Tis The Season For Bah Humbug
With Thanksgiving past us, the Christmas season is really ramping up. With the Christmas push, comes my yearly rant. I’m going to apologize in advance. This is going to be a bit long. Ok, very long. There’s a lot that I need to get off my chest.
That said, Christmas is everywhere. You can’t escape it. Radio stations will be playing Christmas music exclusively while stores put the finishing touches on their Christmas displays and television shows air Christmas specials left and right. Everyone gets into the Christmas spirit by attaching "Christmas" and a Santa hat to everything and wishes everyone "Merry Christmas."
Now I have just one problem with this. I don’t celebrate Christmas. I’m Jewish and celebrate Chanukah. Now, I’ll admit that Chanukah isn’t a very important Jewish holiday. In fact, it’s main claim to fame is that it happens to fall out near Christmas. Strictly speaking, you don’t exchange gifts on Chanukah. That’s just something that started so that little Jewish kids wouldn’t feel left out and Jewish parents wouldn’t be left with wads of cash in their wallets after New Year’s Day. (Purim is actually the holiday where we give gifts. It’s also the holiday where we dress in costumes and get drunk. Now that’s a fun holiday! 😉 )
Since Chanukah isn’t really that important, I know I shouldn’t feel too bad that people don’t go around saying "Happy Chanukah," but I still wind up feeling insulted. I’ll walk into a store, see the five aisles of Christmas stuff and then find their Chanukah display – in the rear endcap of some random aisle. The display itself usually consists of a few random pieces of blue and white cheap garbage with "Happy Hanukah" printed on them, a dreidel or two and, if the store’s feeling generous, an ugly menorah that no one in their right mind would buy. But if you want tinsel, they’ve got seventy five different varieties! Thank goodness for online retailers like PopJudaica.
Then there are the people who just assume that everyone celebrates Christmas. From the people who ask my kids if they’ve been good this year so Santa will visit them to the people who ask us how we’ll celebrate Christmas. I know those people are well-meaning, but after the fifth or sixth time it grates on you.
The worst, however, are the people who rant about how stores shouldn’t wish customers "Happy Holidays" and should just say "Merry Christmas." As if everyone celebrates Christmas (or, if you don’t, you’re somehow anti-American). I can sympathize with them when they say that the holiday has become overcommercialized, but they lose me when they claim that "political correctness" is the only reason a store would say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."
There’s even a website that asks users to rate retailers based on how "friendly" stores are. And by "friendly", they seem to mean focus on Christmas and exclude all other holidays. Because nothing’s friendlier than offending their Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, etc shoppers? One reviewer wrote, about American Eagle Outfitters: "Was wished a Happy Hanukkah as I left the store. When I stopped and explained I was Christian, the lady at the counter told me ‘Happy Holidays!’ This was very offensive!" Congratulations! You now know how offended I am every time someone wishes me a Merry Christmas. Only, I’ll guarantee you that Merry Christmas is said a whole lot more than Happy Chanukah.
I will agree with one sentiment I saw echoed frequently on that site, though. Stop calling items "holiday trees", "holiday ornaments", or "holiday wreathes." To my knowledge, the only holiday this time of year that uses those items is Christmas. So at least be honest about things and call them Christmas items. To do otherwise is merely an attempt to mask the fact that you have three aisles of Christmas products and nothing for anyone else. (No, Jews do not hang "holiday ornaments" on a "holiday tree" while putting a "holiday wreath" on their door for Chanukah!!!)
As far as Christmas music goes, this doesn’t bother me when it comes to the radio, but that’s only because I’ve stopped listening to the radio. I do get bugged by the lack of any major singers singing Chanukah songs. There’s Adam Sandler’s Chanukah Songs (all three versions), but those aren’t really kid-friendly. Then there are the three by Barenaked Ladies on their Barenaked for the Holidays album. Those are very good, actually. The only other one I know of is one by Neil Diamond which is just a re-do of Adam Sandler’s first Chanukah song. Compare that to the stacks upon stacks of Christmas CDs out there.
Finally, those Christmas specials. The first one or two are alright. I enjoyed Merry Madagascar just fine. (Hey, an amnesiac Santa dancing to "I like to move it move it?" Now that’s funny!) But after awhile, I wonder where the Chanukah specials are. Even if a show has Jewish characters, they don’t think of having a Chanukah special. The most we can hope for is a quick "hey, this character lights a menorah and spins tops called dreidels" scene before the other characters gather to save Christmas once again. Just once, I’d like to see "A Very Wubbzy Chanukah" (with all the weird designs on that show, their menorahs have got to be awesome!) or "The Muppets Save Chanukah." (I’m not picking on those two shows/franchises, mind you. I like them both. I just chose them at semi-random.)
The one show I remembered which had a great Chanukah special was Rugrats. The babies had to help their grandpa Boris against the "meanie of Chanukah" (really a rival in his play). It had great moments (a guy in a dreidel costume falls and tells Angelica that thanks to her he broke his shin – showing the Hebrew letter "shin"), some actual Hebrew prayers/songs, and the rugrats retelling the story of the Maccabees (as "Maccababies") pretty accurately.
The Rugrats episode was first released in 1998. Since then, I don’t think any major children’s program has done a major Chanukah special. Like I said before, they might quickly mention it in passing during their Christmas special, but otherwise Christmas rules the tube during the month of December. There’s a huge market here, folks. Why not make a few Chanukah episodes?
As I had said earlier, Chanukah’s not that important a holiday, so I’m not looking for parity. I don’t need five dozen Chanukah specials to equal the Christmas specials. I don’t need a dozen CDs released every year and I’m certainly not asking retailers to lay out three aisles of Chanukah items for sale. But regarding Chanukah a bit more than "oh yeah, order a dreidel or two to put at the back of aisle seven" would certainly be nice.
Hope every has a happy holiday, no matter which holiday you celebrate! (And if you don’t celebrate any…. have a happy December! 😉 )