Much has been made this year about the unusual convergence of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and the retail holiday of Thanksgiving. It is a very rare occurrence; this is only the second time it’s happened since Thanksgiving was made a national holiday…by Abraham Lincoln. (A bunch of turkeys then conspired to assassinate him.)
There are so many obvious jokes I could use in this post, like leftovers lasting eight days and nights, and stuffing the turkey with matzoh balls, and watching the football game featuring the Detroit Zions, and how on the day before Thanksgiving, which is the first night of Hanukkah, Jews will have to choose between the usual Hanukkah meal of brisket and latkes and the traditional Jewish Thanksgiving Eve meal of Chinese food.
However, I’m going to leave that kind of easy humor to all the hack bloggers out there.
What I want to do instead is start a movement to put an end to floating Jewish holidays.
Every year, you have to track down the Jewish holidays as if they’re wandering through the desert. They could be almost anywhere! This year, New Year’s was around Labor Day. Other years, it was around Columbus Day. What’s up with that? How am I supposed to know when to go to Times Square?
We really have to get control of our holidays. Like, when the hell is Passover? Ask most Jews and they’ll say, “Oh, sometime in the Spring.” That’s not helpful, chosen people! On any given day in March or April, I need to know whether to hide Easter eggs, hide matzoh, or hide matzoh inside of Easter eggs!
It wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t so many Jewish holidays, all of them floating around the calendar like dust motes. There’s even a website: http://www.isitajewishholidaytoday.com/.
I’m not making this up. In fact, http://www.isitajewishholidaytoday.com is, perhaps, the most straightforward site on the Internet. It delivers exactly what it promises, no more, no less. If you go there, and it’s not a Jewish holiday, you get a white screen with the word “NO” on it. No ads, no links, not a single other word or graphic. Not even a Star of David.
However, the odds are greater than 33% that you won’t see that message. That’s because 126 days out of 365 are Jewish holidays. Really. I counted.
Now, granted, many of those are not your big holidays. They’re the Jewish equivalent of those days when everybody is working, but there’s no mail delivery. For instance, there’s Tu B’Shevat, which is the new year for trees. That’s right; even Jewish trees get a holiday, and, boy, those guys really know how to party, perhaps to make up for when they were saplings and the end of one of their limbs was cut off in a horrible ritual. (This may be where the phrase “nipping it in the bud” comes from.)
And did you know there’s a Second Passover? Yup, and it is, quite literally, for people who missed the first one. You were out of town for those eight days? No problem. Here, have a lamb shank.
Jews have holidays to commemorate everything. There’s a holiday to celebrate when we left Egypt, and another one to celebrate the 40 years we spent afterwards looking for a place to settle down that didn’t have that ugly black stuff oozing out of the ground. There are holidays for when we got the Torah, for when we lost our temples, for when we got our temples back. There’s a holiday for when we avoided a major catastrophe, and another for when we didn’t. There’s also one that’s something about counting wheat–I couldn’t really follow the story there.
One of the reasons so many days are Jewish holidays is because so many Jewish holidays are more than one day. We have two-day holidays, eight-day holidays, even a three-week holiday which is called, oddly enough, The Three Weeks. (I’m not sure, but I think it commemorates the only three weeks in Jewish history when nothing happened to commemorate.)
Don’t get me wrong; I feel strongly that every religion is entitled to all the holidays it wants. All I’m asking for is to nail them down. Don’t let them run all over the calendar like meshuganuhs!
Yes, I know: they are nailed down…on the Jewish calendar. But, frankly, if it really was the year 5774, I think we’d have Obamacare sorted out by now.
So, listen. can’t we get all our major religions together on this? Can’t we at least get our big spring, fall and winter festivities coordinated? It would make things so much easier for everybody.
And one more thing: can we settle on the spelling? I realize that it’s only a phonetic spelling of a Hebrew word, but is it Hanukah, Hannukah, Hanukkah, Chanukah, or “that one with the menorah?”
See you soon, and happy holidays…whenever they may be.