Black, Gay, and Jewish: The Hanukkah Addition

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Black, Gay, and Jewish: The Hanukkah Addition

A funny thing happened this year, I forgot about Christmas. I know that it's impossible to not know that it's Christmas. The Target on Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn started putting up Christmas decorations before Halloween and some retailers are already playing Christmas carols. It's possibly the fact that I went from working in clothing retail to home wares and we're thankfully not rushing around since August worrying about how we're going to beat last Holiday's dollars. It could very well be that I'm starting to think like a Jew.

Earlier in the week on my personal blog I wrote about a heated debate my girlfriend and I had about Christmas. Believe it or not, it was my Jewish girlfriend who was defending Christmas and this Jew-in-Training with the box full of ornaments to donate before December 25th ready to put it aside.

The way that I see it, Christmas doesn't "belong" to me any longer. Without sounding preachy-the majority of the world has forgotten, or chooses not to acknowledge what the Holiday actually means. This was the cornerstone of our debate. As an Ex-Christian I find it hard to separate the whole birth of Christ, God's son, the Messiah bit. I can't separate the fact that gift-giving comes from the gifts the Three Wise Men brought the infant child. My hard-wired brain can't forget the immaculate conception, the visiting angels, the King's decree, the finding no place to stay. I cannot celebrate Christmas and not think about those things.

My girlfriend, raised in Christian, conservative, Republican Dallas, TX as the only Jew for miles (as she saw it as a kid) only knows Christmas as the time when she got presents from her Christian family, a time to be with family, a day off school. The Christ part of Christmas was not a part of her celebration. For her Christmas is about consumerism, arguable for much of the world it is. Still, I cannot separate them and therefore find it personally inappropriate to celebrate the day, as a Jew.

This year I will be doing tikkun olam, or helping to repair the world, on December 25th by giving my time to a soup kitchen in NYC. From now on, Christmas will always be about great memories for me. It will be about being thankful for having the day of work, and according to my girlfriend, it will be a day when we will have time with family to have dinner. The compromise to that is that there will not be presents exchanged, there is no Santa Claus (sorry unborn children) and there will be no tree. The deal was I'd give her Christmas dinner so long as she gives me 100% observance of all Jewish Holidays, including Shabbat.

Something I learned early in my Jewish study is that Hanukkah is not a major holiday. The reason I knew about it, and the reason so many Christians know about Hanukkah has a lot to do with Adam Sandler, and a little to do with it's proximity to Christmas. If you ask the average Christian to name a Jewish Holiday Hanukkah would most likely come out first. I know it did for me.

I gotta tell you, though, it's not my favorite Holiday. I'm looking forward to finding the perfect menorah for my apartment. I'm looking forward to thumbing through my Syrian Jewish cookbook for non-Ashkenazi Jewish foods (no offense to latkes), I'm looking forward to our Hanukkah party, and I'm looking forward to being able to recite the blessings by heart to enjoying the glow of the candles on the last night. It is the rituals that I love about Hanukkah rather than the story behind them.

I could be attached to it because it allows me to feel the "Holiday" spirit in a way that I'm accustomed to. Truth be told, the whirlwind between Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot were great for me and felt like Holiday Season. Hanukkah feels like a time to spend with friends and family and enjoy food. Hanukkah holds a place in my heart because I have two years of Hanukkah memories with my girlfriend. Hanukkah, more importantly the other holidays will be the new memories that I make. It feels special because it will be my winter Holiday from now on and this year, I'll be doing it as an almost Jew.

...Just in case you forgot, Hanukkah starts at sundown on December 1st this year, it's early Wink