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Bee

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PostSubject: secular holidays   Thu Oct 13, 2011 2:57 am

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I'm just starting off on my path here and wondering how to handle upcoming secular holidays. This time last year I was passing out xtian bible tracks with candy, now I can't stomach the thought . This new neighbourhood is swarming with children and teenage vandals, they will be knocking for candy, and I don't know what to do. I don't want eggs thrown at our home. I once told them to get off our property and found my fence missing some panels, among other vandalism. They throw baseballs at my garage door, they hip hop dance on my driveway till 2 am, etc. How do you deal with upcoming holidays and is it ok or not to participate?
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daniel eliezer

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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Sun Dec 04, 2011 7:37 am

Bee,

Shalom! In the sense that I put the words on the page, then, “Yes, I did write it,” but in the sense that it’s coming from me then, “I didn’t write it.”

In order to explain, I’ve written considerably to and for both Jews and Gerim, motivated solely out of a desire ‘of wanting to help us all make it’. To my astonishment, as I would be writing, what I was saying would literally form itself as I wrote it. It wasn’t that ‘I was composing’, but that ‘I was a conduit’, with my responsibility solely being to make what I was writing ‘hearable’.

It’s not self-piousness or self-righteousness, but just simply that in having a genuine desire to want to reach others I’ve been given a blessing that allows we to do so. There is so much in this world that needs healing and fixing and restoring, and, if I can be part of that in whichever infinitesimal way that I can, I consider myself blessed. In a humorous way I say “Being ‘Chosen’ means that we really have to choose. On the garbage dump of life we can choose to be part of the dump, or we can choose to be a flower – giving fragrance and color and beauty.” I choose to be a flower.

In greatest truth, you have to know that there is a very special angel who knows me and who had asked me to comment here. really, really hoping and praying that I could find words that would touch hearts, so if there is any credit due it’s due to this unsung angel. One of the things that is unique to Jews is the concept/practice of ‘shlichut’ - of being an intermediary. It’s having this capacity what's unique is in how it’s used and fulfilled. In this case I'm a ‘shliach’ an intermediary between this angel and you – having been blessed to deliver a message from ‘the heart of one Jew to the heart of another Jew’…and somehow I think that in doing so it pleases all the powers that be and all who are involved.

May we all be blessed to be such holy messengers in helping to heal and fix and restore - ‘in wanting to help us all make it’.

Daniel Eliezer
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Sun Dec 04, 2011 9:46 am

Mike,

With the erudition you have, surely you know that the overwhelming majority of Jews who did what you describe are extinct. They chose assimilation, a choice that didn’t allow them to reproduce – as Americans, yes; as Jews, no!? The history of America, which ostensibly was founded on the principle of ‘freedom of religion’, in practice and in deed became ‘freedom from religion’ and ‘freedom to flee religion’, and who more greatly than Jews bought into this ‘new, great freedom’!? (Ask the ACLU, right.)

What few understand or are willing to admit is that in America one can be anything he or she wants to be - on one condition: that you give up your identity, your ‘who I am’. It’s not for no reason that America is called ‘the great melting pot’. “It all becomes one goo,” as I once heard a prominent rabbi say.

When I converted, in those days the only Jews you saw who were 'visibly Jews' were Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews, which has always been true. It isn’t that there weren’t other Jews whom you knew were Jews; it’s just that they took pains to minimize their visibility or to outright hide and even deny it. Today it’s easy to walk down the street with a beanie on your head, with some strings hanging off your shirt, and with a Magen David hanging on your chest…because America is ‘changing’. Everyone can do his or her own thing, everyone can be whatever he or she wants ‘just as long as it’s not real and genuine'. If I tattoo my body with every possible statement that screams “I’m a Jew!” and walk down the street stark naked…”hey, man, it’s a statement about ‘who I am’. It’s heavy, brother, very heavy.”

But what difference does it make. Everyone knows it’s not real and genuine. It’s costume and facade. Today I’m this, tomorrow that, and the next something else and so on. We’re all on the same trip: you do your thing; I do mine…

…and no one touches the other. We have not a single thing in common, except our being being looney – disconnected, right. What difference does it make and who cares? Who on God’s little green earth cares?

Ya gotta care, Mike, ya gotta care. Ya gotta have a heart that’s bursting with compassion, a heart that breaks every other minute because you don’t want to live and exist in a world where no one cares, where everyone thinks life is only a carnival and freak show. You want to live in a world where there is more to people than facade and costume, to live in world where people aren’t consumed with beating around bushes, in a world where people are genuinely...

