Maybe this is stating the obvious … Chanukah is not the Jewish version of Christmas. Christmas has become such a sociological and ideological presence in our culture that as a basis of comparison, it’s hard to beat. Every year I meet more people that are enlightened to discover that Chanukah is not a holiday that pales in comparison or tries to keep up with Christmas. I often get the feeling that most can’t imagine life without the celebration of Christmas, and in fact I confess to a bit of Christmas tree envy from time to time. Yet this year I found myself appreciating the simplicity, as well as the opportunity to duck out of December commercial madness and choose whether or when to celebrate with those that do. I still maintain the belief that all holidays across the board are going for the same effect, a time to commemorate, ritualize, feast, fast, gift, share, and be together, each one colored with different aspects during various seasons of the year. Christmas has become so powerfully ubiquitous that it seems to be searching for its center every year, somewhere between a mad-dash shopping spree for perfectly wrapped presents under a tree in time for Santa’s annual reindeer run, and a deeply spiritual belief that God fathered a child.
Chanukkah follows the lunar calendar rather than Christmas which is a simple birthday, so it seems that Chanukah ends up landing relatively and arbitrarily around the same time. They both share a story of a miracle, but really how can you compare a virginal birth to an extended amount of fuel for an oil lamp ….? In either case, I choose to look at the positive side, learn the fun and pretty Christmas melodies, find commonality in hope for miracles, light and love, and marvel at how so many people never seem to give up wondering how some of us get along without Christmas lights, a tree or even a wreath. I’m learning to appreciate the simplicity and even celebrate it. Happy Festival of Lights to all of us ….