DEAR ABBY: Every year around the holidays, well-intentioned strangers wish me and my family "Merry Christmas!" Even though we are Jewish, I have always regarded it to be a kind gesture to spread good cheer. I smile and return the greeting.
My children have asked me why I don't tell people we're Jewish and that we don't celebrate Christmas. I don't feel I need to educate strangers when they're just trying to be friendly, but my kids don't agree. We've had several discussions about being friendly and polite, but still they ask if being Jewish is something to keep secret or be embarrassed about.
I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but I do want to give my kids the message that we are proud of who we are. How do you recommend I handle this situation, because it happens a lot? -- JILL IN SANTA ROSA, CALIF.
DEAR JILL: Explain to your children that you return the greeting to be polite, not because you feel being Jewish is anything to be ashamed of. The strangers who do this are saying something nice, and you are returning the greeting.
However, the response to people to whom you are closer and with whom there will be a deeper relationship should be different. To them, your children should explain that they are Jewish and that you celebrate Hanukkah rather than Christmas. When you're with them, if they feel the need to assert their Jewish identity, they should go right ahead and do it.