It happens every few years. Christmas and Hanukkah occur at the same time leaving families like mine with the vexing issue of how much surface space to grant each holiday’s symbols.
At first blush, the Christmas tree has a built-in advantage being taller and broader than a menorah, unless, of course, one installs a traditional candelabra that’s roughly the size of street lamp. Such a flaming behemoth is possible, but if it’s anything like the street lamps in our community, there’s no chance they’d stay lit for 8 crazy night, or even a long weekend.
Christmas seems to require a lot of hanging stuff. There are ornaments and tinsel on the tree, wreaths on the front door and smaller ones on the walls. I’m guess one of the Three Wisemen worked for the power company, because who else would gin up a scheme to bump up their Christian customers‘ bills by finding a reason for them to burn up megawatts by hanging a billion little lights on one’s dwelling and tree.
At one time, as a Member of the Tribe, I took umbrage that Hanukkah was totally overshadowed by Christmas. As my Protestant wife constantly reminds me, “you keep telling me Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday, so stick a latke in it and relax.” Well, that’s totally true, but my riposte reminds her how the world goes bananas with over the top decorations, songs, sales, commercials and fruitcakes over a holiday celebrating the birth of a person in December that actually occurred in the summer. Apparently, this is done because who ever dreamed of a sunny Christmas? Indeed, celebrating Christmas when its triggering event really happened, would screw up a songbook full of odes to winter and snow and sleigh bells. Besides, Santa would have to change his mode of transportation to a Ski-doo, putting innocent reindeer out of work, in favor of a pod of grinning porpoises.
Hanukkah? It happens the same time every year on the Hebrew calendar on the days the defeat of the Maccabees and the miracle of one night’s worth of oil lasting 8 really happened. But since that calendar is based on the orbit of the moon around the Earth, the months are only 29 days and you add an entire month during leap years, so that’s why it seems to jump around our Gregorian calendars.
Getting back to the original premise, the holiday that’s celebrated months after the event it marks gets lots of stuff and is a major contributor to the bottom line of millions of businesses. Hanukkah, is celebrated when it really happened, but gets a candle holder and maybe those cardboard letters that spell out “Happy Hanukkah” you string across a window. Merchants selling said cardboard letters and boxes of candles make a few shekels on the day, as well as delis hawking potato pancakes
We do our best to give each holiday its proper due in our house. There’s no disputing Christmas, regardless of spiritual and commercial timeshift, is more demonstrative. Hanukkah, with its eight flaming sticks of wax, has a potential to be more destructive. Nevertheless, it make perfect sense for our menorah to live peacefully next to a Christmas symbol that, in another language, could very well be a landsman…you know..Tannenbaum. Nooooo?