I'd like to wish everybody a joyful and blessed Chrismukkah. And to everybody who objects to Chrismukkah, I wish you the very best as well: Anti-Chrismukkah polemics are for my money the best kind of polemics—the kind you don't have to bother reading. (If you want to read some anyway, try here, here, here, here, and here.)

My sympathies are torn here between an instinctive support for anything that gets more Americans spending money on frivolous celebrations and sympathy for religious organizations that want to keep their holidays intact. And considering how Rankin and Bass took the centuries-old legend of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and commercialized the hell out of it, I'm sympathetic to concerns about selling out the holidays. Since nobody is forcing anybody to do anything here, I'll split the difference and revert to my previous holiday good wishes.

My purpose here is more nefarious: We all know the dirt on Christmas (It's really just a co-opting of the Solstice, there's no evidence Jesus was born in December, there's plenty of evidence they got the birth year wrong, Jesus probably never existed, Santa Claus was invented by the philosopher Josephus, blah blah blah). But what is the embarrassing truth about that other C Word, Chanukah? The conventional wisdom at Blessed Sacrament School, which I suspect was just an anti-Semitic slander, was that Chanukah was a minor holiday more on a level with our own Feast of St. Blaise than with the really major Jewish holidays like Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Good Friday, and that it was blown up as a competitor to Christmas. What is the actual status of Chanukah in the ranking of high holy days? Is it even a high holy day? And what's a high holy day anyway?

Wanted: Commenters who can expound on when Chanukah got beefed up, what calendrical tricks are needed to make sure it always falls in the same period in December, whether we can look forward to a Catholic/Protestant split over Chrismukkah, since the Book of Maccabees is included in St. Jerome but not in King James. Much less wanted: Commenters who can expound on The OC and why it's inappropriate to create holidays out of television shows.

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  1. Forget all that. Just celebrate Festivus. It’s a Festivus for the rest of us.

  2. I’m celebrating St. Alvistide.

  3. Quinn: Okay, but we never do a big Alvis-time thing.

    Debbie: Because it’s offensive to non-alvians.

    Murphy: Non-alvian? Who the hell’s non-alvian?

    Quinn: Only about a third of the crew is Alvian sir.

    Murphy: C’mon. Now that’s just crap, right?

    Debbie: About 20 percent are Shiekra, 15 percent are Mandu…

    Quinn: Six percent Hempist, two percent Krebbish and um…

    Murphy: Bleah, bleah, bleah – the Krebs already had their Alvis-time.

    Debbie: The Nine Nights of Krebula?

    Murphy: Yeah – nobody busted their chops.

    Quinn: Because religious tolerance is a mainstay of the Sealab charter.

    Murphy: And we had a special menu for a whole month for the Shiekra’s little dealie.

    Debbie: Uh, do you mean Shiekradon?

    Murphy: Whatever.

    Quinn: The Shiekras fast during Shiekradon.

    Murphy: Yeah, and we had tons of leftovers.

  4. Io Saturnalia!

  5. The modern Mars Day is celebrated on the winter solstice (which is completely ahistorical).

    Devotees of the god exchange gifts and drink champagne (from Champagne, not the California crap). It is traditional to add a new item to your home’s shrine to Mars (pieces of shrapnel, some dirt from a famous battlefield, a small statue of Joan of Arc, etc.). Clashing of arms is optional (it annoys the neighbors).

  6. In orthodox Judaism, Channukah is a third string holiday. The “Yamim Noraim” (“Days of Awe”, which I think correspond to “High Holy Days”) are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Then there are the other Biblical holidays, the “Shalosh Regalim” (Pesach/Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot). During these holidays (or parts of them) the Sabbth rules mostly apply, and Jews may not work, drive, etc.

    Then come the Rabbinic level holidays. Hannukah and Purim. (Although Purim is in the Bible, and Hannukah is in the Apocryphal Book of Maccabees).

  7. I celebrate Shaven Yak day. Y’all are heathens.

  8. Yeah, in the rest of the Jewish world Channukah (pronounced KWan-za) isn’t nearly so big a thing. It started to be beefed up when Hallmark, Sears, et al began to commercialize and secularize X-mas (pronounced KWan-za) so the minority religions were left out. Traditionaly no gifts are given on Channukah, just fried jelly doughnuts and gambling money. The gifts holiday is actually Purim (which for my money is the best holiday as getting dressed up and drunk is a mitzvah).

  9. “(from Champagne, not the California crap).”

    So it’s a somber day of atonement, then?

  10. Jon, Nor

    Anyone know what happened to old Cap’t Murphy? Shanks kinda blows.

    And more Hesh. Dear god more Hesh.

