Thursday 22 December 2011

8 Reasons I Like Hanukkah Better Than Christmas

They have cookies, too!
Every year around this time the Rotten family observes Hanukkah.  It's a tradition started by my mother in-law who, although not raised in the Jewish religion, was born to non-practising Jewish parents in a Jewish neighbourhood.  It's kind of a nice way to commemorate their Jewish roots and it's a tradition we keep alive in our house, too.  Although I'm pretty sure we're doing it all wrong and making a mess of the whole thing, my Jewish friends tell me that as long as we're trying our best God is cool with it.

With each passing year I grow more annoyed with Christmas and find more to appreciate about Hanukkah.  Sometimes I wish we could dispense with Christmas altogether and only do Hanukkah.  If you grew up with Christmas you're probably thinking what I used to think about Hanukkah: it just doesn't measure up.  There's no sparkle, no Santa.  Well now that you're all grown up I think you will be able to appreciate why I think Hanukkah rocks and Christmas can suck it.

1) No Hype.  Nobody says shit about Hanukkah until it's Hanukkah.  Do you know what would happen if just before Halloween they started playing Hanukkah commercials?  Nothing, because that would never happen.  There is just nothing to be gained commercially from Hanukkah because it's an uplifting yet serious holy event, some might even call a series of holy days or "holidays".  Also, because of reason number 2:

2)  No Presents.  It's not traditional to exchange gifts at Hanukkah unless you are trying to placate small children who got shafted out of the whole Santa business.  But the presents are the best part!  No.  No they are not.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy giving and receiving presents but Christmas takes the joy out of all that and turns it into a terrible ordeal that everyone must participate in or suffer the (unknown) consequences.

I'm sure there are people who thrive on all the shopping and the bustle but for someone like myself, who suffers from social anxiety disorder, Christmas seems like an experiment dreamed up by evil scientists to see just how many small panic attacks I can endure before I have a nervous breakdown.  Or maybe baby Jesus is punishing me for that time I ate all the heads off of the angel cookies Mummy Dearest made that Christmas when I was four.  From December 1st to the 25th my brain is occupied with this litany:

"Did I get everyone on my list?  Did I get everyone stuff they would like?  What if they already have it?  I got it on sale, will they be able to return it?  If they return it will they find out how much I cheaped out on their gift because I found it on sale and then think bad thoughts about me?  Oh God, what if I forgot someone?  What if I forgot someone but they didn't forget me?  If I fail to get everyone the perfect gift then the world will surely come to a horrifying end and it will be all my fault!"

With Hanukkah, as far as I can tell, all you need to do is pray and eat.  You just know there's something wrong with Christmas when you're wishing you were Jewish just so you could be less neurotic.

3)  The Food.  Daddy thought I was crazy for saying this because he thinks Jewish food sucks and he loves turkey.  But when he thinks of Jewish food he generally thinks of a Passover meal he went to once where the food wasn't so great.  But Hanukkah, the celebration of the miracle of the oil burning for eight days, is the holiday of foods fried in oil.  For eight days!  Have you ever had freshly fried, jelly filled doughnut (sufganiot)?  Me neither, but that's mostly because I  can't be bothered filling them with jelly.  I have however made fresh fried doughnuts without the jelly and they would easily put Krispy Kreme out of business.

What does one day of Christmas have over eight days of fried food?  A turkey?  I'm sorry but isn't that just Thanksgiving Part Deux?  And it's very likely that turkey is on the menu for Easter dinner unless you're lucky enough to have in-laws who raise sheep.  (Mmmmm, spring lamb....aghaghaghagh.)

4)  No Shopping.  That thing with no gift exchange translates into no shopping.  To the best of my knowledge, no Jewish person has ever been trampled to death on Black Friday in a frenzy to fight with some old lady for the last XBox (or whatever the hell it is the kids want these days) on the shelf.  There is absolutely no reason for me to set foot in a Walmart when making my Hanukkah preparations.  The only special shopping I really need to do is get groceries for all the food we'll be eating and then spending about 5-10 minutes chatting with the lady who runs the kosher deli where I buy candles for our menorah.

5) No Music.  Or at least very little of it.  Other than the Dreidel Song I really don't know any Hanukkah carols.  It's not that I don't like Christmas music.  I just don't like bad Christmas music.  Or, as I like to call it, Christmas Muzak.  I prefer the music of the big band era or the classical religious music.  Give me some Sinatra, Handel or Bach.

