I spent a very American weekend, first visiting with family for Thanksgiving, then traveling four hours to see our local football team in the State Finals.
I love being an American this time of year.
But I was a little unhappy because we are entering the season that causes Jews to divide into three camps: the ones who demand to have Hanukah included in the discussion, the ones who don’t even know that Christmas is going on, and then there’s people like me.
For the record, I don’t need you to say “Happy Holidays” or to ask what my Hanukah plans are. I don’t need the local government to stick a tiny menorah or drayel next to the Christmas tree. I don’t need a bogus Hanukah song to be included in the school chorus concert along with the Christmas carols.
Here’s the deal: Hanukah is a minor holiday, many times less important than Smini Artzeret/Simchat Torah or Shavuot. You probably haven’t heard of them. And that’s okay. All I’m saying is if you don’t ask me what my plans are for those holidays, don’t ask me what I’m doing for Hanukah.
Hanukah commemorates a war in which a bunch of zealots were victorious over the Hellenic Syrians. You want to have an argument about whether the religion could have continued without national independence, let’s have at it. But somehow a holiday about a military victory seems like small latkes compared to the holiday commemorating the giving of the bible or the one in which we renew the cycle of reading that book. The reason it seems less important? That’s because it is.
On Shavuot, I’m not thinking, “What Christian holiday that falls near this one should I pay lip service to? I sure hope the Christians are not offended that I’m not including them.”
An acquaintance of mine holds a yearly pig roast, a big party to which he invites all his friends. In tiny print, on the invitations, he used to say, “And for our Jewish friends, we have fruit cup." The tiny menorahs next to the six-foot Christmas trees feel like that fruit cup to me. Of course, the people putting it there mean well, but they have to eventually resent it. And that feeds the claims that there’s a war on Christmas. There’s no need to fuel that fire, believe me. Don’t want to wish me Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays? No problem here.
So to my Christian friends I wish a very, very Merry Christmas. To my Jewish friends, see you this Shavuot?