When I was about six or seven, I suddenly became cognizant of the glaring differences between Christmas and Hanukkah. Before then, I took great joy in spinning the dreidel, happy just to win a few coins or Hanukah Gelt (chocolate wrapped in gold to look like coins). A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top; each side bearing a Hebrew letter, played during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. I lovedspinning the top and singing, “Oh Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay…”
Wait– (Sounds of a record scratching to an abrupt stop.) There I was, playing with a clay top for a few chocolate coins, which taste like wax, by the way, while my friends were playing Monopoly – with real money; collecting $200 each time they passed GO while they test drove their new Sting Ray bikes!
Why didn’t Lite Bright let me see the light? Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights is about Maccabee soldiers who fought a battle, I guess in what could have been the dark, and, how there was only enough oil in the Temple’s eternal light to last for one night, but miraculously, it lasted for eight! Christmas is about celebrating the birth of a baby boy who grew up and made his mother proud. Now, maybe if Jesus had become a Maccabee rather than a God, I could have perhaps seen why people would want to compare the two holidays.
Back in the 1970’s, commercialization was still in its infancy. We only had a few channels in which to watch commercials for the latest and greatest toy or gadget. Today, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without an iPad or a trip to Tahiti brought to you by no less than 110 channels and hundreds of websites on which to do your holiday shopping.
So there I was, just a kid who suddenly realized there was a benefit to celebrating Christmas—big ticket items. While my brothers and I each got a small gift each night for the eight days of Hanukkah – what is called a “stocking stuffer” for those who celebrate Christmas, kids in the neighborhood called me over to their house the day after Christmas to show off everything from a Big Wheel, to a new television with a remote and 11 channels, rather than the 5 we got.
We just celebrated the first night of Hanukkah this year with my family. And you know what my niece got? A hand-me-down laptop and Hanukkah Gelt. And guess what? She was thrilled! Not about the Gelt… it still tastes exactly the same: like wax! “Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel…”