We’ve been collecting a good list of holiday goings on, including some Christmas Eve services at local churches and New Year’s Eve dinners at all the great Wallingford restaurants (if you’ve got anything to add to the list, which we’ll be posting shortly, please leave it as a comment on our Holiday Haps post).
Given all the Christmas and New Year’s talk, it’s been noted that we haven’t mentioned Chanukah, which might seem odd given our decidedly Hebrew religious leanings, and that we’re in the midst of it (Chanukah runs sunset to sunset, Dec 11 – 19th this year).
Truth is, we’re just not down with what Chanukah has become.
Look, no offense meant to others, and with no intention of suggesting that those who don’t share our view are in any way wrong, but to us, Chanukah has always felt like the “Jewish Christmas”. Historically, Chanukah was a very minor holiday in Judaism and didn’t involve giving presents as part of its tradition. As Christmas rose in importance in America during the mid-20th century, American Jews looked for ways to assimilate their traditions into American mainstream culture and to appease their children…and the marketers of commercialism looked for ways to get Jews to participate in the frenzied buying of merchandise that marked the Christmas season. Modern Chanukah was born.
It’s a shame, in our opinion, as the traditional Chanukah is a beautiful story: an enslaved, oppressed people fight back to win their freedom. At the end of it all, when it seems the struggle was in vain, they simply do all they can, lighting a light they know will go out, and lo, they experience a miracle, and the light stays lit for seven days.
It’s not coincidence, by the way, that this Festival of Lights should be centered every year around the new moon of the month with the longest nights, the darkest nights of the year.
Maybe we’re being needlessly scrooge-like about the whole thing, but the purity of the holiday seems despoiled by the commercialism that has come to surround it: the crepe-paper menorah streamers, the Chanukah-specials in the stores, the obligatory dreidles in the store windows. Christmas is a fine holiday. Those who enjoy it should enjoy it. Why do we need to copy it or create our own version?
At one point, we felt strongly enough about this that we tried to create a diversionary holiday, a “Jewish Christmas” that people could celebrate that would distract them from the desecration of Chanukah. Thus Jewsmas was born. Maybe it’s time to resurrect that effort.
Or maybe we’re making a big deal out of nothing.