Q. I am a non-practicing Christian, married to a non-practicing Jew. During the holidays, I send my in-laws a Hanukkah card (because they expect one from their son), a Christmas card (because we have them made with photographs of the family), and a Christmas present, although I don't expect one in return.
Now that I've worked out that ritual to my satisfaction, my mother wants to know what kind of card -- Hanukkah or Christmas -- she should send my in-laws. Does one send a card according to the holiday observed by the sender or the receiver of the card?
A. As your ecumenical customs seem to work, Miss Manners does not oppose them. And in this case, you could simply ask your husband's parents which they would prefer.
But you should be aware that you are dealing here in non-practicing customs, as it were. The reason Miss Manners cannot give you a firm answer is that there is no all-purpose standard.
There is no one Jewish way of dealing with the fact that a Christian holiday is celebrated as a national holiday in America. There are Jews who ignore it entirely; and Jews who treat it as a non-religious winter holiday, the origins of which are, in fact, older than Christianity. There are also a range of practices in between, in regard to specific folk customs of Christmas, such as presents, cards and trees.
In addition, there is a difference of opinion about whether Hanukkah is observed traditionally or made into the equivalent of Christmas with corresponding trappings. A Jew who might consider it inappropriate for a Christian to send him a Christmas card may quite possibly care even less for Hanukkah cards, on the grounds that they are not a Jewish custom but an obvious adaptation of a Christian one.
In view of all this, Miss Manners cannot understand why one does not simply sidestep the issue of marking one holiday or another, and send winter greetings to those who do not celebrate Christmas. This cannot possibly offend anyone, as there is a general agreement in November and December that it is winter.