I know many of you are getting excited for Christmas, but as you are probably aware my people are 3 days in to the 8 day Festival of Lights, Hanukkah. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Hanukkah, rest assured that there’s nothing terribly compelling, unless you consider the alleged miracle of a tiny amount of oil burning for 8 solid days (you’re catching on now right, Festival of Lights, 8 days?). I defy you to find any religion that would dictate that the best way to celebrate the miracle of the oil is to cook delicious vats of deep fried foods. Yes folks, as a Good Jew I am compelled to eat fried bits of stuff the entire holiday.
That being said, please understand that Hanukkah is the most minor of Jewish holidays, and is really just for kids; it’s been blown well out of proportion in the U.S. because it is around the same time as Christmas every year. There are approximately 582 Jewish holidays in a year, and 581 of them commemorate thousands of years of the persecution of Our People. These are great opportunities to be bitter and self-righteous, and we love every minute of it. But then with Hanukkah, suddenly everything is supposed to be all joy and light (except for the deep fried food of course)?
This happy crap just doesn’t sit right, and the whole thing has turned into a rather embarrassing competition with Christmas. Do you understand that because of the Christmas influence Jewish people now bake cookies this time of year? With all the persecution and the running, we never had time to roll out dough and cut it into little dreidels and Jewish stars. And who knew from icing and sprinkles as we wandered the desert? Geez, if you were paying attention at Passover last spring, you would know that we couldn’t even let our bread dough rise before someone was after us again. Now we’re rolling out cookie dough? Pretty silly if you ask me. I do eat a lot of them, but just to be polite. And please don’t ask me how, but I know for a fact it’s a bad idea to give your camels egg nog with their cookies, even if you are wandering around the desert for 40 years.
In the good old days when I was a kid, as far as most people knew America only had two kinds of people, Christians and Jews. There were no Muslims or Hindus or what have you. Amazing, isn’t it? So public schools and the government got away with officially celebrating Christmas as long as they threw a gratuitous nod to Hanukkah. Frankly, it hasn’t changed much. I mean don’t we still have a national menorah next to the national Christmas tree? As if that covers all bases or is even relevant. I think many Christians believe we have Christmas-envy (as Sigmund Freud famously explored), so they make a huge deal of comparing the two and pointing out that they have just one day, whereas we have 8 Christmases. Ooops, I mean days of Hanukkah. It’s very sweet to try, but we’re talking about comparing apples to rutabagas. Confused? Now you get my point.
I’ll admit that for the most part I really do love this time of year; perfect strangers in elevators are concerned enough to ask me if I’m ready for Christmas, and it’s a lot of fun to say “Definitely!” What they want to hear is that like them, I am running like a gerbil in a wheel trying to find gifts and stuff stockings and bake hams and yams and whatever else people do in preparation for the big day. It absolutely annoys the hell out of people. I also truthfully tell people that Christmas is 2nd only to Halloween in terms of awesome holidays. If someone asks me what I’m doing for Christmas, I say “just a quiet holiday at home this year.” This is because I spend Christmas sitting around in my pajamas watching TV. The directive is to eat Chinese food and go to the movies, but I buck the system.
No matter your religion, may you have a Happy Hanukkah filled with crisp potato latkes, homemade applesauce (Lisa? No whiny excuses about work), love, laughter and lots of warm, bright light!