DAVID ROSMAN: Hanukkah is not a 'Jewish Christmas' and other matters

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 | 5:17 p.m. CST; updated 11:45 a.m. CST, Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy HanuKwanzaaChristmaYuleSolstice.

J. Karl Miller’s column last week was wonderful. It’s just that his memories do not fit my six decades.

I have a personal dislike for this time of the year for a number of reasons. The biggest is that I never really celebrated the holidays as a kid.

I grew up in my dad’s bicycle store, and even with New York's "blue laws," that was the center of my life from Halloween until sometime in February.

On Christmas Eve, my dad would throw a party for the employees, their families, our family and friends and the customer or two who never quite left the shop at the 3 p.m. closing time.

I would hide in the empty basement where it was quiet.

Four decades later, I have gained an appreciation for some winter holiday celebrations. I have also found a lot of misunderstanding about holiday traditions and their meanings.

First and foremost, there is no such thing as a "Hanukkah bush," and Hanukkah is not the "Jewish Christmas." Sounds silly but I heard both of these statements in the last few weeks from adults who really should know better.

Yes, there are some Jewish families who put up a tree (not a bush) in their homes, but that is a personal preference, not a religious one.

Even atheists have been known to put a tree up in their homes, complete with lights and decorations. We have a white artificial "tree," complete with lights, a golf shoe, food, airplane, dreidel and other irreligious ornaments of the — something, but I am not sure what.

We also have a torah-shaped ornament and a poinsettia, just to balance things out.

Speaking of the dreidel, most do not realize it is used in a gambling game. And Adam Sandler’s "The Hanukkah Song" is not a “traditional” Hanukkah song. It is a comedy routine.

Hanukkah has had candles since the Maccabees. We also light our homes and put up evergreens because of the darkness and gray days, to remind ourselves that the earth’s cycle will soon bring back the sun, the crops will grow and all will be well on our little rock.

Even pagan and non-Abrahamic traditions are incorporated into the holidays. 

There is no war on Christmas, except by those who want everyone to celebrate their version of the seasonal holidays. There is no war on atheism, except for those who are somehow angered when greeted with “Merry Christmas” by total strangers.

The reason this is a problem for either side escapes me, yet I continually run into a wall between the trenches.

When speaking in Kansas City earlier this month, I was confronted by atheists whose response to such holiday greetings was “I am an atheist.” Another wrote that he felt "happy holidays" really meant "happy 'Christian' holidays." Neither saw the anger in their statements.

Responses to my "Happy Hanukkah" are sometimes followed by equal displeasure, some believing that I am somehow devaluing their Christian religion.

Why so much anger when we should be happy that the shortest day of the year is now behind us?

Both the religious and the atheists are sometimes overly protective of their beliefs or nonbeliefs and any deviation seems to cause a conflict — something the season is not suppose to encourage.

“Good will and peace to all” is the usual mantra.

Personally, I enjoy the lights on the buildings and trees, as long as they do not go overboard — such as the light and sound display at Tenth and Rogers streets.

My Christmas Eve will be spent with Kathy’s family, eating, exchanging gifts, catching up and staying out of the way.

I think I will stick to my personal survival tool — a deeply held sense of humor — and look at Jeff Dunham’s irreligious holiday tips until Valentine’s Day.

So, happy holidays — no matter which one you celebrate.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. David’s newest book, "A Christian Nation?" is now available through

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mike mentor December 22, 2011 | 10:25 a.m.

Happy Holidays to you too. I always wondered why we took ourselves so seriously that a Christian offering a Merry Christmas could not be abswered by a Jew responding with a Happy Hanukkah without both receiving the positive messages with welcome. I thought being of the "majority", maybe it wasn't my place to assume how the other side felt...

I remember eating as many latkes (potato pancakes fried in oil...) as I could and playing dreidel for pieces of home made fudge, jelly beans, or pennies at the Bierman's house down the street with little regard that it could be a gateway to dice on the street corner...

My favorite Hanukkah memory though, without a doubt, is a much more recent one. A few years ago, I was able to take a vacation to Miami over the week of my birthday, which just happened to coincide with Hanukkah that year. We were out late, about midnight to be exact, walking down the street in South Beach when we heard a huge commotion off in the distance. As it got closer, we could see some sort of parade or something coming. Loud music blasting out of the cars. Cars decorated like parade floats with huge menorah's on top. And, much to my surprise, Hassidic Jews hanging out the windows and the sunroofs waving and chanting and having the best time. We tried to clap and chant with them for a bit, but had absolutely no idea what they were saying. It was great fun to see someone celebrating their religion so thouroughly and openly. Wouldn't it be nice if people could celebrate what they wanted, when they wanted, where they wanted, without having to worry about upsetting someone else. I say celebrate and those that have a problem with it are the problem!

(Report Comment)
Sally Willis December 22, 2011 | 10:40 a.m.

Happy Day to all of you! What ever you celebrate I hope it brings you joy!

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