Saturday, December 8, 2012

No Chanukah Songs, Please

Seeing a plethora of Chanukah songs recently posted by an online enthusiast made me realize the awful truth about all of them.  As  with everything else about Chanukah when it is blown up in  a desperate attempt to put it in the same bracket as Christmas, it comes up short. There are hundreds of years of Christmas carols -- enough to suit any taste -- and some of them remain musical delights. Now, I'll make no arguments for "Christmas-related songs"of the "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" stripe, but on the whole, Christmas carols have that quality of time-tested music: you find yourself humming them.

Not so with Chanukah songs. I'm pleased to see that there's no ancient tradition involved in "I Have a Little Dreidel" because I've disliked it almost as long as I've abhorred dreidels themselves, and the idea of enjoying a stupid gambling game as part of the holiday. Chanukah also presents one with the unhappy prospect of consuming latkes, potato pancakes fried in oil, and greasy at best, inedible at worst.

Even the ancient sages who decided what went into the Bible, and what didn't, had a problem with Chanukah. The Books of Maccabees, all three of them, were relegated to something called the Apochrapha, which is sort of like an Appendix to the Bible, as in not ready for prime time. So while I think those conservatives who bemoan a so-called "war on Christmas" are overstating their case by a lot, I do find myself agreeing with much of a piece Ben Stein wrote in which he proclaims that as far as he's concerned, he's got no problem with calling it a Christmas tree, since that's what it is, as opposed to a holiday tree.

Even our rabbi--when I was growing up--let down his hair where the futile and misguided effort to equate Chanukah in stature with Christmas was addressed.  He laughed at Jews who seemed to want to decorate "Chanukah bushes" in lieu of lighting less-prominent menorahs. Yes, it remains a minor holiday, and since there are High Holy Days and Festivals, it is not at all dismissive to describe it as a third-level holiday. And there's no such thing as a good Chanukah song.

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