Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Holiday Hierarchy

After participating in two blog discussions yesterday on Jews and Halloween, I've been thinking about Jewish approaches towards non-Jewish holidays in general. It seems like different sets of holidays have a range of attitudes in the Jewish world and even among sub-groups within the Orthodox community.

I came up with the following hierarchy for prominent* non-Jewish holidays observed by the general American** public:

Level 1: 4th of July, Mother's/Father's Day

Level 2: Thanksgiving, New Year's Eve/Day

Level 3: Halloween, St. Valentine's Day

Level 4: Christmas, Easter

* As opposed to holidays that are mostly just days off from work without significant observances by the general public, like President's or Labor Day
** Apologies to my non-US readers; I'm not familiar enough with your national holidays or attitudes to classify them

My theory is that various Jewish religious sub-groups tend to celebrate - or at least acknowledge positively - the holidays up to and including a specific level. However, I think it is rare, if not unknown, for people to celebrate the holidays on Level N+1 but not be willing to celebrate, for religious reasons, the holidays on Level N. I also believe that the holidays I list on a given level are generally either all celebrated or all not celebrated by a given group.

Comments? Am I on to something, or is reality a lot messier?


At 11/1/05, 3:29 PM, Blogger torontopearl said...

Unless I'm misinformed, Elie, but aren't you Americans, Jewish or otherwise, *really* big on President's Day? (great sales in stores, and some patriotism happening, too) Or maybe that patriotism happens just on Memorial Day...

At 11/1/05, 3:33 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Sure, there are sales on many other occasions (the biggest are on the day after Thanksgiving), but I'm talking about holiday-specific observances done by the general public. Labor Day/Presidents Day don't have too many of those. Maybe Memorial Day should be included on the list with 4th of July, if you count watching parades.

At 11/1/05, 3:58 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

Though things have changed in recent years it used to be that everything was likely to be closed on Thanksgiving almost as much as on Christmas.
I don't get the impression that as an American (as opposed to Christian) holiday Easter ranks that high. (Though the pastel M & M's are great.)
I'd put New Year's and Thanksgiving at level 4 with Christmas and move Easter down a notch or two.
Getting back to a point I made before, if special M & M's are any indication then Valentines Day, Easter, July 4, Halloween and Christmas are the most important holidays. (Up there with the opening of "The Revenge of the Sith.)

At 11/1/05, 5:20 PM, Blogger Elie said...


Not sure I understand your comment about Thanksgiving. It looks like you're suggesting that about as many American Jews celebrate Christmas as Thanksgiving, which can't be right. Even among the Orthodox many do/did celebrate the latter, including, famously, the Soloveichiks (and lehavdil, the Rosenfelds). Whereas I would guess only the most assimilated Jews would celebrate Christmas.

OTOH, for those Jews that would celebrate Christmas to some degree - e.g., going with friends to sing carols - I would guess they would be just as likely to celebrate Easter to a similar degree, with egg hunts or the like. So I do still think those two belong on the same basic level.

I'm right with you on the M&Ms though!

At 11/1/05, 5:51 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

Whoops what a maroon.
I paid attention to your second paragraph and ignored your first. I thought you were referring to how Americans on the whole view holidays. I should read more carfully. (And write too.)

At 11/3/05, 10:15 PM, Blogger benros52589 said...

is cool how u classify holidays


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