But that's not usually the stuff they inflict on you while you're trapped in some store, hot and cranky and tired, with a million things you need to buy and no money to buy it with and your kids are whining and fighting with each other and you're wondering why the hell it is that you have to go to Christmas dinner with two inches of uncoloured roots just so you can buy these little ingrates some more useless pieces of plastic they don't need and that will be lost or broken before the new year.

No, right at that moment where you would cheerfully stuff an elf down Santa's throat for forcing you to participate in this madness, this is what is drilling a hole into your brain:

                           "Sim-ply ha-a-v-ing a WONderful Christmastime..."

And that, my friends, is the song I will be singing the year I put on a Santa suit and go postal at the local Walmart, right before they tranq me into oblivion.

6)  It's Less Offensive.   I know you're probably asking, "But what is offensive about Christmas?"  It's not so much the Holiday itself as its capacity to make people identify themselves loudly and proudly as narrow minded bigots.  And of course they express this in my newsfeed which typically goes as follows:

"Hey, all you CHRISTmas haters, I love JESUS and I show my love for JESUS by putting pagan symbols in my home, imposing the unknown date of HIS birth on a pagan holiday and then SCREAMING to EVERYONE that JESUS is the REASON for the SEASON.  I will begrudgingly acknowledge whatever pitiful little holiday YOU celebrate but ONLY after you call CHRISTmas 'UNCLE'.  Because that is totally what JESUS was ALL ABOUT.  HA HA, CHRISTmas RULES!"

Yikes!  It's a fine thing if you want to take this time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  He was a pretty cool dude.  But this is a sad and misinformed way of doing it, n'est ce pas?  Do these people really think that this is an appropriate way to pay tribute to the guy who commanded you to love everyone, do kindness to everyone and be humble before your Lord?  To do unto those as you would have done to yourself?  You just never see people getting all foamy at the mouth like this about Hanukkah.  Hanukkah is nice and quiet.

7)  Family.  My whole life the very best thing about Christmas for me was to be with my extended family.  And of course that still happens but since I've adopted the role of Mrs. Claus I've been too tired and stressed out to enjoy it.  There's a lot of pressure and excitement building up to one day and then it's all over. This year I haven't been able to visit with my family or friends because I'm too busy getting ready for Christmas and the day it comes I will be running on about four hours of sleep because the kids got me up at the ass crack of dawn after I was up all night wrapping presents and stuffing stockings.  Hanukkah brings eight days of opportunities to be with family without all the chaos.  That means a more well rested you which means you are way less likely to resort to violence when that nosy relative of yours starts criticizing the way you're raising your kids.

8)  No Santa.  And if you haven't read my guest post for Momma Be Thy Name, this might be confusing.  Santa is supposed to be the whole selling point of Christmas!  Okay, if you're still confused go, read it now.  OMG do I hate that fat bastard!  For years he's been taking credit for all my hard work, for all the best presents, for all the "magic" and my kids think I'm this huge bitch because making all of that happen also makes me crazy.  I'm sure Santa must have seemed like a good idea back in Little House on the Prairie times when kids were happy to get a tin cup because it meant that they didn't have to share a cup with their sister any more.  But Christmas these days looks a lot less like the Ingalls family and a lot more like the Who's of Whoville.  Santa is something I could do very well without.

I guess that kind of makes me the Grinch.  Oh well.  L'chaim!

*I apologize right now for any misspellings or cultural misunderstandings. I'm not Jewish.  If there are any corrections I should make feel free to let me know.*


  1. I know it might be a lot to ask but any chance I could just be an email subscriber?

  2. You sure can! You probably missed the small type at the bottom of the page (just underneath the "Post a Comment" box) which allows you to subscribe by email. I probably just need to move it to a more prominent spot. Thanks for your interest!

  3. Agree, agree, agree. With everything you said.

    Other than the Jewish roots part. My parents are all over-the-top presents, "Reason for the Season", carol singing Christmas fanatics. I'd rather give up all the things you mentioned. Can't we just exchange one small gift with close famile/friends, bask in the warmth of their company, and eat too much yummy food?

  4. Exactly. Hanukkah seems to just take all the good parts of Christmas and leave out or minimize the bad. Except for the weight gain. I think Hanukkah could possibly make you more fat. Merry Christmas to you Jo. Have a beer on the beach for me because that sounds just lovely right now.