Christmas and Hanukkah share an interesting dynamic. They’re both typically in December. They both involve the exchanging of gifts. And they both have spawned in interfaith households to form the word, “Christmakkah.”
But the big difference is that only one of them is really a major holiday.
Christmas is widely accepted by Catholics to be among the biggest annual celebration of their faith. It’s not quite as important religiously as Easter, but since the two holidays are so far apart in the calendar, they’re basically considered “1A” and “1B.”
Hanukkah, meanwhile, has nothing on Judaism’s two holiest days: Rosh Hoshanah and Yom Kippur. Hanukkah is different enough to have its own unique appeal, but, it’s less than three months after those two holidays, and therefore, it’s a little anticlimactic by the time it rolls around.
That’s the main reason, I think, why Christmas trumps Hanukkah each year in pretty much all facets: music, movies, decorations, pop culture, anticipation, Facebook chatter, you name it.
I mean, come on — there’s no giant menorah in Rockefeller Center, is there?
So while Christmas is always celebrated to the max each year, observers of Hanukkah tend to be a little more subdued, calm and usually downplay the holiday. In fact, I feel it becomes downplayed more and more each year.
Heck, I’ll take it one step further. I don’t even think Jews even try to promote Hanukkah anymore. They’ve just given up. And that was never more evident this year, when Hanukkah arrived early. It started so early that it’s already over on Thursday. In other words, it’s basically going to end before the “holiday season” even begins.
Hanukkah never had a chance this year. It overlapped with not only Thanksgiving, but consumer “holidays” like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. When December rolled around, and people were finally ready to embrace the religious holidays — it was already half over.
Christmas is essentially dominating the entire month of December 2013. In the past, when people talked about holidays that occur this time of the year, they had to remind themselves to include Hanukkah, in order to be politically correct. This year, they didn’t even have to do that.
Even ‘N Sync, in the lead single — called “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” — off their 1998 Christmas album, threw in a line that lazily and backhandedly incorporated Hanukkah. It’s like the band members recorded the song, and at the last second, were like, “Oh shit, we have Jewish fans too. Eh, screw it, let’s just throw in a ‘Happy holidays’ and call it a day.”
This year, we don’t even have to pretend. And the question becomes — will it ever recover?
Already the second-tier, ugly stepchild of the December holidays, I think it’s fair to wonder if people will officially become apathetic towards it moving forward, especially following its massive insignificance this year.
It’s like when the National Hockey League — already the most unpopular of the four major sports — experienced a lockout and was forced to cancel it’s entire 2004-2005 season. It lost major sponsorship, television programming, and most importantly — its worldwide appeal. It took several years for it to recover, and it’s debatable if it even really has.
The same goes for Hanukkah. The holiday essentially had its own “lockout” this year. Except it’s even worse, because it still happened.
Either way, Catholics everywhere can enjoy the monopoly they have on December, and with Christmas a mere three weeks away, it’s safe to finally become giddy. All those — like me — who intentionally avoided gingerbread or peppermint lattes, as well as Christmas music and movies, throughout the month of November out of principle, can finally embrace it.
Because it’s Christmastime.
And I really hope the kind people who selected me to go on a Birthright trip to Israel in February do not ever see this post.