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