Happy Hannukah! Thanks for the emails wishing me a happy holiday. As a Jew, I like Hanukkah, but at the same time I realize that it is a fairly minor holiday blown out of proportion to compete with Christmas. Jews have been treated like shit in so many countries throughout their history, that we are truly lucky to live in a country where the populace actually acknowledges our little holiday.
I’m pretty confident in my Jewishness that I don’t feel threatened by a Christmas season that seems to start the minute you eat your last bite of stuffing at Thanksgiving. I can enjoy the carols and the festivities without feeling the need to convert or praise Jesus. I know some Jews have “Christmas” trees in their houses, but I wouldn’t go that far, just because that seems a bit too much of “wanting to be part of the crowd,” like wearing a Von Dutch cap because you saw Justin Timberlake wearing one on Entertainment Tonight. The Pope may wear what looks like a yarmulke, but I doubt he is at home lighting his menorah.
Just like Jews worry about the influence of Christmas on their kids, some Christians worry that they can’t celebrate their holiday as openly as they would like to. I’m still reading bloggers grumbling about the use of “Seasons Greetings” rather than “Merry Christmas.” Frankly, this issue is so 2005.
I’m all for Christians enjoying their religious holiday. It doesn’t bother me if someone says “Merry Christmas.” It DOES bother me that most of the complainers about the “War on Christmas” come from conservative commentators such as Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson. Their interest in Christmas has more to do with politics than religion. It is all part of a family values agenda. Pushing for the public display of Christmas goes hand-in-hand with conservative ideology against the rights of other minorities, such as gays and women. Whenever I read a 20-something talking how much he hates being politically-correct over Merry Christmas, I know this person is going to end up being a suburban “family values” person who watches FOX news every night.
Janet at The Art of Getting By wrote an amusing piece about how much it must “suck to be Jewish during Christmas.” Personally, I don’t like eggnog, so I am jealous of the mistletoe. Like being part of the “mile-high club,” kissing under the mistletoe is one of my unfulfilled fantasies. Just in case I find myself at a Christmas Party this year, what exactly are the “rules.” Can you kiss anyone standing under the mistletoe? Do you HAVE to kiss the person? What happens if she has a cold sore? Can you bring someone under the mistletoe under false pretenses, just to kiss her —
Neil: “Come here, Anne, I want to show you this new coffee maker in the kitchen. Tricked you! We’re under the mistletoe! Give me your tongue!”
Washington Irving, famed early 19th Century writer, helped popularize the mistletoe tradition to Americans in “Christmas Eve” —
Here were kept up the old games of hoodman blind, shoe the wild mare, hot cockles, steal the white loaf, bob apple, and snap dragon; the Yule-clog and Christmas candle were regularly burnt, and the mistletoe with its white berries hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids.
The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.
Hot cockles! Kissing the Girls! Plucking Berries from the Bush!
Now you know why Jews are really jealous about Christmas. Kissing under the mistletoe. If you try kissing someone over the menorah, you just get your hair on fire.
THE HOLIDAY CONCERT IS THIS WEDNESDAY!
A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: LL Cool Jew (more Jews!)