After so many years of competition, I think it’s time I come clean: I never thought we were rivals. You and me – we were created at different times in history. I was established in 165 BC and you, in 336 AD, 500 years later. I was established as eight days, and you, as one. I was made for gelt, and you for gifts.
I don’t know who decided that we were competitors, but I sure never did. I never told anyone that Santa wasn’t real, and I hope you won’t tell anyone that Christmas is more exciting than Chanukah. I’ve noticed, over the years, that malls and banks have put up my paraphernalia alongside yours, but I want to make it clear that I never asked for that. I don’t need non-Jews to acknowledge Chanukah publicly, because what I want is for Jews to celebrate it publicly, feeling safe to light their menorahs at their windows without fear of anti-Semitism, and without feeling like it simply isn’t bright enough or shiny enough for the holiday season.
Christmas, I’m a live-and-let-live kinda holiday. You do you and I’ll do me. You do tree and I’ll do menorah. You do ham and I’ll do latke. You do tinsel and I’ll do… none.
The irony is this: Passover and Easter have more in common than we do. Have you noticed that Easter comes out at a different time each year? That’s because it is profoundly tied to, of all things, Passover. Yet somehow during the spring I don’t feel the same comparison that I feel with us. I don’t feel that stores and malls have to make it “even-steven.” Because Easter and Passover celebrate vastly different things, and they are vastly separate holidays.
So why can’t we have that kind of relationship? It’s actually hard for me when the holidays come out concurrent as they do this year (good for vacation schedules, but hard for me). Because I’m not your twin brother and I don’t want everyone looking at us, comparing and contrasting.
Jews do this too! “But where are the Chanukah cookies? And where are the Chanukah decorations? And where is the Chanukah wrapping paper?” Why? Why do we insist on this tit-for-tat sameness? I appreciate them having my back, but still. Is it because you have become so commercialized and so we end up feeling left out? Why should our esteem come from what corporate entities do to make sales?
When Jews feel I’m getting short shrift, here’s what I want them not to do: look at you to get ideas for how to celebrate me. Here’s what I want them to do instead:
Learn about me. Read books and articles about me. Watch videos about me. Buy or create menorahs. Buy candles or olive oil. Create a beautiful display at the window for all to see to fulfill the Talmudic teaching of “pirsumei nisa,” publicizing the miracle. Talk to their kids and family members about the historical significance and spiritual lessons. Learn Maoz Tzur – all the words – and discuss what they mean in the context of Jewish history. Invite friends and family over for dinner and make latkes and serve doughnuts and discuss the miracle of the oil. Give gelt and learn why Jews give gelt on my holiday.
Because when Jews’ lives are rich and full with me, and with Jewish traditions, and scholarship, and wisdom, no one will need to do a side-by-side analysis of us, and try to evaluate who comes up better.
We can co-exist, Christmas. I know we can. I don’t want to compete, and I don’t want to be rivals, and I don’t want anyone to compare. Peace?
All my love,