What shall we wish each other for the holidays? How shall we convey our hopes for the light and warmth that both faith and science teach us will come in the spring? With which words will we share our wishes with people who manifest our common hopes with different symbols? Being Americans, our answer is clear: The solution to any problem is litigation. So, let the games, the blame and the faux outrage begin. We have entered the now traditional silly-season part of the holidays. Tear down that creche. Do not plant that menorah on public ground. And please verify the faith system of any whom you might greet, and make your greetings and wishes fit their system – or else. Oh, come on. As a Jew, your Christmas tree does not offend me. When you wish me “Merry Christmas,” I know you are wishing me well. Why, in the name of our common God, would I be offended? Are you going to be offended if I wish you a happy Hanukkah? Shall we both be appalled at receiving a “Blessed Kwanzaa” card? We should have to carry either ethnic-religious ID cards or make our greetings generic and meaninglessly inoffensive. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals Some of our attempts at inoffensiveness are in fact worse than a straight, if religiously specific, greeting. Having a Christian refer to a Christmas tree as a “holiday tree” does nothing for Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or atheists. As a Christmas tree, it is yours to share. By making it a “holiday tree,” there is an imposition on me of your symbol. It is not a Hanukkah bush! You are giving me ownership of something to which I have neither a traditional nor a religious right. It seems to me that by going generic, your tradition is diluted and diminished with no particular gain to me or mine. So, what’s the point? I know I do not speak (or write) for everyone. Somewhere I am sure are people who are truly and deeply offended at decorated trees being called Christmas trees. But no one, no religion, nor political view can be held hostage to the most exquisitely sensitive among us. My preference is to look at intent and to admire your Christmas tree. In fact, I love a good Christmas tree. The White House tree is usually lovely – and it is a tree, not a Republican or Democratic tree. The tree at Rockefeller Center is also fine, but poses no governmental problem, as it’s on private land. Although, I do wonder if NBC Universal/GE gets lots of irate mail. I hope not. Neither as a stockholder nor as a citizen am I hurt by that nice tree. I love not only Christmas trees, but Christmas is a fine (if not strictly biblical in its date) holiday. Yes, it has been commercialized and our iconic Christmas is more Charles Dickens than Gospels. Still, how wonderful to have a season devoted to hope, to giving and to children. How wonderful to sing songs and find harmony of sound if not agreement on words. From Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” in all its many American film iterations, to “Miracle on 34th Street,” from “The Bishop’s Wife” with Cary Grant magically dressing the Christmas tree, to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Christmas is a part of our American heritage. And non-Christians can be – and mostly are – happy and interested spectators. Each year, I conduct several Passover Seders, and it is a regular part of many celebrations to invite Christian friends to share in this iconic meal that serves as the model for the Last Supper. Inviting friends to share is in no way an attempt to convert them or pull them away from their faith – only to share our own. When this is done by people of good will of any faith, it seems to me to be highly laudable. I’m equally happy to sing songs and open gifts under your Christmas tree. Earlier today my Muslim friend Akbar wished me a Happy Hanukkah (a little early). At the Muslim feast of Eid, I gave him a hearty, “Mabruke” (Arabic for mazel tov!), and at Ramadan I translated the Jewish Yom Kippur salutation and bid him “an easy fast.” I have no trouble wishing my Christian friends a merry Christmas, and would like to think if I somehow mistake someone’s religious heritage that they will have the generosity of spirit, in the spirit of our winter holidays, to understand my benign intent and not fixate on my error. Truthfully and fundamentally our winter traditions are related, but they are not the same. While some object to Hanukkah being called the “Jewish Christmas,” these two holidays share – and not by accident – the symbolism of light. The Hanukkah menorah, with its eight branches and central source of light, the “shamus,” reminds us of a miracle story when the light that should have gone out didn’t. It is a metaphor for the Jewish people and our survival. It also stands for the hope, the spark that burns even when we cannot see it, the spark that can return to reanimate our lives, our people and our nation. The light is also a central symbol of Christianity and of Christmas. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is referenced as the Light that comes from God and illuminates the darkness. Throughout the Christmas story there is light, from radiant angels that appear to the shepherds to the star that guides the Magi and shines down on Bethlehem and the creche. As Jews honor the hope of Hanukkah with lighting candles in the dark of approaching winter, Christians honor Jesus and hope by lighting candles, burning yule logs and, finally, decking the tree with lights. And now back to the Christmas tree. It is not a mighty oak. Nor is it a graceful palm. It is an evergreen, a tree that accepts the cold and dark, a tree that does not turn brown, shed its leaves and go into hibernation. It stands as a testament to life evergreen and hope that defies the dark seasons of the sky and the inevitable darkness of mood that touches every soul from time to time. It is a symbol of resilience, even the stubbornness that is faith. It is universal in its appeal, but it belongs to Christmas, as matzo belongs to Passover, colored eggs to Easter and oil-fried latkes to Hanukkah. What is a pine or spruce dressed in tinsel and lights? It’s a Christmas tree! Jonathan Dobrer is a professor of comparative religion at the University of Judaism in Bel-Air. Write to him by e-mail at email@example.comWant local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!