For such a creative people, we Jews did a crummy job with our Christmas competitor. Sure, the origination of Hanukkah -- or however you choose to transliterate it -- predates that of Christmas. But even though we technically got the worm, we need to ask ourselves this: who has a repertoire of jolly carols, fresh-baked cookies, and brilliant trees, and who has gefilte fish? When I think of Hanukkah, I think of blue and white and unscented candles. (Not to mention my very wonderful and generous relatives. Hi grandma!)
Hanukkah spirit, a concept that almost sounds oxymoronic, is about as strong as the scent of matzah, which is sad, partially because Jews wrote all the best Christmas songs. Did they forget that we too have a wintery holiday?
What makes it even worse is that winter and its traits have become synonymous with Christmas, leaving Hanukkah in the soot. According to the calendar, Hanukkah occupies a quarter of the month, but according to the street decorations and radio stations, Christmas Day swallows it whole.
As a reasonable Jewish person, I propose that we squeeze our eyes tightly and tear the Band-Aids from our hairy arms by coming to terms with the fact that, like secular Christmas (i.e. the one with elves), Hanukkah is probably a made-up holiday, no matter how painful this admission may be. And once we accept it, we can start to embrace the music of the season.
Granted, I'm just a cultural Jew, as my dad calls it, and as my mom cringes upon hearing. Conceivably, if I were more devout and spent time to wholly and holily understand the religious significance of Hanukkah -- beyond the magical tale of the oil's under-estimated longevity -- I would have more respect for the eight crazy nights.
But in light of Christmas spirit, I say we put aside our differences and compromise over a cup of cheer. Let's kibitz by the fire; let's bake rugelach for Santa; and let's light unscented candles on a 12-branched candelabrum.
The fact of the matter is that Hanukkah's lonely upper hand over Christmas is the latke, which I can order from any Jewish deli on any day of the year, except maybe Yom Kippur. I would love nothing more than for us to polish our equally hollow and relatively dull tradition for the sake of our posterity's winters (and by "posterity," I mean me). I implore a major Jewish organization (Jewish Journal? New York City? Annenbergs?) to plow the road to Santa Claus Lane. I wouldn't even mind calling him Abba Claus.
But until this happens, until there is substantial reason for me to turn to the blue side, I'll be over there, rocking around the Christmas tree.