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 The Significance of Hanukkah
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Boron10
Religion Moderator

USA
1265 Posts

Posted - 12/24/2006 :  16:08:32  Show Profile Send Boron10 a Private Message
As each year goes by, I become more of a curmudgeon. This time it's the American assumptions about Hanukkah that has me irritable.

People automatically assume, since it's around the same time of year as Christmas, that it's a very important Jewish holiday. It's not. Ok, it is important; but it has nothing close to the significance of, say, Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah.

It is the Christian hubris that has elevated this minor Jewish holiday to something that even many Jewish children seem to think is the most important. This is also perpetuated by Jewish parents who try to pacify their children with, “I know the other kids have Christmas, but we have Hanukkah, where you get eight days of presents instead of just one.”

This time of year, you'll often hear, “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays,” or “Happy Hanukkah” used interchangeably (even “Happy Kwanza” and “Happy Solstice”). In general, this illustrates that some have at least the basic understanding that others don't necessarily share their traditions.

Supposing, for the sake of argument, that we lived in a society in which Wicca was the dominant religion. Samhain, one of the most important Wiccan holidays, falls around the Fall Equinox. In this hypothetical society, All Saint's Day would be elevated to one of the most important Christian holidays, just like Hanukkah in our society. Similarly, the Feast of Saint John is around the same time of year as Midsummer. (I understand that Beltaine is around Easter and that Yule is around Christmas time; but for the sake of my admittedly weak analogy, I hope y'all understand.)

I am not trying to devalue Hanukkah; rather, I am trying to raise understanding of the Jewish faith by pointing out that some other Jewish holidays are far more significant.

Who is at fault for this misunderstanding? We all are. Christians, Jews, Atheists, Wiccans, everybody.

HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 12/24/2006 :  16:51:43   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
I think your observations are interesting and valid. There seems to be a sort of cultural evolutionary convergence force at work, with keeping kids happy being the driving force. Dominant cultures are, well, very dominant.

It seems Islam is fairly immune to this effect. Ramadan, for instance, rotates through the seasons, due to its being set via a complex lunar reckoning.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13463 Posts

Posted - 12/24/2006 :  17:51:34   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message
quote:
Mooner:
It seems Islam is fairly immune to this effect. Ramadan, for instance, rotates through the seasons, due to its being set via a complex lunar reckoning.

Jewish holidays are also based on a lunar calendar, and while around the same time every year, give or take weeks, is rarely on the same day by Gregorian calendar reckoning.

Also, interestingly enough, The Jewish Sabbath, which goes from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown is the holiest day of the year, even though it comes up weekly…

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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@tomic
Administrator

USA
4607 Posts

Posted - 12/24/2006 :  18:02:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit @tomic's Homepage Send @tomic a Private Message
quote:
People automatically assume, since it's around the same time of year as Christmas, that it's a very important Jewish holiday. It's not. Ok, it is important; but it has nothing close to the significance of, say, Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah.

I've attempted to explain this to people and for my troubles been told how wrong I am.

@

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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13463 Posts

Posted - 12/24/2006 :  21:10:32   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message
quote:
Boron10:
It is the Christian hubris that has elevated this minor Jewish holiday to something that even many Jewish children seem to think is the most important. This is also perpetuated by Jewish parents who try to pacify their children with, “I know the other kids have Christmas, but we have Hanukkah, where you get eight days of presents instead of just one.”


It's true that Hanukah can't be compared to the birth of… you know…God, as a holiday. But there is a tradition with Hanukah of giving gelt (Yiddish for money) to the kids. Originally, not more than a few coins. And really, it isn't much of a leap from there to giving gifts.

So sure, Hanukah has become overblown and secularized. But hey, where was Santa when Jesus was born?

If we work from the premise that it's all baloney anyhow, what's the harm? (I mean that from the gift giving point of view.) Both Christmas and Hanukah are cultural events now. They have both become secularized. Giving gifts is the deal now and comparing the actual significance of the holidays is a bit like comparing bullshit to balderdash, from a gift giving perspective.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Neurosis
SFN Regular

USA
675 Posts

Posted - 12/24/2006 :  23:16:54   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Neurosis an AOL message Send Neurosis a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by @tomic

quote:
People automatically assume, since it's around the same time of year as Christmas, that it's a very important Jewish holiday. It's not. Ok, it is important; but it has nothing close to the significance of, say, Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah.

I've attempted to explain this to people and for my troubles been told how wrong I am.

@



Trying to explain things that people "know" are not true is never worth while, but somebody has gotta do it.

Facts! Pssh, you can prove anything even remotely true with facts.
- Homer Simpson

[God] is an infinite nothing from nowhere with less power over our universe than the secretary of agriculture.
- Prof. Frink

Lisa: Yes, but wouldn't you rather know the truth than to delude yourself for happiness?
Marge: Well... um.... [goes outside to jump on tampoline with Homer.]
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beskeptigal
SFN Die Hard

USA
3834 Posts

Posted - 12/25/2006 :  02:04:30   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send beskeptigal a Private Message
I've heard before that Hanukkah was a minor holiday. But it has become more prominent as Jews more subconsciously than consciously seek equality with Christians. Some Rabbi just made a fuss wanting equal time for their holiday at the airport here.

Interestingly, Christmas is only in winter because Christians wanted to overshadow a pagan holiday. Xmas should be in spring when the "shepards were tending their flocks".


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Original_Intent
SFN Regular

USA
609 Posts

Posted - 12/25/2006 :  08:52:45   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Original_Intent a Private Message
I am very lucky in that respects. I work with a Jewish lady from Israel, and with my curiosity of all things diestic, I have gotten quiet an understanding of much of it.

