Chanukah begins today and I must admit, I am fascinated by it. Here in Chicago there are several trucks / vans with a huge menorahs on them that drive around with a loudspeaker. Over and over again, over the loudspeaker someone says, “It is the first night of hannakah, light one candle.” And this will continue throughout the eight nights. I get as excited to spot this truck as I do the holiday train.
Chanukah isn’t “Jewish Christmas” (a phrase I think a lot of Christmas-lovers learn as children). Aside from the candles and a general idea of the 8 days of presents, I truly don’t know that much about Chanukah. However, I have enough Jewish friends and neighbors that I know that this holiday isn’t equivalent to Christmas on their religious calendar. When I am curious about something I do what I always do – get a book!
HOW TO SPELL CHANUKAH…AND OTHER HOLIDAY DILEMMAS: 18 WRITERS CELEBRATE 8 NIGHTS OF LIGHT
Ring in the holiday with eighteen writers who extol, excoriate, and expand our understanding of this most merry of Jewish festivals as they offer up funny, irreverent, and, yes, even nostalgic takes on a holiday that holds a special place in Jewish hearts . . . and stomachs.
Pieces by Jonathan Tropper, Jennifer Gilmore, Steve Almond, Joanna Smith Rakoff, Adam Langer, and others address pressing issues: what is the weight gain associated with eating 432 latkes in eight nights? Offer joyous gratitude: “What a holiday! No pestilence, no slavery, no locusts, no cattle disease, or atonement. Thank God.” And afford tender truths: “You are reminded of your real gifts: a family you get to come home to.”
Whether your family tradition included a Christmas tree or a Chanukah bush, whether the fights among your siblings rivaled the battles of the Maccabees, or even if you haven’t a clue who the Maccabees were, this little book illustrates the joys, frustrations, and small miracles of the season. from Goodreads.
Some of these stories are funny, some of poignant, and a few made me sad. The overarching theme was that the experience of growing up Jewish in America means that December is dominated by Christmas, whether you celebrate it or not. I can’t imagine. I get annoyed when the stores transition immediately from Halloween to Holiday music, so having Christmas explode into every corner of the world when it isn’t even something you celebrate…that must be the epitome of annoying.
What I found in this collection of short stories though, is the same varied experience that everyone has with the holidays. Whether the author’s family celebrates a hybrid, both holidays, or remains purely traditional, inside each of those is woven the stories of their families and the history of traditions passed down from parents to children and altered through the years. I love the why of these traditions and the way every individual person helps maintain that tradition or change it to fit the world. In this way, Christmas and Chanukah are like everything with families and holidays – wonderful, messy, chaotic, and totally disrupted this year. Today I find myself hoping that all those who celebrate Chanukah are finding a simple and safe way to keep those traditions alive.
Tell me, please! Do you celebrate Chanukah? How are you managing it this year?