Sunday, December 25, 2011

On Christmas, a Note About Hannukah

To Goyim everywhere: Merry Christmas.  And to goyim (including: makers of Christmas and holiday pageants, sellers of holiday greetings and holiday schwag, makers and givers of holiday cards, government institutions, schools, "inclusive" givers of cheer, and in some cases, Jews) everywhere: a note about Hannukah.

Hannukah is not the Jewish Christmas. Christmas is a Very Important Holiday for Christians, as on Christmas day in the morn, Jesus, the savior was born. This, one might say, is the basis of an entire religion(s), let alone the Reason for the Season.  Hannukah is No Such Thing.  In the Torah (aka the Old Testament), Jews also have Very Important Holidays.  Hannukah is not one of them.  In fact, Hannukah is what's known as a festival commemorating a historical event in the 2nd century, and is generally considered to have been written later than the rest of the Torah, and takes place later than the rest of the Torah (the rededication of the Temple).

So why all the fuss about Hannukah? Well, because Jews matter, too, dammit! And we're an understandable "other" if we all celebrate and give presents at the same time! So, why not have a Hannukah bush and give gifts for 8 days right around the same time as Goyim are giving presents around a tree? Why not eat fried food and chocolate? (Okay, Jews never need an excuse to eat, important holiday or not!) Hannukah is much more tolerable than our real Very Important Holidays: New Years in the middle of autumn (Rosh Ha Shona) or even worse, the terrible day where we fast and atone- I suppose Catholics can relate to atoning, but Catholics aren't exactly the most understood religious group in America, either.  And the fasting we do on Yom Kippur isn't really that normal either.  Much, much easier to consume consume consume along with the Goyim in December.

I'm not laying the blame at the feet of Christians. I like to blame Hallmark and Walmart as stand-ins for all the corporations that need Jew's money as badly as they need everybody else's.  I'd also like to blame a general assimilationist culture that can only figure out one culture at a time really needs to understand Jews because we're a vocal bunch, and giving a token nod in our direction is a good idea. See, we're inclusive! Blue and white lights! Menorahs downtown! We GET you! And it's not like Jews don't play along. Historically Reform Jews are even part of the assimilationist process- bringing organs and wood pews into our temples to look just like good old American WASPs. And I'm complicit: I love my WASPy temple, and I love getting gifts every December.  But I felt guilty this month introducing my boyfriend to Hannukah: I think he heard his first dose of Hebrew when we lit the candles. My family exchanged gifts like good modern Jews.  We ate latkes. It was the only "Jewish" I did all year. And my dad put matzoh meal on top of the bread. Joke or where we've come? Only the Hannukah bush can tell.