Saturday, December 24, 2005

The War on Hanukkah

Let me tell you, I've had about enough of this nation's War on Hanukkah.

It seems like I can't walk down a street this year without seeing evergreens and reindeer, hearing carolers grinding out that damn song about the drummer boy, and being wished a generic Happy Holiday by the clerk at Wal-Mart. What gives? Is it too much to expect the great window displays of Judaica from days gone by? The animatronic children in Marshall Fields' windows playing dreidel on the carpet in front of the fire, surrounded by piles of chocolate gelt and stacks of steaming latkes? What happened to Macy's traditional celebration--where all Jewish kids look forward to wending their way through a mock-up of the hills near Jerusalem before finally crawling into the lap of a costumed Judah Maccabee to whisper him their deepest Hanukkah wishes? What's wrong with America?

The holiday flash is what first attracted me to Judaism--as a convert in the making, I enthusiastically anticipated doing my Hanukkah shopping this year. I looked under "Judaica" in the yellow pages of my large midwestern city, and found.... nothing. Under "Religious Articles" I found 8 Christian bookstores, and one Religious Objects merchant. They do carry menorahs, so I called to ask them what their hours were tomorrow. "Sorry, we're closed on Christmas," they said.

I told a friend I'd buy my wrapping paper from her kid's school this year--but every roll in the huge catalog had holly and/or santas on it. I bought a bag of assorted bows, but it contained 6 red, 6 green, 6 gold...and 2 blue, suitable for the chosen colors of the holiday. I went out to rent a holiday video, to see something affirmative about the Hanukkah message of Jewish strength in adversity. The clerk at Blockbuster seemed a little puzzled by my request. "We've got 'Yentl'," he offered.

This war is insidious. You'd almost think people had forgotten what this season is all about. I wished a stranger a Happy Hanukkah, and he looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about. Even the president has generified his cards to acknowledge the existence of other faiths this season. Come on, George, stand up for Hanukkah, and give us a big SHALOM for the holidays!