The ex-Militant Jew

Back when I was a kid, I was a militant Jew. Really, I was—especially come December.

I grew up in a town, Mahopac, N.Y., where, oh, 90 percent of the residents were Catholic, and Christmas was the unofficial official town holiday. All students at Lakeview Elementary School were required to partake in the “holiday” concert—which really was eight-to-10 Christmas songs, many of which included references and odes to Jesus and Mary and the like. In the name of fairness, they’d usually toss in one for the Jewbies—”Chanukah, Chanukah, Festival of Lights” or something of that ilk.

Inevitably, I’d complain, bark, howl, ask out and demand equality. “There are two holidays!” I’d whine. “We deserve recognition, too.”

Of course, I was ignored.

Some three decades later, I look back and laugh. More than that, I cringe. What the hell was I so militant about? Why would any Jew want Christmas and Chanukah to be treated as equals?

Truth: Christmas is the birth of Jesus, Chanukah is the festival of lights. Enormous, enormous different in magnitude. Truth: Christmas has long been celebrated with gifts, Chanukah has sorta long been celebrated with gifts … because of its proximity to Christmas. Truth: Christmas is a greed-infested, commercialized pile of crap, damned by the XBox and PlayStation and need to have, have, have, have, have at all costs, until WE ALL DIE IN A FLAMING POOL OF DEATH AND WATCH THE SKIN MELT FROM OUR BONES AS SATAN LAUGHS ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK!!!!! (Deep breath). Truth: Chanukah is almost there, too.

It really is. Nowadays, when Jews fight for Chanukah equality I ask, “Why? Why would you want our cute little holiday to become … that?” At its base, the holiday is Christmas is a beautiful thing—the honoring of a savior who walked with the poor and the sinners and the infirmed; the honoring of a savior who had no material needs and who would, I’m guessing, cringe at the ornate lavishness of many modern buildings constructed (oddly) to honor him. But the base vanished long ago. Today, Christmas is the lining up at midnight outside a Walmart, then charging in at 12:01, trampling prone bodies en route. Today, Christmas is a commercial for Coca-Cola which, while warm and fuzzy on the surface (oh, Mommy, a polar bear drinking a soda alongside a snowman!), was actually produced last May in a gray-walled studio in Los Angeles by the marketing firm of Greed & Greedbag, Inc.). Today, Christmas is as Christian as a Ryan Braun homer to right; as a Malcolm X speech; as a pile of my dog’s excrement. It’s lost its meaning … its purpose … its soul.

So, my fellow Jews, stop whining about Chanukah not being Christmas.

Start celebrating.