Hanukkah Is Not Jewish Christmas and Other Holiday Irks

Don’t get me wrong—the holiday season is one of my absolute favorite times of year. After all, any period of time that so heavily emphasizes the importance of twinkling lights and sparkly objects automatically wins my seal of approval. But as the 2011 festivities come to a close, I find myself cringing at some celebratory behaviors that have become way too commonplace. In the spirit of giving (that’s how this season works, right?), I bestow upon you my biggest holiday irks.

1) Hanukkah is not Jewish Christmas.

Okay, you know, I get it. We all just want to make everyone feel included—that’s nice! And as a chosen person, I certainly appreciate the effort so many gentiles put into wishing me a very happy Hanukkah every year. And as someone woefully under-educated in her people’s faith, I definitely have no right schooling others on the meaning of the Festival of Lights. But even with my extremely limited knowledge of the Torah, I believe it’s safe to assure everyone that Hanukkah is not the “other white meat” alternative to Christmas (bad taste to use a pork analogy in this context? No? Okay, great). Yes, both celebrations tend to sit side by side at the holiday table (but not always—Hanukkah will surprise you some years and show up way early, forcing you to improvise the lighting of the menorah with birthday candles), but that doesn’t mean they’re twinsies. And again, I’m totally not authorized to dish out Judaic wisdom, but I’m pretty sure Hanukkah’s not even in our top sacred celebrations (if you want to really impress a Jew, send a basket of hamantashen around March—now that’s thoughtful!). So yes, it’s still really sweet that everyone wants the season to be an equal-opportunity time of merriment for all, but maybe just take a breath next time you wish someone a “merryChristmashappyHanukkahKwanzaaFestivus!” And while we’re at it, Passover’s not our version of Easter either. Glad we cleared that up.

2) You don’t have to toss the tree on December 26.

In Europe, my parents always had holiday trees growing up. Again, neither one commemorated Jesus’s b-day, but it was just a normal part of the culture to celebrate the season with a little bejeweled pine. Here in the U.S. of A, Christmas trees (also, we don’t have to pretend they’re “Hanukkah bushes”—we can call them by their common names, it’s okay) seem to have a strict expiration date: 12:01 am, December 26. Nothing breaks my heart quite like seeing a stripped, abandoned shrub tossed out in the street once its duty as a gift guardian has been done. Why not let the poor thing breathe a bit? Let him sit and stay a spell and ring in the new year? Must there be an immediate termination to all ornamental foliage the minute Christmas is over? I mean sure, if I had it my way, all flora and fauna would be festooned in tinsel and rhinestones year-round, but there has to be a happy medium. Can we at least agree to halt the de-greening of our living rooms until some time in January?

3) New Year’s Eve means nothing.

For a long time, I bought into the notion that whatever happened on December 31 would determine the outcome of the forthcoming year. Period, end of story. The problem was, every New Year’s Eve, well, sucked. That’s because NYE is what we call a “high-pressure holiday.” Nothing guarantees disappointment like the burden of mandatory fun. In some ways, even the Hallmark-iest of holidays, Valentine’s Day, is less stressful than New Year’s Eve. At least on V-Day, you have the option of laying low, watching horrendous movies with friends, or buying out your local drugstore’s entire supply of Twilight-themed cards and candies (What? They could be collector’s items one day!). People frown upon that sort of behavior on New Year’s Eve (okay, or ever). The idea that you better be out, freezing your butt off and smiling like you’re having the time of your life seriously turns me off. I do enjoy the night’s anything-goes attitude towards body glitter, though.

Image via Long Island Press

  • http://www.facebook.com/ronni.gonzaleswilliams Ronni Lynn Gonzales Williams

    THIS is brilliant!!! thanks for schooling me (I am a Christian) on saying the H word and all!! what a fun and funny post thanks!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/murmeltearding Kati Ber

    Our Christmas Trees in Austria get to stay decorated until january 6th at least… some even longer ^^

    and I hate NYE too -.- its the most unneccessary day of the year… hate HATE hate!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jillemader Jill Mader

    To be fair, Christmas isn’t a top sacred celebration either. Growing up, I was always told that Easter was more important in terms of religion.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1320000041 Jessica Sherwood

      Christmas and Easter are not sacred celebrations, they are not designated by the Lord as holidays. They are holidays (started out as pagan) that Christians (I am one) have taken and put scriptural meaning behind. There is nothing wrong with this, as we are celebrating the Lord, but they are not ‘sacred’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eilisedmonds Eilis Edmonds

    Everyone I know in the UK, including myself, keep their trees up until at least 5 days later. Ours tends to stick around for 10-12 days, depending on how many needles it starts dropping! ahah.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=77500673 Alicia Rodriguez

    My family would always take our tree down on January 6th, which is the Feast of the Epiphany, or the 12th day of Christmas (as the song goes).

  • http://www.facebook.com/whatageek Joseph Bermann

    Can we add, that big businesses and stores don’t understand that some Jewish holidays are longer than one day? I really get annoyed when I have to run to the store for candles or matzah and they’re out because, hurr-de-durr, it’s the 5th day and the holiday is supposedly over already.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarahbethpenn Sarah Beth Pennington

    I never take my tree down before the New Year. My mom always told me it was bad luck to do so. For the same reason my family eats cabbage with coins in it on New Year’s Day; for wealth and luck in the New Year. It may be similar to the “12th day” story. I left mine up until May one year…a tree with twinkle lights reminds me of my grandma. I try to understand Jewish holidays because I have traced my genealogy back to the 1500s and most were Jewish. Thanks for the info. And my grocers always carry matzah year round.

  • http://www.facebook.com/abiahweaver Abi Weaver

    Just last week, I was trying to convince my friend that NYE planning is just as high stakes as V-Day. Glad to have some company in this area and reminders in others.

  • http://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.goldberg Elizabeth Goldberg

    Not that I am much more schooled in the Jewish Religion, but Hannukah is a minor holiday that isn’t even in the Jewish Bible. It became a major holiday in the eyes of people due to the commercialism of Christmas. And there was no miracle of oil, rather a rededication of the Temple that lasted for 8 days, some ascribing it to the postponement of the harvest holiday (Sukkot) due to a minor skirmish with the Romans. Major holiday, think Passover and the High Holidays. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/MaryJoe28 MJ Rojas

    In Venezuela, we keep the trees up until February 2nd (candlemass)! My mom doesn’t stand it much every year so it depends, but we usually keep our Christmas tree until the 6th of January or further, that’s for sure! :) Happy Holidays

  • http://www.facebook.com/lisrmiller Elisabeth Miller

    These are great! People who aren’t Jewish seem to think that Chanukah is THE holiday when, in reality, it’s such a minor holiday that it hardly counts.

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