Friday, December 7, 2012

Rant #860: Hanukkah Lights

Tomorrow evening at sunset is Hanukkah, the festival of lights.

It's the first evening of a seven-day celebration that is in the November/December time frame each year.

It's not my favorite Jewish holiday, but it is the end-of-the-year Jewish holiday that all Jews look forward to.

But it is not Jewish Christmas, if anybody thinks it is.

It is a completely separate holiday that has nothing to do with Christmas.

In fact, it is probably older than Christmas.

Yes, it involves gift giving, but in the sum total of all the Jewish holidays, it is a relatively minor one on the calendar.

It harkens back to the victories of Judah and the Maccabees, and the days of the old Temple, which was destroyed, and its rebuilding, and the almost "magic" candelabra that burned brightly for eight days, although it had just enough oil for one, single day.

To me, it is a celebration of much more than that.

It is a day to be thankful, a day to look at ourselves and see where we have been and where we are going.

If that sounds like Yom Kippur, it is kind of similar, but this holiday is celebrated in a more fun way.

Dreidels are traditionally spun, Hanukkah gelt is given, small presents are exchanged, and food heavy in oil is traditionally eaten.

It is a holiday that the family gets together, and it's a day of fun.

Again, it's a relatively minor holiday on the Jewish calendar, but in the U.S., it has risen to much grander status.

Giant menorahs are lit around the country to symbolize the strength of the Jewish people. Sometimes, they stand proudly next to Christmas symbols, and this has often riled some people who think that their religion should not have to share the stage with another.

I happen to disagree. Both Christmas and Hanukkah represent the most joyous of seasons, but again, they are separate. One holiday has nothing to do with the other. But I certainly don't mind public sites where symbols of both holidays are represented.

I think some people believe that Christmas doesn't have to share the stage with another holiday because they are anti-Semitic, although they certainly wouldn't admit to it.

I also think that many Jews forget that they two holidays are separate. They so want to assimilate into the mass culture that they forget who they are, forget their faith.

I am offended when symbols of the two holidays are mixed into one, such as putting a Jewish star on top of a Christmas tree or reindeers wearing yarmulkes.

Sure, people think this is fun, but it is really a slap in the face of both holidays.

Yes, I know that there are many intermarriages, and multiple faiths are celebrated at the same time of year in the same household.

That is fine for some people, and for people in that situation, I guess it is a way to resolve the fact that there are two religions in the same household.

For me, I don't have such a quandary. My wife is Jewish, I am Jewish, and my children were raised as Jews.

I am not knocking Jews and Gentiles who have married, but that is something they have to deal with. 

I don't.

So happy Hanukkah to all my Jewish friends, and in a few weeks, I will wish my non-Jewish friends a Merry Christmas.

It's a joyous time of year, and each holiday stands proudly on its own.


  1. Happy Hanukkah to you and all your family.
    - Sam

  2. Thanks Sam, and to you and everyone else, have a great holiday season.



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