Ever since leaving my New England haven of bagels, brisket, and bar/bat mitzvahs, I’ve had to endure year after year of yuletide “joy.” Currently, I reside somewhere in the Iberian peninsula, and every time I mention Hanukkah or other awesome Jewish holidays, I am greeted with blank stares. It’s almost enough to wage a one-man war against the giggling tyranny of Christmas.
Hanukkah, for those who’ve not heard of this awesome holiday, is an eight-day festival of lights, celebrating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after Judah Maccabee’s revolt. Taking place over eight nights sometime in late November to mid December, Hanukkah commemorates how the big menorah in the Second Temple stayed lit for eight nights, even though there was only enough sacred oil for one night. Every year, Jewish families light candles, sing prayers, eat tasty fried foods, and gamble with chocolate coins and a dreidel, a four-sided top with Hebrew letters.
Christmas, though, has and still does overshadow Hanukkah proceedings, leading to the latter holiday’s having to adopt certain Christmas traditions, like hyper indulgent gift giving. Ever seen a Jewish family with a Christmas tree? That housebound foliage makes the menorah look lonely and small.
So, in my ever-growing attempt to have Hanukkah triumph over Santa and his minions, I’ve compiled a list of eight reasons Hanukkah is far superior to Christmas.
Instead of a giant tree that’ll leave your abode smelling of pine, Hanukkah gives you the menorah, a candelabra with one arm for each night, plus a bonus one for the shamash, which you use to light the others. Basically, you get to be a kid lighting fires and it’s totally allowed. And the only cleanup is a little wax. It’s contained, fiery epic-ness.
Did you know that you could gamble during Hanukkah? Kids and adults get to play with the dreidel, a top with four sides, each dictating a certain gain or loss in a game where chocolate gelt coins are at stake. An easy to learn game with piles of chocolate money? Better than anything Christmas has to offer.
Because of connection to olive oil, one of the big Hanukkah foods is the latke, a crispy potato pancake dripping with frying oil. Nothing in this world is more delicious than a hefty pile of fresh latkes and applesauce. Nothing at all.
Did I mention that there’s eight nights of Hanukkah? This shindig lasts over a week, meaning a special evening each night with family, friends, fried foods, and if you’re ok with stealing Christmas traditions so the other boys and girls at school don’t wonder why you didn’t receive an iPhone 9, eight nights of gifts. Hanukkah sticks around for the right amount of time.
The history of the Hanukkah is basically an epic story about how Judah and his brothers in arms reclaimed their land and right to study their holy texts. There’s the whole miracle of lights business, which is pretty sweet, but celebrating Hanukkah also celebrates resistance and strength against tyranny.
What’s more delicious than potato pancakes? Fried jelly doughnuts to be eaten by the heavenly pile-full. Sufganiyot are heavy little explosions of strawberry jelly fried joy. One of the best of the Jewish holiday foods, they make Hanukkah simply delicious.
You may not be into singing, but Hanukkah prayers themselves are pretty catchy. Also, simple tunes like “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,” are by all definitions better than any of those ridiculous Christmas songs. Also, we have awesome tunes like Matisyahu’s “Miracle” and Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song.”
All Jewish Cuisine!
Walk into any Jewish deli and order a brisket sandwich and try to convince me that it’s not sublimely better than any Christmas food. Christmas dinner has nothing on a good Hanukkah meal, and not only because it smacks of an attempt to relive Thanksgiving but without the obvious gluttonous gusto.
If Six13’s Hanukkah cover of that Taylor Swift song doesn’t convince you that Hanukkah just wins, then nothing will.