Thursday, 12 December 2013
Not to be outdone by the side of the family claiming I'm robbing my son out of his childhood through my anti Santa stance, a member of the other side of the family has recently accused me of losing touch with their side. Why? Because of not celebrating Hanukah with my son. To be precise, I was told I should be displaying more "Zika".
Zika is an archaic Hebrew word, now reserved purely for religious connotations. It stands for "link", in the context of maintaining a link to Judaism.
With Zika in mind, let us have a look at the story of Hanukah. Let us check this missing link.
I will start with the elephant in the room. The only reason non-Jews are aware of Hanukah's very existence is to do with this holiday supplying Christians the fig leaf required for them to be able to force Christmas into our generally secular world. The way it works is simple: by pointing a finger at the Jews celebrating their holiday around the same time of the year, Christians think they can shake away any claim blaming them for forcing their holiday on people who do not share their faith.
As the Jewish ranking of holidays goes, Hanukah is a low order holiday. The reason is simple: unlike holidays such as Rosh Hashana, Pesach (Passover) or Shavuot, Hanukah is not a holiday ordered by God; it is a holiday created later in order to celebrate a historical victory, the victory of the Hasmoneans over the big empire of the time, the Greeks, in what is known as the Maccabean Revolt.
In Israel, probably the only country where Judaism does not suffer a confidence problem, Hanukah is a holiday celebrated almost exclusively by kids. There is a very good reason for that: the kids get a whole week off school while the adults don't get any days off work. Plus, the holiday does come with some nice traditions: you get to light candles every night (read: you get to play with fire), you get to eat jam filled donuts, and - a personal favourite - you get to eat potato cakes.
As you should be able to tell by now, Hanukah is a children's holiday. Personally, I recall celebrating it (mostly in the form of playing with fire) up to my early teens. Never did I celebrate it as an adult, which is pretty much why I do not celebrate it now, which is pretty much why my Aussie son has no clue about what Hanukah is, which is why I'm accused of losing my Zika.
I will go further and argue there are better reasons for not celebrating Hanukah, though. And the best reason is to do with the answer to the question of what the victory celebrated by Hanukah is all about?
Back when I was a child taught at Israel's religion infested schools, I was told the reason for the Maccabean Revolt was to do with the Jews' anger towards the Greeks. Anger caused by the Greeks defiling the Jewish God by placing their idols all over the place. The Jews revolted, and through the power of their God they kicked Greek ass - hence the holiday.
Nowadays I know better. I'm an atheist, and therefore I do not accept this whole "my god is bigger than yours" excuse; in my opinion they are all man made crap. So if we were to take away the godly excuses for this revolt, what one is left with is a successful rebellion by a tribe of barbarians against what was then the most advanced civilisation on earth. Greek philosophy, anyone? Or science? Or the first glimpse at democracy?
So no, historically speaking I do not think the Jews successful revolt was such great victory. Sure, it meant the Jews survived as a religious group, but it was not a great day for humanity. At least nothing I should be concerned with or celebrating today.
Now, I fully acknowledge there is nothing wrong with celebrating Hanukah through the holiday's little traditions. Why shouldn't I let my son play with fire, the way I used to? Or eat donuts? After all, he does have his Christmas tree and he does enjoy receiving Christmas gifts.
The answer there is to do with the culture we are living in. I couldn't care less about both Hanukah and Christmas, but everyone around us seems to think Christmas is the answer to global warming and then some. In this atmosphere, it takes a mighty effort to disconnect oneself from Christmas. Hanukah, however, is on the other side of that scale: without consistent, active effort on my behalf, my son will not even hear of that word. And let me be frank, I am not going to make an effort for the sake of a stupid holiday; I have enough challenges in my life.
My son and I will probably get to play with fire sooner or later. I suspect the context will not be Hanukah; I have the distinct suspicion it will happen when I teach him the virtues of barbecue cooking, Aussie style.
And now I will return to my family. Specifically, the accusation of me/us losing touch with them through not celebrating a Jewish holiday.
Seriously? Is that the reason we are losing touch? A F-ing holiday? If all that is connecting me to the family is our common religion then, boy, are we disconnected!
Allow me to suggest, instead, that there is a much bigger gulf between me and the Jewish side of my family. A gulf for which the Hanukah celebration or lack of act only as a minor symptom.
Image by slgckgc, Creative Commons license