December 18, 2008
Don’t feel bad! I love Christmas, too!
(Page 2 - Previous Page)What's not to love?
Again, I'm not looking to assimilate, we have already done enough assimilation by virtue of the fact that we are living here in the Diaspora. So don't even think of calling me a self-hating Jew. Quite the opposite! My Jewishness permeates both my professional and personal life in a big way. (Hey, I don't see any of you hosting the Chabad Telethon!) I constantly perform or emcee Jewish events, dinners and fundraisers, which I love to do not only because of the nachas I get helping out Jewish causes, but also because Jewish audiences -- though they're toughest -- are my favorite. There's a connection there that I can't get anywhere else -- just like when Chris Rock performs at the Apollo, except without all the energy and enthusiasm. And I won't even mention that I'm on the board of my shul!
I'm sure some of you are still bothered by this article, and you should be. I am too! All this basking in their holiday glory actually irks me more than it does you. I am constantly asking myself, why when every fiber of me is Jewish, am I so excited about the fact that it's Christmas time?
As a kid I absolutely loved Chanukah. I have nothing but fond memories of it. My zayde sitting in a chair, giving out shiny silver coins to all the cousins lined up eagerly awaiting their bounty. Or the latke-making contests that my Aunt Ruta would always win. (She used 50 gallons of canola oil!) Or the simple act of being with my two brothers and parents and lighting our menorah in the window of my family's apartment in the Bronx. We can rule out childhood trauma.
Maybe I'm a dupe of Christmas marketing. Our marketing is so poor that I've even heard absurdities such as Chanukah was invented as the answer to Christmas. WHAT? We need an ad campaign just to let everyone know that Chanukah was created a couple hundred years before Christmas. Here's a snippet: Maccabees is a book in the New Testament. So how could Jews be accused of lifting gentile holiday themes? As with everything else, we were there first! OK, fine, maybe we swiped the whole gift-giving idea, but is that enough to put our holiday on the marketing back burner?
It can't just be marketing. If a movie stinks, no marketing in the world can save it. It's gotta be a good product, too! So what is it about Chanukah that can't compete? And then it hit me. Chanukah, isn't Jewish enough! Passover and Sukkot are my two favorite weeks of the year! I love those holidays because they are so wonderfully Jewish. Eating bitter herbs or a muddy concoction of sorts is very Jewish. Leaning back on our pillow-laden chairs, downing a fourth cup of Yarden cab, wondering aloud why this night is different from all other nights.... Extremely Jewish. (By the way, on the second night, the question should really be, "Why is this night EXACTLY like last night?"). Sitting in a bamboo roofed hut, eating honey-draped challah is as Jewish as one can get. Lighting a candelabra? Not that Jewish! Anyone can do that. Obviously, the story of Chanukah is very Jewish, but the practice of Chanukah, not so much. I want my holidays to be super Jewified!
If I'm going to get excited about a holiday in December, sorry, it's Christmas. There's just so much more fun Christmasy stuff to be excited about. Other than the few minutes of lighting, you wouldn't even know it's Chanukah. But from Thanksgiving until Dec. 26, you know it's Christmas and you're merry about it.
Perhaps I enjoy all this pre-Christmas warmth because there's actually something very Jewish about it. Everything in the city just slows down and quietude takes over. The tranquility permeating the streets is palpable. It brings me to imagine what Jerusalem may have been like 3,000 years ago on a Friday afternoon, as Shabbat was nearing. No trade nor commerce, no hustle nor bustle. Just joyous, cheery folks who were soon to put their daily troubles behind them and be with their families for some much needed restful, sacred, feel-good time.
As a Sabbath observer I get a weekly dose of that serenity. I'm sure the warm feeling of simply uttering the phrase, "Good Shabbos" to a neighbor is analogous to the sheer joy in their "Merry Christmas." How dare the politically correct drumbeaters force the generic, tepid "Happy Holidays" on us? I couldn't imagine being told to supplant my "Good Shabbos" or "Shabbat Shalom" with "Happy Weekend!" Let's allow everyone their proper greeting! It only adds to the merriment!
In this crazy world, everyone can use some Christmas cheer, and let's face it, whether enjoying a gingersnap latte or a warm smile from a perfect stranger, we all benefit in one way or another. So have yourselves a very Merry Christmas; I know I will.
However, I'll be home for.... Chanukah!
Elon Gold is a comedian, actor and writer who has starred in sitcoms (Fox's "Stacked," NBC's "In-Laws") and is currently readying his fifth appearance on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and his one-man show, "Elon Gold: Half Jewish, Half Very Jewish." He can next be seen guest starring in CBS's "The Mentalist" on Feb. 10.
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