (cousins). There was never any explanation, they were just always left out and it broke my heart even then. It was so sad, they would make them sit at their desks in the midst of a party and not participate. How cruel is that!

    1. A lot of how those who are different from the majority are treated has to do with where we live. The south and the midwest are (in genreral, but certainly not every single person) far less accepting and far more fearful of any beliefs that don't reflect their own. Sorry, it's just a fact.


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