… I apologize to you, Mike. I’m on a rant and tirade. I have no right to tear apart the world you live in and the life you choose. This is the first of your inalienable rights as an American. The second , of course, ‘I have no right to interfere in your life’. I do apologize; I really and truly do.

So I'll speak about myself and me becoming a Jew, which in doing so I discovered and chose differently. Maybe you're heard that there is responsibility that applies to the entirety of the Jewish People - both collectively and individually - that says, “every Jew is responsible for every other Jew.” It has many meanings and interpretations, but it is entirely predicated upon Jews being Jews: of having an unshakable belief in ‘who I am, this Jew’ and an unshakable belief that being a Jew is of ultimate importance.” When it is true that being a Jew is of paramount importance, then I am capable of reaching out to the hearts of other Jews, because their being Jews is equally of paramount importance. What more can I say other than this.

Bee commented on my first posting here and I’ve responded to her, so you have some idea about me. I want to add this. I grew up in a small post-WWII town (which would become suburban) in the NYC metropolitan area. I lived on a dead-end street, with some eighteen families or so, near the center of town. One person, two years older than me and an only child, is today one of the premier horror fiction writers in America and the world. He has sold millions of books, is definitely popular and known, and by all standards is ‘an American success story’.

Before I discovered who he was (because he uses a pen name, which he’s now morphed with), I once read the opening pages of a book of his. I almost vomited. “This stuff is sick!” I screamed to myself. And when I discovered who he is, in much later reflection I thought to myself, “his stuff can be found on coffee tables and who knows where else in every home, casual entertainment for one and all. What I write…maybe a handful of people ever see it. Why do you even bother?!”

Because I care, Mike, because I care. If in some crazy way I can here and there make the difference to a single person, can help someone make it in life when they don’t think they can, when all seems lost and gone…I wouldn’t trade doing so for all the accolades, fame, and glory.

There are things that each and every one of us have to do in life, but it’s not against this that we’re going to be measured so much. We’re going to be measured against ‘how we did it.

For me as a person, as much as it’s important to me ‘how I do it’, it’s vastly more important to me that others are concerned about ‘how they do it’. If they are concerned, then we’re already on the way to building a better world…a world where we really and truly care about each other.

I’m grateful that I was an American, because in my being so and in my overcoming this it’s taught me just how precious it is to be a Jew. And because of this I know so deeply and truly inside myself why I am the Jew I am. Decidedly I am a better American for it, whether or not America realizes it.

B'Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer
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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:21 pm

Daniel, reading these posts gave my entire day a sparkle. Thank you. :) There are very rare people out there that have your gift.
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BRNechama

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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Mon Dec 05, 2011 10:33 am

Oh it's funny that this discussion about Christmas is in a thread entitled "secular holidays" lol!

I gave up Christmas years ago...as part of my process of becoming a Reform Jew. It wasn't a huge deal. I mean I grew up with my mother's family where Christmas was a very big deal. Plus as a young child, the entire season just seems so "magical" (with the toys, movies, music, decorations, etc.). However I also was exposed to my father's family in Jamaica; where Christmas is very different. It is a holiday....but people don't go all out like they do here in the U.S.

When I lived on my own, it wasn't really an issue. I would visit my family for Christmas...but wouldn't do anything myself. No struggles or dilemma about it. I was Jewish...so Christmas isn't my holiday to do anything for.

Now this year should be interesting with my BF. We most likely won't have a Christmas tree; because he pretty much defers to me on household and decorating. I'm definitely going to have my menorah in my window for Chanukah. But my BF jokes that everyone is going to think that he's the Jew, and I'm the non-Jew (since he's White and I'm Black). Although he's joking, I think it is something that kinda is a wake-up call; in that he doesn't have an affinity for religion; but due to stereotypes, others will assume that he is not only Jewish, but an observant Jew.
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:32 pm

BRNechama wrote:
Oh it's funny that this discussion about Christmas is in a thread entitled "secular holidays" lol!

I gave up Christmas years ago...as part of my process of becoming a Reform Jew. It wasn't a huge deal. I mean I grew up with my mother's family where Christmas was a very big deal. Plus as a young child, the entire season just seems so "magical" (with the toys, movies, music, decorations, etc.). However I also was exposed to my father's family in Jamaica; where Christmas is very different. It is a holiday....but people don't go all out like they do here in the U.S.

