Friday, December 11, 2009

Keeping the “Ch” in “Chanukkah”

(The following is a repeat from the previous year, updated for this year, for the same occasion. -- DLA)

Tonight begins the Jewish Festival of Lights, known as Chanukkah (Hanukkah), which commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, following the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BC. It is observed for eight nights, as a reminder of the miracle of one night's supply of oil for the lamps lasting for eight, until a fresh supply could be obtained. (Jordanes writes: "Kind of, sort of...")

Years ago, our director of communications was a devout Jewish woman, who invited all the staff to her house in the country for a holiday celebration. A highlight of the affair was her presentation with her grandchildren, as she told them of the story of Chanukkah. As the rest of us Gentiles watched, she would lead the children in the Hebrew chant for the occasion: "Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us by his commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the lights of Chanukkah..." While others stood around watching in varying degrees of perplexity, I found myself singing with the children. After all, where do you idiots think Gregorian chant came from anyway?

A comedian named Adam Sandler first introduced this holiday classic on NBC's Saturday Night Live. The song gives a list of famous celebrities from various walks of life who are Jewish: "Put on your yarmulke, here comes Hanukkah / It's so much funukkah, to celebrate Hanukkah / Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights / Instead of one day of presents, we get eight crazy nights!"

There's more where that came from. They Might Be Giants appears in this video as a four-peice band, performing their Chanukkah song live for the first time ever. Shot during Juidth Owen & Harry Shearer's Holiday Sing-A-Long at The Canal Room in New York City on December 15, 2006. Of course, it should be noted here that Chanukkah is not a major Jewish feast in the strict sense. It only became popular with the demand for a Jewish occasion for gift-giving, especially to children, at the same time of year as Christmas. Nothing wrong with that, from what I can see.

Another SNL comedy veteran, Jon Lovitz, took the concept one step farther, with the introduction of "Hanukkah Harry" character. "On Moische! On Herschel! On Schlomo!"

Hey, after Sal and I have been shopping for the past two weeks, or I should say she has been shopping, getting the goods together for the balikbayan boxes she sends home every year at this time. I don't even have the decorations up yet. I've just gotta find a way to lighten up here.

"It's beginning to look a lot like..." whatever.

1 comment:

VD said...

That leaves me wondering though . . . the Jews celebrate 8 days of Chanukah. What happened to us Catholics? If I remember correctly, wasn't there some distant past when we celebrated the Twelve days of Christmas?

Just saying .. . .