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Why do secular and non-observant Jews love chanukah?

That’s an easy one, because you don’t have to do anything!

Unlike most of the other holidays, the requirements to celebrate chanukah are something everyone can do, be joyous, light the menorah say some blessings and eat oily foods, easy stuff – especially if you don’t keep much of anything else. Add to that, the fact that even the most secular Jews feel a little bit out of place when it comes to celebrating Christmas so you have this sort of Chanukah resurgence to make these secular folks feel like they have a holiday too.

What’s not to love about Chanukah, the davening isn’t that much longer, there are no yuntiff requirements (I’m sure someone will give me a thesis in the comments about all the things you aren’t supposed to do on chanukah, like celebrate our new age Hellinism by watching TV while the menorah is lit) you don’t have to dress up, you don’t have to go anywhere special, save for some lame chanukah parties that were billed as really cool.

If you think about it, it is a bit weird that the one holiday in which all assimilated, intermarried and non-observant Jews come out in full force to celebrate is the holiday that was caused by our own assimilation. Or is it not possible for them to be modern day hellinists when they are in fact celebrating a Jewish holiday which is publicly declaring us Jews, nothing says Jewish more than Chanukah – even though most people keep it as the superficial electric menorah, potato latkes and some dance parties – it still does proclaim them as Jews and despite the fact that they are “assimilated” they are celebrating their Jewish heritage.

Of course, we are all kind of assimilated, most of us have English names (wasn’t one of the Hellenist things to take on Greek names?) we speak like the locals, mostly look like the locals and have pretty much assimilated into American culture – no matter how much we think we retained our 19th century shtetl culture, that culture was also a by product of that current society, I imagine that in 100 years Jews will see all these Jews from the alte heim wearing baseball caps and that may become the frum thing to do.

Chanukah is one of the easiest holidays, even getting the mitzvah of purim is something most people don’t get, of course how many people are persumay nisa and what exactly does that entail, since the 8 days of oil miracle is only one aspect on the story.

FYI: I am coming last minute to NY for my brothers sheva brachos tomorrow and was interesting in putting on an impromptu show on Saturday night, if you have a space, please get in touch with me – frumsatire@gmail.com and if you want to help me pay for my rent, because I just used that money for my last minute flight send all chanukah gelt to my paypal account.

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Esther December 1, 2010, 4:33 PM

    Oh man, seriously last minute Chanukah post, ha? Don’t know about anyone else who frequents the site, but I’ve been waiting. And now that its here, I plan on putting it on my facebook wall and then running out of here so I can get to the lighting store and buy replacement bulbs for my superficial electric menorah 😉

    • Heshy Fried December 1, 2010, 4:36 PM

      I drove 800 miles yesterday, working tonight and flying to NY tomorrow early morning, the post was already scheduled in advance.

      • Yankel December 1, 2010, 5:21 PM

        Did you just say you drove 800 miles?
        How many hours is that?

        • A. Nuran December 1, 2010, 7:07 PM

          12 if you keep mostly legal.
          Longer down Hwy 101
          8 or 9 if you drive like most of my friends

          • Heshy Fried December 2, 2010, 1:57 AM

            I took the 101 from Florence – twas well worth it – I don;t go by hours – I make frequent stops and like to wander

            • A. Nuran December 3, 2010, 2:39 PM

              That’s a beautiful drive. Did you go through Avenue of the Giants?

      • Esther December 3, 2010, 9:42 AM

        So you scheduled it in advance to be posted last minute? 🙂 Whatever the scenario, thanks!

  • Anonymous December 1, 2010, 5:41 PM

    heshy you should make a chanukkah video. those videos you made before were so funny!

  • I Need a Choson December 1, 2010, 5:50 PM

    Wow, that Shmuel Rosenthal is very studly. I wish he would ask me out on a shidduch!

    • Michael Wiseman December 1, 2010, 7:53 PM

      Dude, seriously? Get a life!

    • to: i need a choson December 2, 2010, 12:35 AM

      he would but your picture is ugly

  • Synapse December 1, 2010, 6:09 PM

    Chanukah is super popular with seculars because, in addition to all the factors mentioned here, they simply have no idea what it’s about (dude, it’s about religious freedom and stuff) and don’t care.

    Other than that, what other holiday has presents? No unsightly reminders of Judaism outside of a plain old “candelabra” which plenty of non-Jews also kinda have those, and as backup, you can do it in your house if you don’t want anyone to see it. A 2 second prayer with an easy English song and tasty generic food, it’s quite compatible with the secular life style.

    The next most popular holiday is actually passover, but that’s a totally different story.

  • A. Nuran December 1, 2010, 7:12 PM

    There’s another more important reason in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s why Christians celebrate Xmas in December or January, the old Germanics had Yule and the Swedes have the festival of Santa Lucia.

