Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

Happy Hanukkah! (Or Happy Chanukah, for the traditionalists among us!) I joked earlier today that many Jewish holidays are built around one premise: "they tried to kill us, we overcame, let's eat!"

Seriously, though, the story of Hanukkah is pretty miraculous. Following the brutal destruction of the ancient temple, the Jews wanted to burn the synagogue's menorah for eight days to purify it, but there only was enough oil to last one day. Miraculously, the menorah stayed lit for eight days. (There's a lot more to it, but that explains the whole eight-day part.)

Growing up Jewish around the holidays was always a little strange. My earliest realization of not celebrating Christmas was when I was four years old and we moved into a new house that didn't have a fireplace. I remember asking my mother how Santa would visit us, and she explained that we were Jewish and Jews didn't celebrate Christmas. Talk about a shock...

There is so much amazing Christmas music, but most of the Hanukkah music tended to sound alike when I was in high school chamber choir. And while Hanukkah offers a great deal of festive options, there isn't anything to quite rival the pomp of Christmas. (It sure would be nice to see a big menorah lighting on TV, much like they do when the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is lit!)

Having a December birthday was an interesting proposition as well. Given the vagaries of the Jewish calendar, sometimes Hanukkah fell during my birthday, sometimes it was just before or just after. It was exciting to have both events so close together until people started with the "I'll give you one combined gift instead of separate gifts for your birthday and Hanukkah" thing. (As you may or may not be aware, I'm pretty fanatical about my birthday.)

All of that being said, Hanukkah is a lot of fun. Spin the dreidel, eat some potato latkes and, in the words of Adam Sandler, put on your yarmulke, it's time for Hanukkah!

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