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Done With Chanukkah Before It Has Begun

I had the brilliant idea to pick up the kids from school and get sufganiyot.  You know, get in the holiday spirit.  It’s just not that exciting a holiday unless you really really really love candles.  Like 44 of them.  Do you know what kills a healthy love of candles?  Living for three years in the shadow of the Yankee Candle Factory.  But I digress.

We drove to the bakery and got in the long line.  That was our first mistake.  What we should have done upon seeing the line is turn around and go home.  But we didn’t.  We got in line and waited for a half hour to reach the counter.  THEN we were told it would be a 40 minute wait for the doughnuts.  Wow… 40 minutes for fried dough?  That’s a little steep.  But we had already waited a half hour to learn that so it felt a bit in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound.  So we placed our order and sat down at a table.  The woman working the counter kindly gave us two doughnuts from our order, and we devoured them (but not before I managed to squirt a big blob of raspberry jam on my jeans).

Oh, and did I forget to mention that it had been pyjama day at school, so the twins were sitting in this bakery in their pyjamas?  Classy.

I started reading from Harry Potter to the twins, and after a while, I realized that I had read two chapters.  Two long chapters.  I had been there for over an hour.  So I asked the frazzled woman about my order and she told me it would be soon.  Another 15 minutes passed and I asked another employee about my order.  At this point, the original woman came by to tell me that they couldn’t actually fill the order I already paid for.  Would I be willing to accept a cheaper flavour despite having paid for the premium flavour?  Sure, why don’t you give me a flavour we don’t really want and we’ll be on our way.

She passed me a box and it was… someone else’s order.  So I waited again to return the box with someone else’s order, and finally got mine.  With the jam leaking out of the doughnuts, all over the box.

And now, an hour and a half later, I took my pyjama-clad children back to the car and decided to eat one of the doughnuts on the ride home because I had skipped lunch, not realizing how long the sufganiyot errand would take.  And the doughnuts were raw inside.  Oozy, undercooked dough mixing with the jam.  I sat in traffic and cursed the holiday.

I’ve never been a fan of Chanukkah.  It’s just not my holiday.  It lacks the gravity of Rosh HaShanah or Pesach.  It lacks the fun of Purim or Succot.  It just sort of is; and people try to turn it into something its not.  It’s not the Jewish Christmas.

I’ve been trying to get into the spirit of Chanukkah because of the way it intersects with Thanksgiving this year, mostly because Thanksgiving is a closer holiday to Chanukkah in terms of message.  As I said in that post,

So this is what Chanukkah is about: it’s a somewhat insignificant holiday meant to commemorate the time that King Antiochus instated laws not allowing Jews to practice their religion and the Macabees fought back. It’s a story about guerrilla warfare and a revolution. About not waiting for G-d to intercede on your behalf, but fighting back against injustice. It is about a time when life sucked hardcore for the Jews and instead of putting down their heads and crying, they rolled up their sleeves and restored the Temple.

In other words, it’s a pretty cool holiday on its own, but where gifts and sweetness have a place in a birthday celebration for Christ, presents and candy don’t really commemorate a war. Jews don’t celebrate war victories — recognizing that death is a large part of war — so this holiday is more about relief than outright joy. It would make more sense to use Chanukkah to go into the community and right a few wrongs. Or do a habitat for humanity-like project to fix up a home in need of repair. See, it’s not really a holiday that can be celebrated like Christmas.

Chanukkah is a holiday about fighting assimilation, so it’s sort of weird that a holiday about fighting assimilation has become assimilated in order to be more like the majority holiday close on the calendar. Jews should be proud of the holiday — it’s essentially a story of thanksgiving — and pump up the parts that matter: family, friends, and fried foods.

So I’m trying to remember to give thanks since it’s what I said back in 2008 too:

Personally, I look at the holiday as a kind of Thanksgiving. It is that period of peace that comes at the end of a struggle where you’re simply thankful for what you have. Just as Succot is a harvest holiday where thanks is given for the crops, Chanukkah can be a time of thankfulness — marked by community service, family meals, and enjoying what you already have rather than thinking about getting more.

Right… so… Thanksgiving.  Chanukkah.  A good attitude about an under-loved holiday.  Is that wrong?  To under-love a holiday that did nothing wrong except fall too close on the calendar to Christmas?  Poor Chanukkah.  If it had been set in February, you would have never noticed it.

So happy Chanukkah, everyone.  May your sufganiyot be cooked through and may you always get gimel in dreidel. (Yes, I messed this up the first time around.  That is how long it has been since I’ve played dreidel.)

8 comments

1 Kasey { 11.27.13 at 5:51 pm }

I love this post for a multitude of reasons. Mainly because I am poorly undereducated on the actual meaning of Chanukah (heck I barely can figure out how to spell it correctly so spell check and figure out what I even mean) but more so because I truly don’t think I have ever been taught the meaning. I am not Jewish so I get that there never would be a teaching moment in my family, because my guess is they don’t know what you just taught me anyway, but I know for sure that someday when I have kids I will teach them the true meaning. I may even reference your post for pointers. Fighting for your rights is so important- not only in religion, but as a woman, and as a human. The true meaning should be celebrated more and spread wider to reach those under educated on the subject. I hope that both your Thanksgiving and Chanukah can be celebrated with family and loved ones!

2 Ellen { 11.27.13 at 5:53 pm }

Gimel! You want Gimel, not shin. Hanukkah is no Christmas, but it’s one of my favorites because it’s not very religious. It’s about standing up for what you believe in, winning against terrible odds, and cleaning up and starting over. Good stuff to celebrate.

3 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.27.13 at 7:04 pm }

I don’t really like donuts but I’m wondering if I should try the type that people will wait in line hours for.

I lived near Antakia when we were in the middle east. I wonder if this is where that dude was the king of.

Happy vegetarian Thanksgiving!

4 Sara { 11.27.13 at 9:59 pm }

I usually make sofganiyot at home, and they come out great, but for some reason, I tried hamantaschen instead this year. Big mistake.
They came out terrible, so I’m feeling a bit bah humbug as well.

5 Constant { 11.27.13 at 11:25 pm }

Mel, you are hilarious.

6 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 11.28.13 at 6:09 am }

…not a great start, but I have always loved your confidence with Christmas time. It mirrors in some ways the attitude we see a lot over here from people who have their own holidays at other times of the year to get into.

7 Pepper { 11.28.13 at 12:10 pm }

I’m so sad for you undercooked doughnuts. There is little in life more disappointing than an undercooked pastry for which you have waited hours. 🙁

8 jjiraffe { 11.28.13 at 3:29 pm }

I have a theory that the only people who love Hannukah are children and converts (the loss of Christmas is very tough for a lot of people.) I love it and host it every year. Although making latkes is a giant pain in the ass, I remember every year. My arms are aching from the peeling right now, and I haven’t even started the grating. Blah.

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