Carolyn Hax: A Jewish colleague and the gift of understanding

I feel like a lot of my standard gifts lean toward the Christian tradition — poinsettias, Christmas ornaments, stocking filled with coffee cards/chocolate etc. We get along great but work out of different locations, so I’m not so familiar with her that I can think of a specific gift she’d be sure to like.

Should I plan the gift to coincide with the first day of Hanukkah, or is there a more appropriate time to give? Am I overthinking this? Probably. But any help or insight would be much appreciated.

Gift-Giver: I’m thinking your Jewish colleague is a wake-up to the wisdom of uncoupling your workplace appreciation gifts from religious holidays.

Conveniently, there is the New Year holiday, standing neutrally by and carrying only the calendar as symbolic freight. Coffee cards and chocolates are just as excellent wrapped in sparkly gold and silver. I’ve done extensive research on this personally.

Some thoughts from readers:

●Friendly neighborhood Jewish person here: Please take Carolyn’s suggestion. Hanukkah is not Jewish Christmas and the conflation of this minor holiday in the Jewish calendar with an important holiday on the Christian calendar is an annual frustration for nearly every Jew I know. I have received work gifts for Hanukkah from lovely and well-meaning colleagues and bosses and have been truly touched by the fact that they care. But it is still frustrating to have Hanukkah be the only holiday that my faith is known for — and simply because of calendar reasons.

So show your assistant you care by giving a gift to celebrate the secular new year. And, please do familiarize yourself with the Jewish holidays that are far more important.

●A tradition that has worked well for me with my employees: Instead of gifts, I write them personal thank-you notes for all of their great work throughout the year, and give them the notes the first day at work after New Year’s. I decided on this approach for two reasons: I don’t want my employees to feel obligated to give me a holiday gift, and because a personal thank-you always works for everyone, no matter their religion, dietary preferences, drinker or nondrinker status, etc. The notes always mean a lot to the folks who work for me, and I look forward to writing them toward the end of the year!

●Give a Thanksgiving gift! There are all sorts of things you can give, and the message is: I’m thankful for you.

●I think we all know this letter-writer is now enthusiastically going to wish her Jewish assistant a “Happy Yom Kippur!”

The ultimate well-meaning “nope.” Thanks everybody.

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