(About 12 years ago, I gave a drash during Shabbat services on Hanukah, where I presented for the first time my “Eight Myths of Hanukah.” A few years after that, I was asked to present them again. For your reading pleasure, I present them as I do every year.)
Many people do not realize that Jesus was not born on December 25. He was born September 11, 3 BCE, which on the Hebrew calendar for that year was Elul 1.
To make a long story short, in the year 380, Pope Damasus I made it his goal to have all Christians in the Roman Empire yield to his authority, and he convinced the Emperor to issue an edict requiring them to practice the religion of Rome, Catholicism. Damasus I was also seeking to lure the people away from the pagan rituals honoring the birth of the sun god on December 25 at midnight by demanding attendance at a memorial in honor of Christ's death – in other words, the Mass. The people confused this Mass with the pagan solar birth rituals conducted at that same time, and gradually, the Christ-Mass became associated with the Nativity, hence, Christmas. Somehow, many of the symbols and customs remained, most notably, the Christmas tree and fruitcake.
Did you know all fruit cakes were actually baked before the year 380? That is why they are so dense and hard to slice.
In the United States, Christmas wasn’t even celebrated during our country’s first 94 years because in England it was celebrated with excessive drinking and lewd and lascivious behavior. Not unlike a Tuesday night in my home.
As a matter of fact, Washington crossed the Delaware on December 25, 1776, to attack the British in Trenton because he knew the Red Coats would be hung over.
Americans wanted to reject all things British, so Christmas and afternoon tea were the first to go. I wish we kept the tea.
Congress met on Christmas day every year until after the Civil War. Americans complained there were no federal holidays, so on June 26, 1870, Christmas was officially made a federal holiday. However, you can thank the Jews for something else because we invented the weekend. You know: God worked all week then rested.
So, to all my Jewish friends out there, hang up those Hanukah lights this weekend because Christmas is not a religious holiday; it is a federal holiday, and we want to be patriotic!
Now, I present:
The Eight Myths of Hanukah
- Hanukah is the Jewish Christmas. False. How many times have I been asked, "Is Hanukah the Jewish Christmas?" Let me set the record straight. Christmas is the Jewish Christmas. Mary and Joseph were Jewish, Jesus was Jewish, and at least one of the Wise Men was Jewish – the one that brought the fur.
- Hanukah is the holiest of Jewish holidays. False. Hanukah isn’t even a religious holiday. The holiest of Jewish holidays is April 24, Barbra Streisand’s birthday. The second holiest Jewish holiday is December 29, the wedding anniversary of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme (may she rest in peace).
- Hanukah is another Jewish holiday where they tried to kill us, they didn’t, so we eat. True. Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukah is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the second century BCE, which brings us to ...
- Hanukah commemorates the miracle that one day’s worth of oil lasted eight days in the Holy Temple. True. But, this is hardly a miracle because I witnessed my grandmother doing the same thing with one tea bag.
- During Hanukah, children get a gift every night for eight days. False. If you grew up in my house, you got a gift the first night, then for seven nights, you heard about how awful it was to grow up during The Great Depression. The ritual of gift giving is actually very American, since Jewish children in this country are totally exposed to Christmas customs.
- Hanukah is a holiday when Jewish people eat bland, colorless foods that are fried in oil and difficult to digest. True. This can actually be said of all Jewish holidays, except Passover, when the foods are not fried but still difficult to digest. On Hanukah, we eat latkes (potato pancakes) or sufganiot, if you are Sephardic. Sufganiot are similar to jelly donuts. I am part Sephardic, so I like donuts, just not jelly ones.
- There are many popular songs about Hanukah, and Jewish people know the words to all of them. False. Other than “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel," there are no popular Hanukah songs, except for “The Hanukah Song,” by Adam Sandler, which brings us to Number 8 ...
- Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme (may she rest in peace) and Barbra Streisand have recorded Hanukah albums. SO NOT TRUE! Would you believe Steve and Eydie have recorded a Christmas album, and Barbra has recorded not one, but two, Christmas albums?! And all those Christmas songs we hear on the radio are mostly written, and oftentimes performed, by Jews! Oy vay! This brings us back to myth Number 1, proving once again that Christmas is the Jewish Christmas!
So, from my Trailer Park to Yours, here is wishing you a very Happy Jewish Christmas and a Merry Hanukah!
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