  11. Josephus,

    I have the greatest respect for France, one of the truly civilized nations, despite their politics. Reasons to love France and the French, in no particular order follow …

    They (and the Poles!) are the only ones to occupy Moscow in the modern era (and they walked there!). Take that Prussia worshippers.
    If it were not for the French Navy we’d be living like Canadians. Brittania rules the waves my ass.
    The food and drink is wonderful.
    The language is beautiful.
    Even when broken they can produce men lik De Gaulle.
    Even when wrong they annoy all the right people. Freedom Fries indeed.
    The public ceremonies are charming.

    Vive la France! A bas Californie!

    Italy beats the crap out of California as well.

    QFMC cos. V

  12. Not only is Channukah a minor holiday, but it’s entire purpose and meaning is pretty much antithetical to the way it’s celebrated today, and particular to the whole Chrismukkah meme. Here’s the (basic) story:

    The near-east was in the midst of a wave of Hellenization. Greek culture was The Hot New Thing, and leading to all the philosophical, cultural, and scientific advances we associate with Classical culture. The Jews (who at the time were probably Hebrews, not Jews yet) were having their typical, eternal debate over to what degree it was proper to engage with the surrounding culture – do we ignore it, read the books and debate it a bit, see how it fits in with the Torah, or strip off the Yarmulka and Tzitzit, and go play with the pretty boys down at the Gymnasium?

    Into the midst of this, comes King Antiochus of Syria, who invades Judea, forbids Torah study and circumcision, and puts up statues of either Zeus or Apollo in the Holy Temple. Some of the Jews say, “Ok, that pretty much settles the question, then.” and make peace with their new robot overlords. Others, (The Maccabees) grab their swords and head for the hills for a few years of guerilla conflict. They eventually drive out the Syrians and retake the Temple in Jerusalem. They clean it out, ritually purify it, get rid of the statues, and are all set for the dedication, when they figure out that they only have enough consecrated oil to like the Eternal Flame for one day. They light it anyway, yadda yadda yadda, it lasts for the eight days it takes to get new consecrated oil, and we have the (admittedly underwhelming) Miracle of Chanukah.

    Anyway, the point of all of that is that the very foundation of the holiday is about maintaining a unique Jewish culture in the face of pressure to assimilate into a dominant surrounding culture. So taking the holiday, and making it as similar as possible to Christmas, to make the message “we all have something to celebrate at this time of year,” to conflate it with the birth of a false Messiah (not to offend, but from a Jewish perspective, that’s what Christmas is,) is foolish, ignorant, and cultural suicide.

    I’ve been building up that rant for a few weeks now. I think I’ll crosspost it over at my blog ( I’d be happy to entertain comments over there, as well.

  13. If you turn around and reverse “Bah! Humbug!,” you get “Hab! Bug! Hum!”

    So just what kind of special love were Charles Dick-In(s) and Screwge subliminally advocating for the holidays?

  14. *ahem*

    the correct term is hanumas, not chrismukkah.

  15. I for one am not torn in the least. Spending money on frivolous celebrations, is of course a good thing. Religious organizations wanting to keep their holidays intact, not so much. Selling out the holidays is the best thing that ever happened to them

    I once advocated folding all the competing celebrations into the Chrisms holiday. But instead of merging together we seem to be multi-culturally diversifying. Now I celebrate the Solstice (by hanging lights, putting up a tree, and exchanging gifts). I think Festivus and Chrismahanukwanzakah are cool tool. I also think the Chuck Jones animated version of “The Grinch that Stole Christmas” is the ultimate annual TV special of the season.

    To Everyone

  16. Nathan

    Harry Goz, Murphy’s voice actor, died. I think they had his son (who does Shanks now) voice Murphy for a few of the episodes that were already on the table, but they eventually decided to write the character out.

    And for my part, I’m hosting an Alvistide party next week, as soon as I can figure out who to take revenge against.

  17. Why, it was just last year that my brother introduced me to the festival of Ramahannakwanzmas.

    Oh the joyous times that were had!

  18. There was an article in American Heritage several years back that cites post World War II Jewish Identity movements among the previously largely assimilated American Jewish population as the main impetus in the expansion of Chanukah. Pre WWII, trees, Santa Claus, and other more-or-less secular trappings of Christmas had found their way into a lot of American Jewish homes.

  19. Channukah doesn’t always occur in December. Often it falls in November, and it rarely overlaps with Christmas. It has specific dates (25th of the month of Kislev) on the Jewish calendar, which is a lunar calendar. The holiday celebrates the events which took place over 2,300 years ago in the land of Judea, which is now Israel.

