Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Should “Happy Hanukkah” be used as weapon against those who assault us with hostile holiday greetings?

Whenever I encounter one of those types of people who insists on using “Merry Christmas!” as a form of cultural intimidation, there’s a part of me that is tempted to turn to my step-mother for a retort.
Chicago's public menorah from five years ago can create split reactions, regardless of its actual intent. Photos by Gregory Tejeda
As in every “Merry Christmas” I hear coming from someone who is inclined to take Donald Trump’s “War on Christmas” rants seriously, I’d respond with a fake cheery “Happy Hanukkah!”

I DON’T ACTUALLY do that in part because it strikes me as tacky to use my step-mother’s religious faith to score political partisan points against the nitwits of our society. It would make me no better than those who want to use “Merry Christmas” as a weapon.

I bring this up because the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah actually began Tuesday night and will continue into next week.

And with my step-mother being Jewish (my father is a late-life convert), it means the time of year to recall the survival of the Maccabees in the face of elements of society that would just as soon have seen them exterminated is once again upon us.

Now in my own family, the little kids are growing up. So there’s not as much pressure any more to indulge my nieces and nephews with lots of presents so that they don’t feel cheated compared to their school friends for whom Christmas is the thing!
Do people notice holiday decorations when passing through the airport en route to a sunnier locale?
IN FACT, IN my parents’ household, most of the eight days will be marked with the lighting of the candles, a prayer in Hebrew, and little else.

There will be one night of various relatives coming over to the household for something of a party – whose primary purpose it will seem like is consuming the potato pancakes referred to as latkes.
Gary, Ind., govt. brightens their chambers

Much of this, I’ll admit, is lost on me. I was baptized many decades ago by a Catholic priest and personally haven’t felt any need to change.

But that isn’t held against me. I’m likely to be included in any celebration as we recall the old story of how a Godly miracle enabled the Maccabees’ oil intended to last one night actually kept their lamps lit for eight nights.

THE REASON WHY the menorahs include eight branches in their candelabrums – and why a fully-lit menorah has the potential to be a fire hazard if the celebrants get too clumsy.

All of which has just enough of a solemn effect on me to refuse to use “Happy Hanukkah” as a retort to the less-than-solemn “Merry Christmas” talk I have heard in recent days. I’d like to think I’m better than those people who want to turn the Christmas holiday and the birth of Christ that it celebrates into a weapon touting the omnipresent existence of Trump that they’d like to impose on our society.

Because I know it would be the perfect retort in that it would force those ideologues whose use of religious symbolism to tout their beliefs borders on being as offensive as the Ku Klux Klan’s uses of the cross to tout their own racist rants to have to acknowledge that theirs is NOT the only holiday in this winter season.

While I’ll be the first to admit that some of the efforts to equate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa (don’t forget the “aa” at the end) and whatever other festival one can dream up do become absurd, I’ve never felt the need to tout my own thoughts over everybody else’s.

LARGELY BECAUSE I have viewed much of religious-inspired thought as a personal one. It is something we ought to be celebrating internally.

There’s nothing wrong with sharing. But feeling the need to force one’s thoughts or celebration on others just seems wrong.

Just as it can be confusing at times when someone feels the need to say “Merry Christmas” to every single person they encounter. Are they just overly cheerful? Or are they making a politically-partisan statement that requires a retort?

Quite honestly, I resent having to try to interpret every holiday greeting to figure out if the call for sharing and celebration is more intended as an excuse to act as society’s religious-motivated bullies.


No comments: