Tomorrow evening is the first night of Hanukkah. I’m Jewish, but I’m what my people lovingly refer to as a NYC Jew.
NY Times good.
Woody Allen good.
Every year, folks ask me what the difference is between Christmas and Hanukkah, and most of the time I have no clue how to address the major issues involved, but thanks to my friend Jim, who got this through our friend Carlos, we all know what the difference is and how to answer. Happy Hanukkah to one and all. And many thanks to the lads for sending the following my way . . .
1. Christmas is one day, same day every year, December 25. Jews also love December 25 since it’s another day off from work. We typically go to movies and then out for Chinese food. Hanukkah is eight days, beginning on the evening of the 24th of Kislev, whenever that falls. No one is ever sure. Jews never know until a non-Jewish friend asks us when Hanukkah starts, forcing us to consult a calendar so we don't look like idiots. We all have the same calendar, provided free (with a donation ) from the World Jewish Congress, the kosher butcher, or the local Sinai Memorial.
2. Christmas is a major holiday. Hanukkah is also a major holiday with the same theme as most other Jewish holidays: They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat.
3. There is only one way to spell Christmas. No one can decide how to spell Hanukkah, Chanukah, Chanukkah, Chanukka, Channukah, Hanukah, Hannukah, etc. (Editor's note: American Heritage Dictionary, by which MSP lives and breathes, says Hanukkah is the correct way to spell it, thus negating all of A. Z.'s originally submitted Chanukahs.)
4. Christmas is a time of great pressure for husbands and boyfriends. Their partners expect special gifts. Jewish men are relieved of that burden. No one expects a diamond ring on Hanukkah.
5. Christmas brings enormous electric bills (remember Clark Griswold in Xmas Vacation?). Candles are used for Hanukkah. Not only are we spared the electric bills, but we get to feel good about not contributing to the energy crisis.
6. Christmas carols are beautiful . . . "Silent Night," "Come All Ye Faithful," etc. . . Hanukkah songs are about dreidels made from clay or having a party and dancing the hora. Of course, we are secretly pleased that many of the beautiful carols were composed and written by our tribal brethren. And don't Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond sing them beautifully?
7. A home preparing for Christmas smells wonderful—the sweet smell of cookies and cakes baking. Happy people are gathered all around in festive moods. A home preparing for Hanukkah smells of oil, potatoes, and onions . . . if you’re lucky, some brisket. The home, as always, is full of loud people all talking at once.
8. Christian women have fun baking Christmas cookies. Jewish women burn their eyes and cut their hands grating potatoes and onions for latkes on Hanukkah. Another reminder of our suffering through the ages.
9. Parents deliver gifts to their children during Christmas. Jewish parents have no qualms about withholding a gift on any of the eight nights.
10. The players in the school Christmas pageant find it easy to pronounce names such as Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. The players in the Hanukkah story are Antiochus, Judah Maccabee, and Matta whatever. No one can spell it or pronounce it. On the plus side, we can tell our friends anything and they believe we are wonderfully versed in our own history.
11. Many Christians believe in the virgin birth. Jews think, "Yossela, Bubela, snap out of it. Your woman is pregnant, you didn't sleep with her, and now you want to blame G-d? Here's the number of my shrink."
12. In recent years, Christmas has become more and more commercialized. The same holds true for Hanukkah, which is a minor holiday in comparison to Passover or Yom Kippur. It makes sense. How could we market a major holiday such as Yom Kippur? There’s no celebrating. You spend all day in synagogue, starve yourself for twenty-seven hours, hopefully you become one with your dehydrated soul, you beat your chest and confess your sins . . . a guaranteed good time for you and your family. Tickets a mere $200 per person. Better stick with Hanukkah!