December 10, 2009

On being a bad Jew at Hanukkah

So apparently Hanukkah begins this weekend. I say "apparently" because if it wasn't printed on my calendar at work, or my non-Jewish boyfriend hadn't emailed me with the start date, the whole thing might have slipped by me.

What is Hanukkah? It is the Festival of Lights, an eight-day celebration commemorating the rededicating of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabee revolt in the 2nd century BC. According to the Talmud, there was only enough oil to burn the eternal flame for one day, and yet it lasted eight days, the exact time it took to prepare more oil.

Why am I a bad Jew? Well, I had to google what Hanukkah is to have the info above. Oh, and I don't celebrate the holidays. Or eat kosher. Or go to synagogue. Or follow any of the 613 mitzvot (commandments). And I like boys. And not Jewish ones.

Truth is, Jews have lots and lots of holidays, and Hanukkah isn't really one of the major ones; it's more of a kids holiday, and has over time morphed into a pseudo-Christmas substitute. Not that I observe any of the others either.

Some people are traditionalist and follow the letter and spirit of religious holidays. Others treat the rules more like a buffet where they pick and choose what they want. I just don't really participate. I was raised essentially as a high holiday Jew, and I guess am still a cultural Jew, though basically agnostic --- you embrace whichever set of beliefs fits you, I haven't found something that fits me.

I celebrated Hanukkah with my family when I was growing up, which we did as a gift-giving and family feasting holiday rather than a religious one, and since then have often celebrated Christmas with friends, and was at first surprised by the lack of religion in the gatherings. I did not have a menorah (the nine-branch Hanukkah candelabra) until K bought me one last year.

This is a great time of year; I believe holidays are about friends and family, and I have those. Time together, lots of food, exchanging a few gifts with those you love, spoiling the canine kids --- it's all good to me. And yes the rituals are enticing; we have both a Christmas tree and a Menorah... damn, totally forgot, I gotta buy candles in the next 17 hours!


Alone in Holy Land said...

It is like this: Hanukka starts this evening (don't ask me the exact time) so you'll have to ligth your first candle.
We celebrate both Christmas and Hanukka and I must say I love the most these two holidays (well, the pyromaniac in me, at least) because I get to light lots and lots of candles!
Happy Holidays and lots of kisses to Albert!

Stephen said...

hey, I just surfed on & I really dig your blog & your canine.

Michael Rivers said...

Don't feel bad. I'm a bad Catholic. But I celebrate the season.

retailrecruit said...

And I'm a bad United Church member. Really bad. But we celebrate Christmas with gusto. What we really celebrate is friends, family, food, reconnections, twinkling lights (not necessary candles) and music.

bmat10 said...

So am I a good Jew or a bad Jew? I know what Hanukah is without having to look it up (good Jew) I didn't realize it started tonight(bad Jew). A few years ago who is not Jewish made be buy a mannorah (bad Jew) I almost had a heart attack when I saw the price of them (good Jew).

bmat10 said...

That was supposed to read, "...a few years ago my wife who is not jewish..."

Meliha said...

Happy Hanukkah!

Brahm said...

Interesting comments - thanks all! And Brian - totally cracked me up! Never thought about price of menorah! (bad Jew?)

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