“There is nearly no record of people celebrating Hanukkah a couple of centuries ago.”
—Dr. Dianne C. Ashton, via NPR.org
It occurred to me recently that Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity et al. are right. There actually is a war on Christmas, only it’s not being waged by secular progressives, as they claim. It’s being waged by another religious commemoration, one that badly wants to be as popular as Christmas. I’m talking, of course, about the poor-excuse-for-a-holiday known as Hanukkah.
According to Dr. Dianne C. Ashton, author of The American Hanukkah, it wasn’t until the late 1800s when the Jewish elders pushed to make Hanukkah a little more Christmas-like and not till the 1950s when the gift-giving aspect was added—mostly because they wanted the religion to be more attractive to Jewish children who, as everybody knows, wish they were Christian every December.
It makes me think of another lopsided rivalry— Boston Red Sox v. New York Yankees—and how all those young, deprived Sox fans over the years grow up knowing the Yankees will always be the best and most exciting franchise. How sad it must be for those kids, how much despair and pointlessness must come with being born a Boston enthusiast—yet you’d never hear a Red Sox elder say, “We need to be more like the Yankees.”
By no means is this an attack on Judaism. It’s not even an attack on Hanukkah, per se. There’s nothing wrong with minor religious holidays. It’s just that, if you are a minor holiday (or an inferior baseball team), you must accept your place in the scheme of things. Because the truth of the matter is, if holidays were baseball players, Christmas would be Mickey Mantle and Hanukkah would be Bill Buckner. If holidays were pop stars, Christmas would be Elvis and Hanukkah would be the guy who plays glockenspiel for Panic! at the Disco.
Question: How many Hanukkahs does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: One—to steady the ladder for Christmas, who does it better.
What I’m saying is, Hanukkah doesn’t hold a candle (let alone eight) to Christmas: Christmas recognizes the birth of the Christians’ messiah, their prophet, the only son of God who came to Earth to save humanity. Hanukkah, on the other hand, commemorates the miracle of when the eternal flame lasted eight days, which doesn’t seem that miraculous for something with the word “eternal” attached to it.
And while there are more movies about Christmas than the Grinch gots green goose bumps, I couldn’t tell you the name of two Hanukkah movies before today. So, I Googled “Hanukkah movies” and found the Yahoo top-10 list, on which were such blockbusting record-breakers as The Hebrew Hammer (which did less at the box office than The Bad News Bears Go to Japan), a puppet flick called Chanukah and Passover at Bubbe’s, a 28-minute epic called Lights: The Miracle of Chanukah, several other obscure pictures that sold a combined 56 tickets and, of course, my favorite title, Chanukah on Planet Matzah Ball, which Yahoo describes as “an imaginative [read: ridiculous] tale about a family of Jewish aliens that live in outer space.”
As for holiday decorations—oy vey! Just compare a house bedecked for Christmas with the Hanukkah abode next door. The Christmas house has the nativity scene and the giant Santa on the front yard, the words “Merry Christmas” written in bright flood lamps on the roof and a thousand multicolored lights blinking and bellowing and laughing— yes, laughing—at the neighbor’s solitary string of blue lights, which seem less like a celebration than it does a warning: Sssh. Boring, old Jewish family resides here. No loud yawning, please.
No, I don’t have a Christian bias. I’m about as religious as a glockenspiel is punk rock. I just call it like I see it, and what I see is a holiday with an inferiority complex. Get some dignity, fer crissake! I mean, can’t you just imagine Hanukkah watching TV with his wife, Monikkah, whining about all the things that irritate him about Christmas.
Hanukkah: “And you know what else tortures my tokhes, Monikkah? They got a fake Santa Claus over at Garfinkelberger’s department store now—Garfinkelberger’s!”
Monikkah: “Oh, Hanukkah, will you drop it already?”
Hanukkah: “You’re right, honey. I just get worked up sometimes. [Leans over for a kiss]. Hey, is that candy cane I smell on your breath? And eggnog? Oh my God, you’re sleeping with Christmas!”
Monikkah: “Er, see—remember that, um, one time when Christmas came over to change a light bulb for us? Well, one thing led to another and—.”
I know, I know, I’m an agnostic ex-Catholic, and Jewish folk have as much use for my advice as they have for crabmeat in a knish, but, seriously, people, you need to concede this lost rivalry and focus on another.
For instance, Passover v. Easter is entirely winnable: Easter is a Christian holiday celebrating the day that Jesus Christ rose from the dead performed a simple parlor trick to sucker a few disciples, and Passover commemorates when the Israelites escaped from Egyptian slavery and wandered 40 years through the desert to find the Promised Land. Now that’s a holiday with some self-respect.
Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.
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