Why I really, really, really hate (C)han(n)uk(k)a(h)

Posted on 11 Dec 2009 at 9:39am
Dreidel

Dreidel

Now, I know this isn’t going to sit well, but I really hate Channukah. It’s not that I just prefer other holidays. It’s that I really detest this one.

Yes, I’m Jewish. My synagogue refers to me as the Chanukah Grinch. But as far as I’m concerned, this holiday should be removed from the calendar altogether.

So here are my top 10 reasons why I can’t stand Hanukkah:

1. I can’t support a holiday they can’t decide how to spell.

Hanukah? Hannukah? Hanukka? Hannuka? Chanuka? Channuka? Chanukkah? Channukkah?

You’ll see it spelled in every combination. So what’s correct? The AP Style book says Hanukkah. But in Hebrew it’s spelled chet-nun-vav-kof-hey. Begins with a gutteral ch, one n, one oo, one k, final h. (Other vowels understood. That’s a Hebrew thing.) So Chnookh is the exact transliteration.

But in Hebrew transliteration, spelling doesn’t really count, as anyone who has driven on any highway in Israel knows. I once missed an exit on Hwy. 2 for Caesarea because the transliterated signs also spelled it Qaserea and Kaserea on subsequent signs. But I digress.

This has become my preferred spelling: (C)han(n)uk(k)a(h).

2. I don’t like holidays that glorify war.

OK, I admit it. I’m a child of the 60s. I protested the Vietnam War and I slept in a ditch with Cindy Sheehan along Prairie Chicken Road in Crawford to protest the Iraq War. Hanukkah commemorates a battle victory. The first recorded guerrilla war in history.

If I was an Al Qaeda supporter, I could understand celebrating the creation of terrorism as a military tactic. But I’m not. So I don’t.

3. It’s the least important holiday on the Jewish calendar.

Proof? When Jewish scholars were redacting the Bible, some books were included, some were not. The Book of Maccabees was tossed out on its ass.

Other holidays — Passover (the Exodus), Sukkot (the planting), Yom Kippur (day of atonement) — are all mentioned in one form or another in the Torah (the first five books of the Jewish Bible).

More proof? Rosh Hashanah — services the night before, longer services the first morning and even more services the second morning. Passover — a traditional reading of the Hagaddah lasts hours before dinner is served and then another hour of reading after eating. And in case one night of endless Hebrew reading isn’t enough, we do that a second night too. Yom Kippur — services last all damn day. With no food ’til we’re done. Now that’s a holiday you can really sink your teeth into. (And for some odd reason, my absolute favorite).

Channukah? Even on the first night with three prayers before lighting the first candle (other nights just one one-sentence prayer), the entire, complete, full Channuka ritual takes two minutes. Tops. That’s it. And they didn’t even bother coming up with an original prayer. It’s the Shabbat candle lighting prayer with the word Hanukah substituted for Shabbat.

4. Chanukah is not the gift-giving holiday. Purim is.

Purim takes place in March and celebrates the rescue of the Jews in Persia by Queen Esther. We celebrate by giving gifts and dressing up as one of the characters from the Book of Esther. We put on Purim pageants acting out the story of Queen Esther. So Purim includes Broadway and Halloween as well as gifts, making Purim the gayest Jewish holiday and one that beats this one hands down.

An incorrectly lit menorah

An incorrectly lit menorah

5. The rules.

We light candles. That’s it. One the first night. Two the second night. Three the third night. But being Jews, we have a whole list of rules and most people probably do it wrong. Put them in from right to left but light them left to right (newest first). Only light the candles with the shammos, which stands apart from the other candles on the menorah.

OK, so maybe it’s not fair for me to complain about rules. You ever try keeping kosher? But I do like to complain about things I don’t like. So not only is the menorah in the picture above lit wrong, the holiday is also spelled wrong. Unless you’re using the AP style book.

6. It’s the only holiday that celebrates something we know did not ever happen.

The guerrilla war. That happened. There’s clear historical evidence of it. The story that everyone remembers — the miracle of the oil burning for eight days — never happened.

A couple of hundred years after the events of Channuka, Jerusalem was under Roman rule. The story of the miracle was created so we could continue to practice our religion without pissing off the Romans by implying that we beat the Greeks and we could kick their butts too. Today, most people celebrate the myth of the miracle of the oil, which is what the lighting the menorah, the only religious ritual associated with this holiday, is all about.

OK, some would argue it celebrates freedom of religion. But is it really freedom if you have to pretend to be something you’re not. Kind of like the marriage argument. Gays and lesbians can get married as long as we marry someone of the opposite sex. So with Hannukah, we can celebrate our holiday as long as we pretend it celebrates something else.

latkes

latkes

7. The food.

All Jewish holidays have special foods. Because of the myth of the oil, the foods for Chanukah are fried – latkes (potato pancakes), souvganiot (jelly doughnuts).

This holiday encourages heart disease.

8. Chanukah promotes gambling.

Aside from lighting candles, a non-religious activity associated with this holiday is spinning the dreidel, a four-sided top with a letter etched on each side. We teach kids to place bets on which side will land face up. Add drugs and prostitution and we’d really have the perfect holiday.

(Well … Jewish gangsters did create Las Vegas, didn’t they? Funny story about Congregation Beth El Binah. One of our Torahs we refer to as “The Mafia Torah” because of its origin that goes back to some of those Las Vegas mobsters. But again, I digress….)

9. I hate shopping when the stores are crowded and there are no bargains.

What can I say? I was in wholesale for years. On rare years when Chanuka falls after Christmas, I don’t hate this holiday quite as much.

10. I don’t need a holiday “so I don’t feel left out.”

Left out? Do Christians feel left out when I celebrate Shavuot (the giving of the law)? Are they begging to fast with me on Yom Kippur?

I’m perfectly happy helping my Christian friends celebrate Christmas. I’m completely comfortable wishing them “Merry Christmas” without them pandering to Hanukah. I don’t want anyone saying “Happy Holidays” when they’d rather say “Merry Christmas.” (Or is is Hristmas?)

But you know what pisses me off? (You knew I’d get to this. And this is really, really, really my point. In case anyone doesn’t get it, this piece is satire.)

In September, nothing infuriates me more than when I hear snotty comments like “Oh, you Jews have so many holidays” rather than just saying “have a good holiday” when I’m celebrating my important holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).

And more comments on Pesach (Passover), which takes place on the 15th of Nisan (usually in April). I like Nisan. Have owned several. My first car was a Nissan. Actually called a Datsun back then. My question — why can they figure out that Nisan, the month, has one “s” and Nissan, the car company, has two, but they can’t figure out how to spell (C)han(n)uk(k)a(h)? But that goes back to complaint number 1.

To all of my Christian friends and co-workers, MERRY CHRISTMAS. Really! Enjoy your holiday. The best part of this season for me? Seeing my friends enjoying this time of year.

Pesach takes place during the month of Nisan
Pesach takes place during the month of Nisan

So in December, when anyone asks me what I’m doing for the holidays, my answer is normally, “I don’t really know what I’ll be doing next September, but I usually go to temple.”

Which is usually followed by: “No, what are you doing for Chanukah?”

An honest answer would be “lighting the candles, but that doesn’t usually take more than a minute or two.”

And if those answers don’t satisfy, then how’s this: “I’ll be celebrating the birth of terrorism as a tactic in war with the traditional eating of foods that lead to heart disease, gambling and shopping, just so that you won’t feel like you’re leaving me out of your holiday.”

Best thing about Channukah? I get to kvetch about how much I can’t stand it.

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