phynedyning

Have a splendid…whatever!

In Lifestyle on December 20, 2011 at 10:07 am

Tonight, begins the annual Jewish festival of cholesterol…Hanukkah. No, it is not Jewish Christmas.

The holiday celebrates a military victory and the subsequent miracle of long-lasting oil. Because of the miracle of the oil, foods fried in oil are part of the tradition.

In the realm of things Jewish, Hanukkah is not a major holiday. In fact, it is a bit peculiar that my fellow Reform Jews celebrate it at all. The whole bru-ha-ha was originally over the issue of assimilation of Jews into Greek culture and Reform Jews see “fitting in” as a Jewish strength. On the other hand, the issue of the day was not invited assimilation…rather, it was mandatory assimilation.

No matter what the history of Hanukkah may be, I always take delight in its difference from Christmas.

Nobody has co-opted a Hanukkah song into an advertising jingle…

“Oh Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah, come light the menorah.

  After it burns out, come to the tire store-ah.”

Nope, nobody dressed up like a Maccabean freedom fighter screaming from the tee-vee, “There’s no better time to buy a Toyota!”

And then, there is Kwanzaa

Tighty-righties always hoot about the “made up” nature of Kwanzaa. Admittedly, the holiday had some initial public relations problems when it’s creator, Maulana Karenga, said Christmas was “the white man’s holiday” and that “Jesus was a psychotic”. But, its contemporary observance is more about community values than theological dogma.

It is really uncertain how many African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa. Here in Des Moines, America’s Ukraine, I doubt many people keep Kwanzaa.

I tested Kwanzaa observance by greeting African-Americans with the traditional daily Kwanzaa greeting: “Habari gani?”, Swahili for “What’s the news?

Most of the folks I tried this on, backed away slightly and cocked their heads. The Swahili version of “S’up?” has not made it to Des Moines.

On Hanukkah, Jews could adopt a similar greeting…like “Mah koreh?” (“What’s happening?”). That would be WAY cool!

Despite what the white pundits say, Kwanzaa is as genuine as Hanukkah as a day of cultural pride.

“Merry Christmas”

I like it when a Christian greets me with those words. Translated, the words mean: “I wish you peace, health, prosperity, charity, and faith.” What could possibly be offensive in those words? I live in a neighborhood with orthodox Jews, Reform Jews, Muslims, and an overwhelming majority of Christians. I never know what kind of friendly December greeting is in store for me when I walk out of my door.

Actually, it makes me a bit sad for my Christian friends to see one of their holiest days turned into a two-month festival of commercialism and consumerism. I wonder what the historical Jesus (the dude the holiday is supposed to be about) would say about “Black Friday”, “Cyber Monday”, and “Super Saturday”. On Christmas Eve, the churches are empty and the malls are full.

The whole gift-giving schtick was not really big prior to WWII. At best, it meant some candy or fresh fruits…along with new underwear. In the 1950s and 60s, the holiday exploded into a celebration of avarice. In the 1970s, a kid who did not get at least $500 worth of loot for the holiday was portrayed to be only slightly better off than the kids peering wistfully from the sides of milk cartons. Today, the sky is the limit when it comes to expected gifts.

Hanukkah, as a sidebar to Christmas greed, has been turned into eight nights of gift-giving extravaganzas…so Jewish kids would not feel “left out”…with just a spinning top, Chinese food, and a movie.

One Christmas tradition that has not (thankfully!) crossed over into Hanukkah is the “Christmas letter”…those annual boast-fests sent out in multi-page versions of Facebook brags. I had only begun to hope that the late-night television hosts had lampooned and parodied Christmas letters into oblivion when one arrived in the Phyne Dyner’s mailbox.

It was like gouging my eyes with a frozen parsnip.

One can only imagine the pain that a Jewish-authored “Hanukkah Letter” might unleash upon an unlucky recipient. “Gittel has graduated from medical school (Second in her class, behind her sister, Chaya!) and Herschel was just made full partner in a medical malpractice firm…after successfully suggesting late-night advertising related to prescription side-effects…”.

But, no matter what day (or days) you claim as yours to keep and observe, Phyne Dyning wishes you the most Splendid Whatever!

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