The correct response to Happy Chanukah is not “Oh, yeah, and Happy Kwanzaa or whatever.”

Dear gentiles, when you say Merry Christmas and I say Happy Chanukah, don’t cheapen it by saying, “Oh yeah, and Happy Kwanzaa or whatever.”

First, there is the matter of sincerity. Chanukah is a Jewish holiday that predates Christmas. Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday that started in 1966. I don’t know if I look Jewish, but I certainly don’t look black. When you lump Kwanzaa in with Chanukah I think that you think I am just saying Happy Chanukah to be PC, and that I don’t actually mean it sincerely. Here’s the truth: I don’t say Happy Chanukah to be inclusive or politically correct; I say it because celebrate it.

Second, there is the matter of timing. When you wish me a Merry Christmas and it’s not December 25th, it’s not actually Christmas day. When I wish you a Happy Chanukah, I am doing so on one of the eight days of Chanukah I am actually celebrating that day. When you wish me a Happy Kwanzaa, you are wishing me a happy holiday that isn’t even celebrated until the day after Christmas through New Year’s Day. If you want to wish anyone a Happy Kwanzaa, do so when it’s actually being celebrated.

The best response to Happy Chanukah? “Thank you.”

P.S. For clarification: I don’t go around wishing people Happy Chanukah, but when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas during Chanukah, I say, “Thank you! And Happy Chanukah!” Sometimes I say, “Thank you, and I’m celebrating Chanukah today.” I try various responses, but I prefer to acknowledge my celebration of Chanukah rather than just saying nothing about it. I suppose I am trying to make a statement, but I’m also sincere.


Happy end of Passover 2012 / Pesach 5772

Table set for seder
We held a little seder at home the first night.
Philly Indulgence dark chocolate cream cheese
Sunday morning I had some charoset with a matzah covered with dark chocolate cream cheese.
Matzo ball soup
Sunday night Andy made a delicious matzo ball soup.
Matzah cracker lasagna
Tuesday night Andy made a sumptuous lasagna with matzah instead of noodles. It had beef in it (my idea), so it’s meat and dairy together, but that’s how we roll!
Lemon sponge cake
Friday I made a lemon sponge cake from a recipe on a canister of Manischewitz potato starch. (Friday night I drenched it in an icing made of lemon juice and powdered sugar. Even yummier.)

I’m not orthodox about the way I celebrate holidays. There was the hamburger in the lasagna. Heck, on some Passovers I’ve breakfast on eggs, matzah with butter on it, and bacon. Once in a while, I give into a craving, mix meat and dairy, add bacon, and have it on a chometzdik bun! As I Facebooked Thursday, “Eating a Sourdough Jack during Passover is wrong in so many ways… but it feels so right.” I do try to avoid “cheating” for the sake of observing the holiday, but when I give in, I don’t feel guilty; I just joke about it. The way I see it, even if I’m breaking tradition and joking about it, I’m acknowledging the tradition. The stomping of feet, the smell of sweat breaking out on flushed skin, the fear and hope of people who grabbed what they could and ran out of Egypt without even time to let their dough rise– these “memories” are with me. One might ask, “If you’re going to break the commandments, why even bother?” Well, I would rather observe the holiday by mostly abstaining from chometz (leavening) than by not abstaining at all. This was our Pesach, and I enjoyed it!

Thought for the day: the seder should be a symposium

Happy Passover 2011 / Pesach 5771! Chag Sameach!
Happy Passover 2011 / Pesach 5771! Chag Sameach!

You know how the haggadah says “Drink the first [second, third, and fourth] cup of wine”? Do you gulp it down or take a sip? Every seder I’ve been to, people take a sip and move on. Wait a minute. Let’s read between the lines. Let’s read “and talk” when it says “drink the Nth cup of wine.” The Greek word symposium literally means “drink together.” And the idea of “drink together” is “talk together.” So, instead of taking a sip, why not talk for as long as it takes everyone to comfortably finish a glass of wine? Talk about the meaning of Passover. Talk about Passovers past and Passovers future. How have you been helped up with a mighty arm and outstretched hand? Don’t just eat, pray, sip. Eat, pray, drink! And talk, and drink, and talk.

Just don’t drink and drive. 🙂

UPDATE: I figured this out on my own when I wrote it last year, but apparently I’m not alone. Just now I Googled ‘the seder should be a symposium’ and I found these related articles:

Happy Yuletide!

Yuletide Plates.
Originally uploaded by danielgreene.

I am a Jew who loves Christmas. To me, Chrismastime is a season, not a celebration of Christ. I do not believe that Jesus was the messiah. Personally, I do not believe that there will ever be one Messiah; instead, I believe that each baby born brings with him or her a great hope that he or she may help, in his or her own way, to heal the world (tikkun olam). The Nativity story, while I do not take it as fact, resonates with me deeply because of its miraculous romanticism and its underlying themes. Both Christmas and Chanukah convey a message of new hope, light in the darkness, and the triumph of good in the world in spite of hardship. I believe that the themes of Yuletide can be appreciated by Jews, Christians, and Pagans alike because–face it–both Christmas and Chanukah were religious overlays to Pagan holidays in the first place. So, maybe I should just say that I love the Yuletide! (Even though I don’t identify as a Pagan.)

All labels aside, whatever your religion, may you enjoy this time of year and may it bring you a renewed sense of hope!

P.S. These are the Woodland Santa and Pine Cone plates designed for Sakura by Debbie Mumm (© 1998).

P.P.S. I’m so glad that my new 28mm lens allows me to sit at table and take photos of my food with onboard flash! With my 50mm prime lens, I would have to get up from the table and stand over my food to take a photo of it, and with my 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens, I would have to add even more weight to an already heavy kit (since that lens is so heavy to begin with) by piling my 430EX hotshoe flash on top of it all. So, I now have a lightweight photography setup for going out to restaurants, taking photos at the table of food, friends, and family, etc. I’m excited about the possibilities!