Tonight is the beginning of the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah. Here's my Hanukkah post from 2009, the first year of this blog. This post has remained one of my most popular.
What's changed since 2009? Hanukkah moves around, and begins tonight rather than over the weekend, and the boyfriend I refer to is now my husband. What's the same? I still don't have those damn candles...
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!