When I lived on my own, it wasn't really an issue. I would visit my family for Christmas...but wouldn't do anything myself. No struggles or dilemma about it. I was Jewish...so Christmas isn't my holiday to do anything for.

Now this year should be interesting with my BF. We most likely won't have a Christmas tree; because he pretty much defers to me on household and decorating. I'm definitely going to have my menorah in my window for Chanukah. But my BF jokes that everyone is going to think that he's the Jew, and I'm the non-Jew (since he's White and I'm Black). Although he's joking, I think it is something that kinda is a wake-up call; in that he doesn't have an affinity for religion; but due to stereotypes, others will assume that he is not only Jewish, but an observant Jew.

LOL, I didn't know how else to title it. As an adult xmas was not a big deal, only by pressure of church, and if family was visiting. I question the tree and the whole bday of JC and usually gave in anyways. So I am just weirded out that this year I feel christmasie by wanting pretty lights? I grew up on a xmas tree farm, along with vineyards and orchards...I loved waking up to the smell and we would go cut one down from our property. I would refuse to open my gifts on xmas as protest ....then when my siblings were playing happily I gave in then too. I dont understand why I felt wrong in my gut growing up and even as an adult. Believe it or not, my hubby agreed somewhat and started doing chanukah for the past 4 years...we had no idea how in the future it would be significant. Family and friends that came over had to at least pause for a moment while we did this even if they did not agree, I told them I had to for the xmas tree. This year it will be so much more meaningful.
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:36 pm

Another question I have is about holiday charity, did you guys stop giving or stop donating toys to xmas events? I know during the High Holidays we gave to our Rabbi's and their organizations...what is the Jewish tradition for Chanukah and do Jewish people donate to non Jewish charities? Is there Jewish charities? Who do you give to?
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:43 pm

Chanukah is kind of a minor holiday in Judaism (though my favorite, probably because of it). It's always good to give tzedakah for holidays and pre-Shabbat, so you can keep your tradition.

I learned that there's a hierarchy of giving, Jews first, everyone else later, but I think that's really up to you. I consider my ongoing donation to Kiva counting as much as my donation to Jewish organizations. There's a zillion Jewish charities. My fiancee's parents are on EVERY mailing list possible and we get scads of mail in our box every day. (They forwarded their mail to him when they made aliyah.) Find what's important to you and google search it. There's disaster relief, children, out reach, food . . . literally everything that a secular or Christian organization offers, only zillions more. I would not be surprised if the same people had dozens of charities they ran.
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:51 pm

Bee:

If you like the smell of evergreen, you might like to know that many observant Jews like the smell for its association with the evergreen boughs they use as "schach" to put over the top of their sukkah during Sukkot. Believe it or not my husband has paid non-trivial sums to buy big bundles of evergreens from the Bnei Akiva youth group sales in our area before Sukkot. He says that it is a pity that we can't convince our Christian neighbors to put up their Christmas trees in September so that we could recycle the branches for our sukkot ;)

I see donations during the Christmas holiday season as Tzedaka. I participated for several years in a holiday gift giving program at my children's elementary school because it tore my heart to see what basic necessities the people were requesting: cleaning supplies, bed sheets, a coat...It was simple "tzedaka" in its literal meaning*, not participation in the over-commercialized Christmas of the stores that just want people to spend money.

There are LOTS of Jewish charities because "Tzedaka" is an important Jewish value. *Note that although often translated as "charity", the word "tzedaka" comes from the root word for "justice" (like a "tzadik" is a "righteous" person).
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:22 pm

Bee wrote:


LOL, I didn't know how else to title it.

Oh it's fine; ironically my Grandmother (a very religious Christian) also does not put up a Christmas tree anymore. To her, she feels that Christmas has been "hijacked"...and commercialized to the extreme. Instead she opts to set up a nativity scene outside, and do some lights in the window.

