Friday, December 11, 2009

Can I Interest You in Hanukkah?

This holiday time of year, our house always draws the oohs and ahhs of visitors as well as at least one look of befuddlement.

That's because amid the 15,000 or so miniature lights twinkling, the array of poinsettias big and small, red and yellow, the yards of greenery snaking around banisters and across mantles, the multiple wreaths, stockings and reindeer statues and the two Christmas trees (fancy fake one for show, homey live one for dough), there stands the epicenter of our guests' annual confusion.

A menorah.

Right next to a silver Santa, bearing a platter of scented tea candles.

santa and menorah

"Funny," our guests will say, "'the name 'Uncool' doesn't sound Jewish."

See, when it comes to religion, My Love and I completely agree.

Neither of us has the answer.

Nor the question.

Nor a clue.

Can't even find the cheat codes on the Internet and yes, I have tried.

This explains our rather odd holiday decorating style. It began one day many years ago with the Things coming home from pre-school all aglow with talk about this fascinating thing they learned about that day.


The Festival of Lights!

One day's worth of oil burning for eight!

Cool little jelly doughnuts!

"Why don't we celebrate Hanukkah?" asked Thing 1, all filled with child-like wonder and those funky hash browns smothered in applesauce.

My Love and I, both lapsed Catholics, looked at each other, shrugged and said "why not" to each other with our eyes as only married people can do. We had agreed long before that we'd be open with our children about the many different points of view in the world on God, faith and the like in hope that some day they would find a path that suited them best. We'd be willing for them to give Hanukkah a try just as long as the Things agreed they weren't using this as a way to wrangle more presents out of us.

My Love quickly purchased a menorah. When you flip it over you find a sticker on the bottom noting its authoritative origins in India and distribution by Pier 1 Imports of Fort Worth, Texas.

I don't recall where the candles come from, but a good guess is the baking section of the local supermarket though I might have been temporarily inspired and gone into a Walgreens.

Darkness fell and we gathered around the kitchen counter, the traditional gathering place for our family on sacred occasions because of its simultaneous access to food, drink and the big screen TV. My Love placed one candle in the center of our shiny new menorah and another on the far left. I squeezed the trigger on our Chinese-made lighter and set the wicks ablaze.

We stood, the four of us, and stared at the flames.

"Now what?" piped up one of the Things.

My Love and I looked at each other blankly. This when we realized a little more research might have come in handy.

I, being the one who hates an awkward silence most, cleared my throat.

A prayer, I thought.

That's it! You must say some kind of prayer when you light the candles!

But what prayer could a ex-Catholic offer over an authentic Made-in-India, Distributed-through-Texas menorah?

I dug deep into my memory banks to find a scrap of what some of my childhood friends had taught all us Gentiles back around the art table in elementary school and I let it soar toward the heavens:

"Oooooh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel -- I made you out of clay! And when you're dried and ready, then dreidel I will play! L'chaim!"

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
A Colbert Christmas: Jon Stewart

Video: Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert, "Can I interest you in Hanukkah?"


  1. I sent out happy Hanukkah cards to my whole family one year for my christmas cards. I got a few confused replies. I don't have the answers either -- better to have fun with it :-)

  2. That was excellent. I am a lapsed jew myself, so we do a lot of shrugging and celebrating around my house too.

  3. It's kind of like Christmukkua or Kwanzukka or Festivus. Whatever gets you in the spirit, right?

  4. We are also ridiculously religiously schitzophrenic. Our kids are so confused they ask for Hanukah gelt when the advent wreath is lit. And if you want some more to thoroughly confuse them? The Winter Solstice is on Dec 21. Light a Yule Log and do some naked Wiccan dancing. And don't forget 3 Kings Day where the kids leave their shoes out...this is all going to send me to an early grave....I swear.

  5. Happy Chanukah!!

    hope your eye clears up soon - mine always does...

    Aloha, Friend!

    Comfort Spiral

  6. HAH! What a fabulous ritual. I actually posted a recipe for those funky hashbrowns on my blog today. They look so yummy, I'm heading to the store on the way home to get the fixins for them!!! MM MM good!

  7. I mainly have one religion at christmas time. It's food.

  8. Now that I've had a good morning chuckle, I'm ready to face the day. Thanks.

  9. I love that you did this!! awesome.

    we are big fans of Chrismukah over here ;)

  10. Thanks for the laugh. Much needed after a long day pushing Made in Taiwan Nutcrackers on Grandmothers at the suburban ballet.

    Personally, as a C&E Presbyterian, I think that all your kosher tradition is lacking is a pickle and Adam Sandler's lyrics.

  11. Really, I try to celebrate as many holidays as i can find (The Hindu one that comes somewhere in the fall is a particularly good one). Food of course is the beckoning siren that lures me to any festival with good and interesting food.

  12. Oh I LOVE this post. I tried to convince my parents to celebrate Hanukkah since 60% of my high school was Jewish. I thought I had a valid argument about learning more about the faith. My parents suggested I start learning about our own faith, Catholicism, since I only go to church on Christmas. It used to be Christmas and Easter, but Easter if filled with kids hopped up on sugar and all the kids running around in pinks and blues sparks tends to spark the epilepsy which only comes out when kids are around. I'm jealous that you are more fun than my parents were. Happy Hanukkah!

  13. I love it! Dreidel dreidel is what I would have come up with as a prayer. Glad I'm not alone in my confusion!

  14. I love the santa!! Do I ned to be jewish to don one of those on my christmas table?

  15. Did you make the sign of the cross before you said your dreidel prayer? Because that seems the most logical thing to do in this case.

    Happy Hanukkmas.

  16. We also have a menorah, even though we are Christian. We don't light it (although we might when the kids are old enough to ask about it). Why do we have it? Well, last I checked, Jesus was jewish. He celebrated Hanukkah, and we have friends who celebrate it. So for me, having the menorah is a nod to that holiday in memory of Jesus and for our friends.

    Happy Holidays to you and yours!

  17. Awesome, I've always wanted a menorah and now I have an excuse. Thanks.

  18. Way to share the Hanu-karma, Uncool!!

    You know, J.O.Y. is just OY with a jump start.

  19. To be honest, I'm down for anything that involves fried potatoes and sour cream.

  20. Our house is just as confusing - a Christmas tree outside and a menorah inside. I've been a bad, bad Jew the last few decades, but this year finally decided I needed to start introducing my kids to the religion so they know there's more than one out there.

  21. FRIED POTATOES AND SOUR CREAM? My ass screams no but my mouth says yes, yes, yes!

  22. I laughed my way through this whole post. The image of you guys just saying, "sure, we'll try out a new holiday, why the hell not?" just cracked me up.

  23. Will you also celebrate Kwanzaa? Or, even better, how about Festivus?


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