JewMitch

Just a Jew. Named Mitch. Writing about his feelings.

The Joy of Chanukah

Posted by JewMitch on December 18, 2010

In honor of Chanukah — a classic JewMitch re-post. This column originally appeared in my law school newspaper, and actually triggered a huge First Amendment debate due to a metaphor I included about a handjob. Enjoy. Happy Chanukah!

With Chanukah (pronounced Hanoo-KAh) right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to write a column dedicated to Chanukah, otherwise known and “The Festival of Lights,” otherwise known as “The Jewish Response to Christmas.”

Chanukah is a holiday that is very similar to Christmas, except that the Jewish people follow a lunar calendar and this causes Chanukah to fall on different random dates each year. This year Chanukah begins on December 8th, which is just in time to coincide with finals.  Hooray!

Also, Chanukah differs from Christmas in that it is eight days long, and Jewish children receive a different present each night. When I was little, my parents used this fact to try to explain to me why Chanukah was better than Christmas. “You get eight whole days of presents, Mitchy! Now aren’t you glad you aren’t one of those goyim?”

Not knowing any better, I would nod my head, put on a kippah and bless the Chanukah candles. Although, I later learned the many ways in that Christmas is infinitely better.

The main reason that Christmas seems better is because it is a one day orgy of infinite present receiving bliss. Christian kids get all their presents in one swoop and sometimes even stay up all night in anticipation.

On the other hand, Chanukah is an eight day long drawn out process, which resembles a bad hand job given in high school. You’re really excited and there are some nice moments, but then there are some bad moments, and by the end you just wish it was over already.

Unlike the joy of receiving all of your good and bad presents at once, where the good ones greatly overshadow the bad ones; Chanukah forces you to only receive one present a night – and you know that only one or two of them will be good. And my parents would always try to disguise the good presents by wrapping them in strange ways. The result was that I would spend all day spasmodically awaiting present time, only to incorrectly chose a crappy present and have to wait another 24 hours to try again.

To further elaborate on this point, let me list some of the worst presents received: a girl’s diary with hearts on it (because I liked to write), pencils (because I liked to write), a pad of math games, and a dustbuster shaped like a robot (which would have been cool now, but sucked when I was thirteen).

One favorite game of my parents was to purchase a 2-part present and wrap each part separately. So, when I finally found the box that Legal Enforcers for Sega Genesis was in, I ended up spending the rest of Chanukah praying that I would find the box that the Legal Enforcers Gun was in. (While it was possible to play Legal Enforcers without the gun, that would be as much fun as going to an all paraplegic ballet).

I’m sure some of my Jewish readers would argue that Chanukah isn’t really about presents, that it’s about some miracle or something. Let me take the chance to correct them now. Of course Chanukah is about presents. Saying otherwise is like saying that Labor Day sales are really about celebrating labor.

But, let’s get back to my highly scholarly comparison of the two holidays. Another great benefit of Christmas is that Christmas songs are much better than Chanukah songs. While I’m sure that many of my Christian readers are not as much of a fan of Christmas music as I am, I think they just don’t realize how bad many Chanukah songs are.

The highlight of Chanukah songs is probably, “I Have a Little Dreidel,” whose lyrics are simply: “I have a little dreidel / I made it out of clay / And when it’s dry and ready / Then dreidel I shall play!” Doesn’t that sound like fun?  Doesn’t it make you want to make things out of clay and then wait for them to dry?  They should have just written a Chanukah song about watching paint dry or doing laundry.

Although Chanukah still can be fun. You get to eat gelt, which are chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. I think I was told that they were to make the holiday sweet, but the image of Jewish children actually eating fake money still makes me laugh. And other cultures wonder why Jews are so good with money.

And I guess the real benefit of Chanukah is that I learned it was better to wish for a bunch of small easily wrapped things, rather than only one or two big things. My Chanukah wish lists are still filled with CDs and video games that feature scantily clad girls either fighting each other or playing rigorous games of volleyball. And while Chanukah is much less exciting as a result, it taught me how to lower my expectations and defer gratification for certain things until I could afford them myself.

Those crafty Jews, they’re always up to something.

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2 Responses to “The Joy of Chanukah”

  1. Just_Erin said

    Christmas music is awesome. Mainly because it got away from Baby Jesus in the 20th century … I mean “baby it’s cold outside” is pretty much an ode to getting drunk and trying to get laid. However, you guys did get some new “Miracle” song feature Akon this year that sounds like we should be dancing at the restaurant at the end of the universe – in Jamaica (http://www.myspace.com/matisyahu) But I guess X-mas got more Mariah Carey – so we probably do win … ALL I WANT FOR X-MAS IS YOU!

    Finally, I’m guessing Chanukah isn’t really comparable to hand job – more like a dry humping through a pair of corduroys. Sure it feels okay when you start, but by the end you’re haven’t accomplished anything and probably just a bit chaffed.

  2. E. Chemerinsky said

    I’d go further. It’s not just that “Christian kids get all their presents in one swoop and sometimes even stay up all night in anticipation” it’s that the least religious of our Christian friends – even the kids who never set foot in church and wouldn’t know Jesus from a hippie going to Woodstock – gets to participate in the “orgy of infinite present receiving bliss.” You don’t have to be Christian to celebrate Christmas you just have to be not Jewish. In contrast, if you celebrate Hanukkah, you’ve definitely spent some time in a synagogue.

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