    It is certainly one of Judaism’s lesser holidays, being not mentioned in the tanakh, which are Judaism’s main non-legal texts (they include the “Five Books of Moses” (torah), “Writings” (ktuvim), and “Prophets” (nevi’im). It is recorded in the Talmud, which are volumes and volumes of law and commentary by Rabbis from the centuries around 0 CE, who really emphasized the whole miracle of light aspect because they felt the holiday didn’t give enough credit to God, and you can’t do much in Judaism without giving credit to God. Literally, you’re supposed to thank God every time you wake up, eat, enter a room, go to the bathroom, etc.

    When I used to live in Israel, I remember Channukah being a prime vacation time. Kids have the week off from school, but unlike biblical holidays, Jewish law allows for travel and the use electricity on Channukah, so even religious Israelis (there are a few) could vacation.

    In Israel all the kids get for Channukah is traditional foods (potato pancakes, jelly donuts, chocolates), a little money, and a chance to play the dreidel (spinning top). I imagine the commercialization of Channukah was a response by individual Jewish families to the commercialization of Christmas. Christmas is totally infused into out national culture, so most Jews who can afford to don’t want to miss out on the “holiday” joy, only a purchase away…

  20. Why sell out though? My family always celebrated Christmas as a secular American gift-giving day. That way it didn’t conflict with the at home religion and we didn’t feel like freaks at school. Granted, since Islamic holidays move all the way up the calendar, it’s kinda hard to turn Eid-il Fitr to Islamic Christmas.

    Besides, having Christmas in addition to the cash prize Islamic holidays is a double bonus.

  21. My favorite holiday is Simchat Torah, where it’s a mitvah to get stinking drunk, preferably on good Russian vodka. Of course, I’m not Jewish, but Irish, who should have had a holiday just like it. I’m all for sharing in other people’s traditions.

  22. I keep telling you guys, you have to watch The Hebrew Hammer on DVD. (Warning: When link opens you hear gunshots.)

    See, when Santa Claus dies, his evil son Damien Claus takes over and wants to crush and eliminate all holidays that compete with Christmas. So, it’s up to the Hebrew Hammer — sort of a Jewish version of Shaft, the toughest brutha-mensch in the Chood — to save Chanukkah! (With the help of his Afro’ed allies at the KLA, the Kwaanza Liberation Front.)

    “Who’s the certified, circumsized dick who’s a sex machine to all the chicks?”


    “Ayyy-men… Who’s the K— who won’t cop out, when there’s gentiles all about?”


    “Damn right! … He’s a complicated Jewww … and no one understands him but his mother … cause he’s a bad mother–”

    Shut your …” [I can’t make out the Hebrew/Yiddish word(s) that follow … sounds kinda like hoshkavoshkalavah, or bakkalakkadakka, or something like that.]

    Even goyim will enjoy it, even if we don’t get all the jokes.

  23. what calendrical tricks are needed to make sure it always falls in the same period in December

    Since the Jewish calendar is lunar, and since a lunar month is only 28 days, an extra month has to be added every few years to keep the calendar approximately consistent with the solar year. Therefore, all dates on the Jewish calendar fall on different days of our solar calendar but always stay within the same general time period.

    Eric, I always thought of Channukah as a celebration of freedom, but not of nonassimilation per se.

    OTOH, my impression of why Channukah was Christmasized was always more similar to Eric’s view than those who are saying it was a way of actually fending off assimilation or competing with Xmas. I always figured it was mostly the result of Goy guilt over having all the fun. But then, that was just an impression and a figuring and not based on anything studious.

  24. cdunlea,
    Oh yeah that’s just what the Irish need, an excuse to get stinking drunk.

  25. Eh, at least it takes the spotlight off of the know-nothings who annually complain about seeing “Xmas” in place of “Christmas,” and don’t understand why it is.

  26. Stevo–

    I second that recommendation, particularly how his mother denigrates the Hebrew Hammer. “So you saved Chanukka, so what? It’s not even one of the high holidays!”

  27. Phil,

    You know, I was listening to some AM radio religious programming and the preacher was just going off on that same thing.

    I guess he doesn’t know the X stands for the Greek letter Chi.

  28. “And what’s a high holy day anyway?”

    When a batch of that skunk green comes rolling around..

  29. I know an embarrassing C word. It’s called cunnilingus (and being caught).

  30. Fabius, just don’t be disrespecting the Napa bubbly.

  31. “And for my part, I’m hosting an Alvistide party next week, as soon as I can figure out who to take revenge against.”

    Will it have lots of ham and pomp?

  32. “Chrismukkah”


    Do you mean, “Chrismachanuqwanzifestakus?”

  33. How about Newtonmas? At least we know Isaac Newton really existed and he was actually born on December 25th.

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