A Very Merry Chrismukkah
A Merry Chrismukkah to All!
There are many who blend the traditions of Christmas and Chanukah into one all-inclusive interfaith celebration called “Chrismukkah.” Call it what you will, but Chrismukkah is one of those buzzwords that can trace its origins as far back as 2003, when it made its debut on FOX’s The OC. You will find it referenced in advertisements, other television shows, Time Magazine and the Chambers Dictionary. There is even a Chrismukkah website. Although what was intended as a light-hearted celebration of the winter holiday season has raised the ire of some religious groups, many have embraced the idea of sharing the more secular traditions of the holiday season.
Religious significance aside, no Christmas season would be complete with the requisite trees, stockings, cookies, songs, and gifts. Or the shopping. Or the beloved Christmas classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas. Christmas is bigger than big. It’s huge. December is synonymous with Christmas, holiday parties, and Santa Claus.
Conversely, Chanukah started off as a rather minor Jewish holiday that today shares center stage with Christmas. It falls on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev of the Jewish lunar calendar and frequently coincides with Christmas or at least the start of the month of December. Perhaps because of its proximity to Christmas, Modern Jews have adapted their celebrations around the Christmas festivities in their communities. As a result, Chanukah today is a larger celebration than originally intended.
Chanukah commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem in 165 B.C.E. The celebration lasts over eight nights with prayers, gifts, and the lighting of candles in a special menorah called a hanukkiyah. Other traditions include serving fried foods like potato pancakes, giving coin-shaped chocolates called gelt, and playing with a spinning top called a dreidel. However, the traditions don’t stop with fried foods and spinning tops. Pop culture has given us Adam Sandler and The Chanukah Song, and my personal favorite Chanukah movie, An American Tail.
Many nineteenth century German Jews adopted German Christmas customs into their Chanukah celebrations involving trees, Christmas songs, and presents. I admit, I was raised Jewish and I totally believed in Santa as a kid. He didn’t come to my house, but there were always presents waiting for me at my friend Chrissy’s house, and my family always had Chanukah presents for our Christian friends. People of different religions have continued to share their traditions as they share one another’s communities throughout the world. So whether you are enraged by the idea of a Chanukah Bush decorated with shiny ornaments or the idea of playing Santa Dreidel sounds like fun, Chrismukkah and its brethren (Festivus, anyone?) started well before the advent of network television and are here to stay.
In the days between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve, we speak of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Although it began as pop culture buzzword, Chrismukkah is a symbol of diversity. It is a great time of year to teach your Christian neighbors how to cook latkes, or to teach your Jewish friends the art of stringing Christmas lights. It is not a call to convert or sacrifice religious beliefs. Chrismukkah is merely the spirit of sharing.
In keeping with the Chrismukkah spirit, here are some ideas to combine and share holiday traditions this holiday season:
- Light the menorah and decorate the tree together.
- Have a holiday treat exchange. In addition your favorite Christmas cookies, you will love the sufganiyot (doughnuts)!
- Steal a kiss under the mistletoe.
- Play the dreidel game.
- Invite a Jewish friend to the Christmas Pageant at your church.
- Invite a Christian friend to the Chanukah Party at your synagogue.
- Watch your favorite holiday movies together.
- Sing holiday songs.
- Be respectful of everyone’s beliefs and traditions even while sharing your own.
- Take a drive through the brightly lit neighborhoods to ooh and ahh at holiday light displays.
- Volunteer or adopt an angel for the holidays to help those less fortunate. This is a season of giving and celebrating our blessings.
- Brave the malls and stores together to shop for all the special people in your lives.
- Bring the Festivus pole down from the attic just in time for the annual “Airing of Grievances.” (I was just checking to see if you were still paying attention.)
Merry Chrismukkah to all! Or, simply… Merry Christmas. Or Happy Chanukah. Whatever you celebrate (and I’ll be celebrating both), make it a great one!