It is actually quiet funny asking her about stories from the OT in the KJV bible. A lot of it is so screwed up..........

Peace
Joe
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13463 Posts

Posted - 12/25/2006 :  10:05:29   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message
quote:
beskeptigal:
I've heard before that Hanukkah was a minor holiday.

Ahhhh, but from the point of view of Jewish children it is one of the fun holidays. (There are others.) And that is nothing new. They have traditionally received gelt and draddles for games (a kind of top) and were generally included in a celebration that wasn't so somber as many of the other holidays. (Try sitting through a Yom Kipper service as a five year old…)
quote:
beskeptigal:
But it has become more prominent as Jews more subconsciously than consciously seek equality with Christians. Some Rabbi just made a fuss wanting equal time for their holiday at the airport here.
From the Jewish perspective, Christmas should not even exist because the Jews do not recognize the Christians messiah. So wanting equal time is rather charitable from the Jewish standpoint. That Rabbi might also have been reacting to the push to remove “happy holidays” and make this an only “merry Christmas” country by Christian fundamentalists and the talk radio nutballs.
quote:
beskeptigal:
Interestingly, Christmas is only in winter because Christians wanted to overshadow a pagan holiday. Xmas should be in spring when the "shepards were tending their flocks".

They have spring covered with Easter. Another seasonal fest that most certainly has its origins well before there were any Christians…

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 12/25/2006 :  11:17:34   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message
Christmas isn't the most important Christian holiday either. In my opinion, the reason the Winter holiday season has overall prominence is naturalistic, at least in parts of the world that are colder and darker this time of year. There have been huge festivals for Winter Solstice since long before Christmas. Being extra charitable and making a point of showing your family and friends that you care about them is best to do at this time of the year because the weather is depressing. So as far as I'm concerned, the religious signifance of both Hannukah and Christmas is overshadowed by the secular needs and desires for holiday hubbub.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

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Edited by - marfknox on 12/25/2006 11:18:14
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beskeptigal
SFN Die Hard

USA
3834 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2006 :  01:58:24   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send beskeptigal a Private Message
quote:
...From the Jewish perspective, Christmas should not even exist because the Jews do not recognize the Christians messiah. So wanting equal time is rather charitable from the Jewish standpoint. That Rabbi might also have been reacting to the push to remove “happy holidays” and make this an only “merry Christmas” country by Christian fundamentalists and the talk radio nutballs.
Here's the CNN report after the trees were removed and replaced following the Rabbi's threat to sue if a Minorah wasn't put up with the trees.


Edited by - beskeptigal on 12/26/2006 01:58:43
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Ghost_Skeptic
SFN Regular

Canada
510 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2006 :  02:18:55   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Ghost_Skeptic a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by beskeptigal

quote:
...From the Jewish perspective, Christmas should not even exist because the Jews do not recognize the Christians messiah. So wanting equal time is rather charitable from the Jewish standpoint. That Rabbi might also have been reacting to the push to remove “happy holidays” and make this an only “merry Christmas” country by Christian fundamentalists and the talk radio nutballs.
Here's the CNN report after the trees were removed and replaced following the Rabbi's threat to sue if a Minorah wasn't put up with the trees.



I notice that the airport spokesperson referred to them as "holiday trees" - which is what they really are - being pagan in origin.

Last year I heard a the front man of a local blues band, Harp Dog Brown and the Bloodhounds wish everyone a merry chistmas and a happy harmonica. That would have gotten the rabbi's knickers in a twist.



"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. / You can send a kid to college but you can't make him think." - B.B. King

History is made by stupid people - The Arrogant Worms

"The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism." - William Osler

"Religion is the natural home of the psychopath" - Pat Condell

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perrodetokio
Skeptic Friend

275 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2006 :  07:27:56   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send perrodetokio a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by marfknox

Christmas isn't the most important Christian holiday either. In my opinion, the reason the Winter holiday season has overall prominence is naturalistic, at least in parts of the world that are colder and darker this time of year. There have been huge festivals for Winter Solstice since long before Christmas. Being extra charitable and making a point of showing your family and friends that you care about them is best to do at this time of the year because the weather is depressing. So as far as I'm concerned, the religious signifance of both Hannukah and Christmas is overshadowed by the secular needs and desires for holiday hubbub.



Yeah! Well, in South America it's in the middle of the summer! You should see the poor bastards dressed as Santa when there's a temperature of 40+ degrees!!! Ha!

Also, people tend to eat festive food high in calories, then they start swetting and sometime pass-out!

It's a crazy, crazy celebration!

Cheers!

"Yes I have a belief in a creator/God but do not know that he exists." Bill Scott

"They are still mosquitoes! They did not turn into whales or lizards or anything else. They are still mosquitoes!..." Bill Scott

"We should have millions of missing links or transition fossils showing a fish turning into a philosopher..." Bill Scott
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beskeptigal
SFN Die Hard

USA
3834 Posts

Posted - 12/27/2006 :  01:38:37   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send beskeptigal a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Ghost_Skeptic

...
I notice that the airport spokesperson referred to them as "holiday trees" - which is what they really are - being pagan in origin.


That was the Port's position, the trees weren't religious symbols and they didn't want to start adding religious symbols with a menorah. But they also didn't want to spend any money in court defending the trees.


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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 12/27/2006 :  02:58:57   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
B10 said:
quote:
Who is at fault for this misunderstanding? We all are.


Don't go assigning blame! Because I'm not to blame for the stupidity of other people!

I tend to ignore religious holidays unless there is a party involved.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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