    Imagine what it was like before indoor lighting and central heating. It’s cold and dark and miserable, and the days aren’t going to get long for a while. You need lights and good food and friends and lots of noise to get through the winter. It’s either that or answer the call of the Wendigo.

    Even today it helps.

  • OfftheDwannaB December 1, 2010, 7:41 PM

    “If you think about it, it is a bit weird that the one holiday in which all assimilated, intermarried and non-observant Jews come out in full force to celebrate is the holiday that was caused by our own assimilation.”

    That’s hilarious.

  • TheHistorian December 2, 2010, 12:42 AM

    The Maccabees were not fighting Hellenism so much as they were fighting the enroachment of Antiochus on their religion. He wanted to desecrate the Temple with idols and have them worship Greek deities. He wanted to ban circumcision and the like.

    The Maccabees also took on elements of the Greek culture. Simon the High Priest was selected because the citizens issued a public resolution, a Greek idea. Rulers of the Hasmonean state and those in the high priesthood often took Greek names, like Alexander Janneaus. You can’t tell by his name, but he was a Hasmonean, not a Greek. Also, how were the Maccabees really upholding tradition Judaism when they installed themselves as High Priests and Kings. When did the Levite line have the right to be kings over the Davidic line which is traced back to Judah?

    The assimilated Jews of today who aren’t atheists still believe in only one Gd that should not be worshiped through idols and will have a bris for their sons. They are hardly comparable to the Jews who wished to turn Judaism into another Hellenistic/Greek religion.

    Finally, why do secular Jews love Hanukkah. Because during Christmas it gives them something to remind themselves of their heritage and it was a holiday they were brought up to love. Why do Orthoprax Jews still follow mitzvot? Why do lapsed Catholics sometimes attend confession or midnight mass? It’s the simple ties of childhood memories and familial traditions.

    • Mark December 2, 2010, 1:04 AM

      Finally, why do secular Jews love Hanukkah. Because during Christmas it gives them something to remind themselves of their heritage and it was a holiday they were brought up to love.

      Not just this, but it is easy, there are hardly any pesky religious requirements of the holiday.

      • TheHistorian December 2, 2010, 12:13 PM

        You bring up a good point, do secular Jews love Hanukkah because its a holiday they grew up loving, like I tried to point out, or because there are no religious requirements?

        Arguably we’re arguing the same point. Jews who gave up religion may have kept Hanukkah because there were no religious requirements and it is around the time of Christmas.

        But that’s not why Jews who aren’t religious today still celebrate because secular Jews don’t care about religious requirements! They could celebrate Pesach and eat bread, mourn on Yom Kippur and still eat, light candles and then go out etc. Religious requirements are never an obstacle, so the point is moot. Your point could explain why religious Jews who deal with all that stuff would like a nice holiday, but not for secular Jews who don’t follow it in the first place.

    • Synapse December 2, 2010, 6:45 AM

      Well to be historically clear, the Greeks weren’t just after the Jews for the hell of it, they were pissed off at the Jews for the amount of trouble the high priesthood was causing (an all out civil war between hellenized Jews and non-hellenized Jews over control of the priesthood), and they basically chose to try and enforce their side (the hellenized one).

      If it’s one thing that’s clear from the story, it’s that internal fights of the Jewish people often drag in major powers and end up creating far bigger problems than they originally intend.

      • TheHistorian December 2, 2010, 12:06 PM

        There was arguably a civil war between Jews and some Hellenized Jews wanted Jerusalem to be renamed Antioch, but Antiochus also hated the Jews. Partially of course because when the jews thought he died they celebrated (because the Selucids had disrespected the Temple.)
        Obviously there was a culture clash between Jews, but I wouldn’t let Antiochus off the hook for the evil guy he was.

    • Catholic Mom December 2, 2010, 12:07 PM

      Lapsed Catholics attend Midnight Mass by the busload for sure, but they definitely don’t show up for confession. For one thing, sort of by definition, they’re not really lapsed Catholics if they do. For another, one of the things they would have to repent of would be being a lapsed Catholic. 🙂

      • TheHistorian December 2, 2010, 12:14 PM

        Lol, I humbly apologize for my mistake. I’m not a Catholic so I wouldn’t know but I thought it might be a good example. You know, the Priest asking when have you last been to confession and the confessor pulling out a calculator, but you know what I mean.

  • FrumGer December 2, 2010, 7:55 PM

    midnight mass now there is a hoot as if he was born on december 25… mithra maybe but yoshkie never..

    • A. Nuran December 3, 2010, 2:44 PM

      Mithraism sounds like a lot more fun. Secret mysteries. Bull sacrifices. Food. Maybe monotheism.

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