Let’s Fess up– Hanukkah Is The Jewish Christmas!

Let's Fess up-- Hanukkah Is The Jewish Christmas!

Before I continue, I will let those of you gasping for air catch your breath.

Indeed, the rabbi went there! But it is hard to refute the statement. And you know what else? It is okay, and it is time to embrace that reality.  

Here in the United States, we have thought longingly of the Christmas portrayed ironically by Irving Berlin- replete with a white (from the snow, that is) Christmas with cards, sleigh bells, and glistening trees. The Coca-Cola Santa Claus brings presents to everyone traveling on a flying sleigh powered by eight reindeer (nine including Rudolph), Christmas Trees, gifts, love, and good cheer. Of course, once the marketers got hold of this, they commercialized the holiday even further. Everyone who ever sang anything now records an album of Christmas songs or has their own television Christmas special.  

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this party?  

So we have excited and uplifted Hanukkah, a minor yet complicated story, not even part of the Jewish Bible. Our acceptance in this country is the great miracle of our time- Nes Gadol Po. And if we could place the menorah in the window without fear of retribution, what else might we enjoy? The secularized Christmas is at the center of the American holiday season, bounded by Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  

So, we are in full bloom- we have Hanukkah bushes, lights of blue and white to decorate the house, and latkes and sufganiyot are now things in the American public space! Giant menorahs are lit alongside the Christmas trees, eclipsing the simple manger scenes depicting the holiday’s religious roots and no longer permitted in the public square. It is a mash-up of the best our traditions have to offer, and we all join together in the kind of unity we could only pray might somehow extend to all the other days of the year (either 364 if you are Christian or 357 if you are Jewish).  

Let us wish everyone Happy Holidays and a year of bounty and joy. Let us thank God for bringing us to a time when our lights can burn brightly, and we can be with our brothers and sisters; whatever their faith traditions, we are together here in the United States. Chag Urim Sameach! 

 


David Levin

Rabbi David Levin is the founder of Jewish Relationships Initiative (JRI), a 501(c)3 focused on outreach, meaning making, and the challenging end-of-life journey. He has re-imagined the Ethical Will, found online at: ConversationsForLifeAndLegacy and JewishRelationshipsInitiative. He also teaches with noted colleagues, a lecture series exploring Jewish Wisdom throughout these demanding life phases. David Levin is a Fellow with Rabbis Without Borders and makes his home in Philadelphia with his wife Naomi.

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