My Grandfather (her husband) is not as religious, but feels that the tree is kinda pointless at this point in their lives....since they no longer have kids around at home (I was the last one to leave).
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Mon Dec 05, 2011 5:14 pm

I think I will buy some of those car rear view mirror trees and hang them around the house LOL! Evergreen scented candles might be good too! e have a Tzedaka box that we put money in before we light the shabbos candles. In February I am hosting a tea party that will also have a charity raffle for an orphange and a local womens shelter. I was planning on using the money in our Tzedaka box for that but the Reform congregation we attended host low income families with food and temporary shelter on some weekdays, I think I just answered my question. :-)
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Mon Dec 05, 2011 7:25 pm

The whole Christmas thing, to me, hasn't been all that difficult to give up. Part of this is down to the fact that I'm in China, where people do some secular Christmas-y stuff (because no one loves kitschy decorations and lights as much as the Chinese, I find), but the big holiday is Chinese New Year. There's going to be a Christmas Eve party that will involve, food, alcohol and watching old movies amongst some friends and colleagues that I'll probably attend, and since Chanukah actually overlaps this year, I'll bring latkes or sufganiyot or something. We're also going to do a separate Chanukah party the week before, probably on the first night.

For me, the tree is non-negotiable. I can't imagine putting up a Christmas tree in my house full of Jewish seforim and mezuzot- it would just seem like a desecration, somehow, and I'd be afraid that people would take me for a Messianic Jew or something, God forbid. If I were home, I'd still go to my family's gathering and do gifts, but no religious stuff. For me, Christmas has been more about spending time with family than the religious stuff for a good, long time anyway, and when I spoke to my rabbi about it, his take was, "There's nothing wrong at all with you spending quality time with your family and enhancing their joy in their holiday by being present for their celebrations." The unspoken part of that, of course, is knowing where the line is between helping them celebrate and celebrating myself.

You can't have everything, you know? I gained a lot of amazing stuff when I chose Judaism; part of the deal was giving up on things like Christmas. Aside from the issues it can cause in terms of navigating family relationships, though, I really don't care that much. I mean, religiously speaking, it was never my holiday in the first place, given that I stopped buying the idea of Jesus as the Messiah when I was in junior high.
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Mon Dec 05, 2011 7:29 pm

BRNechama wrote:
But my BF jokes that everyone is going to think that he's the Jew, and I'm the non-Jew (since he's White and I'm Black). Although he's joking, I think it is something that kinda is a wake-up call; in that he doesn't have an affinity for religion; but due to stereotypes, others will assume that he is not only Jewish, but an observant Jew.

I took a class with a black woman married to a white guy. She felt like when she went to shul everyone assumed he was Jewish and she was tagging along. In reality she was converting and he isn't Jewish at all. She had a super great attitude about it though.

I don't put my menorah in the window. I know I'm supposed to but there wasn't really anything next to the front window on which to put it. Now I have my piano but it's still a foot or so away from the window. I could put it up there anyway, I guess.
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Mon Dec 05, 2011 7:36 pm

FaustianSlip wrote:

For me, the tree is non-negotiable. I can't imagine putting up a Christmas tree in my house full of Jewish seforim and mezuzot- it would just seem like a desecration, somehow,

See, I kind of feel the same. Maybe it isn't even logical but it feels wrong to me.

FaustianSlip wrote:
and I'd be afraid that people would take me for a Messianic Jew or something, God forbid.

Good point. The thought makes me shiver.

FaustianSlip wrote:
If I were home, I'd still go to my family's gathering and do gifts, but no religious stuff. For me, Christmas has been more about spending time with family than the religious stuff for a good, long time anyway, and when I spoke to my rabbi about it, his take was, "There's nothing wrong at all with you spending quality time with your family and enhancing their joy in their holiday by being present for their celebrations."

I had a Rabbi advise that I try to spend Christmas with my family. When he was a younger Rabbi he suggested converts refrain from it but as an older Rabbi, he now believes they should be with their families.


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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Sun Dec 11, 2011 4:29 am

Dena wrote:


I had a Rabbi advise that I try to spend Christmas with my family. When he was a younger Rabbi he suggested converts refrain from it but as an older Rabbi, he now believes they should be with their families.



This is interesting; I wonder what made him change his mind?

My Orthodox shul had quite a few members who's families have (or used to have) local business in town. The one family used to have a TV & appliance store. The father was your "classic" Orthodox Jewish man...with a white beard and mustache. During the Christmas season they not only decked the store out with Christmas decorations and music; but he would dress up at Santa Claus and take pictures with the kids! Shocked This was back in the 1970s to 1980s...when Orthodox Judaism was a bit more laid back socially. I realize that they did this for business reasons...but no one, not even the rabbi, had any serious issues with them doing this. Today....I think it would raise some eyebrows! scratch
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Wed Dec 14, 2011 3:37 am

It would raise my eyebrows...for sure.
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Wed Dec 14, 2011 3:47 am

BRNechama wrote:


This is interesting; I wonder what made him change his mind?



