Defense of Hanukkah
used to feel ripped off around Christmas when I was a kid. Sure,
at Hanukkah time we got presents but we didn't have anything cool
like Santa Claus or candy canes or drunken parties where people
go home with strangers and see their underpants. They had trees;
we had plastic menorahs. They had gingerbread houses; we had chocolate
coins in mesh bags. They had roasted meats and we had greasy potato
pancakes. Well, we sort of win on that one.
I got older, though, I took a new stance and that was "Christmas
is so commercial and Hanukkah keeps it real." I was now a Proud
Jew and wasn't afraid to show it. So instead of caving into people
decorating my desk in synthetic garlands or cut out pictures of
over-excited reindeer, I got all Whitney on everybody, did a neck
ring and proclaimed that I don't celebrate Christmas. Sure I was
usually the only person (Jews included) who shunned the merry decorations
but that made me a rebel. Just like the Maccabees, the heroes of
don't call me a hater. I don't hate Christmas at all. In fact there
are many things I love about it: that TV special where the elf wants
to be a dentist, egg nog, free cookie platters at work and the pretty,
pretty lights and the insane way people embellish their houses (ain't
nothing better than that.) I love decorating Christmas trees and
watching holiday movies where Rosemary Clooney sings and I especially
love the I Love Lucy marathon they run every Christmas day
just as I'm about to kill myself because they are running It's
A Wonderful Life yet again. I just get a little angry that Hanukkah
doesn't have all that schmaltz. Where's our TV special? Where's
our Bing Crosby movie? Why aren't elves Jewish? (Dentists are!)
I realized that we have something better. We have fire. Think about
it. The whole shpiel of Hanukkah is lighting the menorah to commemorate
the miracle of the lamp oil that lasted for eight days (whatever.)
Little kids like myself were handed matches and told to light the
candles. I remember standing mesmerized in front of the flames as
my mother and father gave us our nightly presents. It felt so dangerous.
And in my book, just like rock beats scissors, danger beats tinsel.
of this as I gaze at the Empire State Building in all its green
and red glory (it's white and blue for only one day in December).
It used to make me mad but now I just think of Hanukkah and fire
and I feel, well, I feel like a big Jew. And I like it.
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