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The Festival of Lights

Humor columnist Burt Ross compares Hanukkah to Christmas celebrations.

Now let’s get one thing straight. I am proud to be a Jew, but (sorry about the but) my holiday starting this coming weekend doesn’t hold a candle, or make that eight candles, to Christmas. First of all, how can you celebrate a holiday that’s difficult to spell? Is it Chanukkah or Hanukkah, and how did we get two k’s in there back to back? I am shocked Libya’s dictator lasted so long when nobody could spell his name, and Chanukkah or Hanukkah has been around for millennia.     

Christmas has one spelling, and for those who are in a hurry there is even an abbreviation—Xmas. We don’t have an abbreviation like Chan or Han.      

It’s just harder being a Jew. Anybody more than two years old can make a cross, but I still have trouble making a Jewish star. And when we light our candles for the festival of lights, I can never remember whether to light from left to right or right to left.     

And then there’s the music. There must be thousands of Christmas songs, and each one has been recorded by everybody from Pavarotti to Tiny Tim. I am not sure about Tiny Tim, but nobody was ever sure about him.      

Many of the tunes are beautiful and easy to sing, and the list is endless—“Away in a Manger,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night,” “O Holy Night,” and as Yul Brenner said in “The King and I,” ---“etcetera,” “etcetera,” “etcetera.”      

Then there are the secular Christmas songs—“Frosty the Snowman,” “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and I am barely scratching the surface.       

What does my tribe counter with—“Dreidel, Dreidel?” You have got to be kidding. Listen to the lyrics—“I have a little dreidel, I made it out of clay,And when it’s dry and ready,Then dreidel I shall play.” There are more lyrics, but enough is enough. With all the great Jewish composers, this is the best we could come up with? And to add insult to injury, Irving Berlin gives them “White Christmas” as if the gentiles needed another tune.     

By the way, if you ever hear a song and you are not sure who wrote it, go with Irving Berlin and you have a better than 50/50 shot of being right. He also wrote “Easter Parade,” but that’s another holiday and off message.     

Then there is the greenery of the respective holidays. The Christians have majestic trees like cedars, spruce, and firs, and even some mistletoe for those with romantic inclinations, but all we have is some pathetic little bush.     

I don’t mean to say it is all downhill for the Jews. There are a couple of ways in which the Festival of Lights has it all over Christmas. For one thing, as a child, I got gifts every night for eight nights. You can’t beat that. From a parental perspective, adults have to spend most of November wrapping gifts.     

As for the food, we are the champions. Nothing is as good as latkes or potato pancakes. Made with grated onion (a little knuckle skin in there is good) and shredded potato fried in oil topped with apple sauce or sour cream is a hearty treat, and guaranteed to end any diet known to mankind.     

So eat hearty and enjoy the holiday however you spell it.

Lisa December 04, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Thanks for starting my morning with a good laugh. Happy Hanukkah!
Max December 04, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Dear dear Burt, How quickly one forgets one of the real magical events regarding Chanuka (yet another spelling, and I don't mean Aaron). Most kids will remind us that there was a story about some oil lamp, which was only supposed to last but a single night. But, lo and behold, it burned brightly for eight! Now, if only we could experience the same with our gas tanks! Not only would such a miracle turn the financial cliff into a trivial bump in the road, it would also inspire a new generation of “Dreidel, Dreidel" songs and videos, replete with rappers and rockers! Season's Greetings to all...
Kevin December 05, 2012 at 11:28 AM
Christians love Jews. Lets Let each other enjoy our special times of the year in full celebrations, how we prefer to enjoy them. Christmas and "Chanukkah or Hanukkah". What ever you prefer, it is a time for celebration, friends and family. Invite and make comfortable anyone who does not have a place to go and respect each other without confrontation. We want the same end results.
Jane Bellomy December 10, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Okay, Burt, now you're going to be even more famous...you're officially on my FaceBook page - could not resist in "light" of the fact that we're spending family time at Hanukkah, and tho' we're certainly not Jewish, we do consider ourselves part of the "family", and we love yours...

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