He just said it was age. Fatherhood, that sort of thing.
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Wed Dec 14, 2011 4:03 am

Christmas ceased being a religious holiday for me almost immediately after I decided as a child that it was most importantly an occasion to reunite with family and exchange gifts.

The trappings (trees, wreathes, lights, etc.) are quite easily forgone, I find. Many of them are tacky in the first place, IMO.

I don't plan on putting up any tree, ever, if I have any say in the matter. Christmas movies are unwatchable to me. I simply can't stand the sentimental folklorisation of the whole thing. It's just another day. There's nothing magical about it. I find Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur much more meaningful thatn I ever did Christmas.
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Wed Dec 14, 2011 4:27 am

I never cared, only around friends and family. But I guess because its the first time in my 36 years of life that I am not celebrating it...feels like it is magnified. My hubby and I were having Torah studies and were interupted by xtian friends bringing us gifts, they mean well but I had answered their text that we were in study...they came anyways and my husband was not happy about it. Another texting me on what to do because her Jewish friend has a fit when she gives them a Christmas cards, I told her to get them a Chanukah card and she asked where? Then she asked what to get the Jewish couple for their babyshower gift?? Now I am a Jewish expert? I feel obligated to give them gifts...but I plan on baking and putting Chanukah cards...or will that be wrong? Am I in the same boat with my confused friend??
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Wed Dec 14, 2011 12:40 pm

There's nothing wrong with giving Christians gifts for Christmas if those people are important to you. There's no point giving them Hannukah-related gifts if they're not Jewish.
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Wed Dec 14, 2011 3:41 pm

I'm really detached from Christmas now, which in all honesty is a good thing. I'm really excited about celebrating my first Chanukah as an official Jew - bought a new Chanukiah and everything! - but I will still be giving presents to my family at this time of year. I think shalom ha-bayit has to take precedence here. I don't want to upset them, as much as I find getting an advent calendar just after I converted a little weird. It's their way of showing they care, even though it does make me uncomfortable. When I marry and get my own house, no Christmas decorations will ever make it into my house. I just go along with it because it's important to them.
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Wed Dec 14, 2011 9:49 pm

Bee wrote:
I feel obligated to give them gifts...but I plan on baking and putting Chanukah cards...or will that be wrong? Am I in the same boat with my confused friend??

I'm not sure what you are asking. It is okay for you to gift Christmas gifts? I wouldn't say it's a big deal however, it could confuse your friends and family. It may make them think you've jumped back on the Christian bandwagon. Others may disagree but I personally don't think it's appropriate to give Christian friends a Chanukah card. Their holiday is Christmas, not Chanukah.

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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:42 pm

No, I just don't know how to respond to christmas gifts. I was thinking of giving them baked goods with a Chanukah card in response...I just honestly dont know how to return a thank you sentiment on a holiday gift. It would be worse to respond by not accepting their gift, should I just say thanks and not reciprocate the gift? Should I place a christian card on the cookies I bake for them? That would confuse them. I just lost another good friend (she saw my facebook religion profile), so I don't want to offend and lose anymore...well you know, I dont care if I lose anymore. I just don't know what the right response to christian cards and gifts are. Maybe a non religious funny or cutsie card will do...or just a generic thank you card. Thats what I am going to do.
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:51 pm

Bee wrote:
No, I just don't know how to respond to christmas gifts. I was thinking of giving them baked goods with a Chanukah card in response...I just honestly dont know how to return a thank you sentiment on a holiday gift. It would be worse to respond by not accepting their gift, should I just say thanks and not reciprocate the gift?

First you can make it known to people that you do not want to participate in gift giving. If someone still gets you a gift, send them a thank you card.

Bee wrote:
Should I place a christian card on the cookies I bake for them? That would confuse them.

If you are giving the cookies as a thank you then just put a "thank you" card on them. If not, just put a card that says "to" and "from". It doesn't have to be Chanukah or Christmas related.

Bee wrote:
Maybe a non religious funny or cutsie card will do...or just a generic thank you card. Thats what I am going to do.

Okay, yes. I should read through the entire post before I start replying. Bad habit! I think a thank you card will work just fine. Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: secular holidays   Thu Dec 15, 2011 12:18 am

lol...no worries! I have a bad habit of posting conversations I have with myself!!! I start to write something that comes to mind then it goes in a whole different direction. Eventually I convince myself.
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