M'Norah Mo' Problems M'Norah Mo' Problems: Counting Down The Days Until Hanukah Julia Gazdag

Actually, there are no problems involved, really, but it’s such a catchy title I had to use it. I know we’ve all got Tinselitis already, but for those of us exempt from grinch status due to our Red Sea Pedestrian roots, the next eight weeks are going to be all about dreidels and noshing and gelt (chocolate money) and more noshing and pyromania and fried foods, which definitely calls for some hardcore noshing.

I love Chanukah. It doesn’t really have the same status in Judaism that Christmas does in – let’s not kid ourselves – general Western culture, as in, it’s not our biggest end-all-be-all holiday. It does share a wonderful wintery vibe, though, and seeing candles in front of a frosty window renders my heart aflutter with joy (or maybe I just get palpitations after all those greasy latkes). And even though I forget the rules to playing dreidel every.single.year. I still love the game.

Like all Jewish holidays, this one is about family and food, not necessarily in that order. The story of Channukah is that there used to a big temple in Jerusalem that was the temple for Jew-folk back in the day. There was a menorah, which was supposed to always be lit, but when the Syrians came in and made a ruckus, they extinguished this flame while wrecking the building, which was a shame because it had some lovely architecture and people worked really hard on it. When the Hebrews took the Temple back they only found enough oil to burn in the eternal flame menorah for a day, but apparently it lasted for eight, which is why we spend eight days gorging ourselves on fried foods. Because oil = boil it and throw edibles in! Holidaaaaaay!

Really the holiday is about the victory over the Syrians and re-taking ownership of our culture and religion. It’s about spiritual empowerment as a tool to reject imperialism. The word “Chanukah” actually means “consecration.” Even though it’s a week-long party with amazing food, lots of fire and family time, there’s a much deeper meaning to it as well. For me, when everywhere you look there are Santas with reindeer, pine trees with lights, movies about Christmas Spirit and other things I don’t relate to so much, it means a lot to have a holiday that reminds me why I love to be who I am.

And we do get some play. Gelt shows up in every store, menorahs pop up in public places, even the Empire State building lights up in blue and white! I like to think that it holds hands with the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center and take comfort in the knowledge that even though I celebrate Channukah, I can indulge in consumerism and fatty foods just like everyone else does. So here’s to the next eight weeks of preparing for menorah lighting, donut making, re-learning dreidel rules for the millionth time and general Hebraic winter wonderment!

 

menorah photo source

Empire State Building photo source

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  1. Red Sea Pedestrian roots — I love it!
    I love that Hanukkah is late this year because it’s a food disaster when it is too close to Thanksgiving. Not to mention the fact that I turn into a Grinch when my holiday is over but there’s still two weeks ubiquitous Christmas cheer left.

  2. i wanna be jewish now!! here in uruguay there’s nothing close to what i see in your usa movies… xmas spirit? what is that?? here we’re all thinking of having an asado (somehow i could say its like a bbq but hundred times better) while in flip-flops and dresses, drinking ice cold beer and waiting for sunrise to go to the beach… after eating lots and lots and lots of meat (not me, but everybody else), salads, ice crea, jell-o, turrón, pan dulce and english pudding which is not what you’d think as a pudding… anywho, i like summer xmas just to hang around with family and eat delicious food.

  3. Michael’s is currently selling a metal Latke spatula with “latke” cut out in it. Its very cute – I got one for my mom. This is a pretty close image of it. http://www.flickr.com/photos/daraweinberg/4211328829/

  4. Wee! I can’t wait for Chanukah either! Unfortunately, I’ll be in Beirut for Chanukah this year and they don’t really celebrate it here :( But I’ll be celebrating enough for everybody!

  5. I love lighting the Chanukiah each night. It’s so beautiful.

  6. Yes! Just this morning I was wondering if it was too early to start wearing my Hanukkah shirts, but I’m going to take this post and the fact that people think it’s okay to play Christmas music as permission for me to wear them.

    • It’s never too early! Frankly, once Christmas shopping starts (ie July), it’s time to dig up the latke recipes and wear dreidel earrings.

  7. Even though my parents have diminished my present supply each year (used to get Gameboys, now I get undies) I love Channukah too! Enjoyed this post :)