Chanukah Versus Christmas- The December Dilemma

December gets to be very tedious for me. I don’t like all this nonsense about the holiday spirit and I don’t like the push people make to compare Chanukah and Christmas. They are two separate holidays and they are not equivalent in their significance.

I am not a psychologist. I am not an anthropologist (but I would like to be Indiana Jones) or a sociologist or social worker. I don’t get paid to come up with brilliant descriptions of why people engage in certain types of behavior. All you get from me are my impressions and observations. One day I’ll do my impression of Yosemite Sam for you, but not today.

And my general feeling about people is that there is a competitive bone that needs to be scratched so often the tail wags the dog. That is, too many of us play a game of trying to keep up with the Joneses. It is a problem and it is something that I’d like to see focused upon.

In our efforts to compete we ignore many of the realities we live under. We’re not all capable of purchasing with reckless abandon. Most of us have to worry about how to pay bills, but that doesn’t stop so many of us from living above our means.

And in respect to the aforementioned holidays this has played what I consider to be a very negative role. This is all off the cuff, so I apologize if it is not real crisp. In the effort to pacify our children many Jewish parents have taken to doing things to make their children feel better about Chanukah as it compares to Christmas.

And in doing so they do themselves, their children and the rest of us a disservice.

They have a wonderful opportunity to work with their children in developing a strong Jewish identity that does not need to be supplemented with someone else’s holiday. They have a rich and vibrant tradition that they can use in teaching their children to be proud of who they are.

They can speak about the history of Chanukah and it’s anti-assimilation message. And dependent upon the age of their children they can discuss issues of tolerance as well. If you look at things from a historical perspective old Judah and company were not the most tolerant of people. So while we can celebrate their helping to establish religious freedom and independence, we can also discuss how that freedom had boundaries established by the Hasmoneans.

We can turn this from a competition into something more celebratory. It is not about being like everyone else, and it is not about proving how independent we can be by being different. In my family we have lots of friends who are not Jewish.

And we can go to their homes to appreciate the ways in which they celebrate and decorate for their holidays. It is ok for them to have a tree and to decorate. We can appreciate those things in their homes, but we don’t have to do it in our own because we have an identity. We have a sense of self and who we are.

Ok, three people just interrupted my lunch and blew my train of thought. Perhaps I’ll resume this later, for now I have to get back to work.

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1 Comment

  1. Anshel's Wife December 1, 2004 at 11:07 pm

    You are right on, Jack!

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