Yesterday, December 2, 2005, I wrote that “The Christmas Warriors Are Over The Top”. I expected to get an avalanche of mail criticizing what I wrote since religion is such a sensitive matter.
But to my complete surprise, what I received in terms of comments have thus far been very supportive. And from Christians no less.
One of my Jewish readers (listeners) wondered why I didn’t mention Chanukah Gelt (money). After-all, isn’t getting the “Gelt” a big part of what Chanukah has become?
When I was a little boy back in the 1950’s, Chanukah meant lighting candles every night for 8 nights. It meant eating the most mouth watering greasy potato latkes I could, until my stomach hurt.
And yes, Chanukah also meant getting Chanukah Gelt.
In those days, Chanukah Gelt was usually a shiny nickel, dime or quarter, given to all the children in the house, paid by each adult. Usually at a Chanukah party.
Sometimes the Gelt was chocolate wrapped in gold colored foil, made to look like a gold coin. To us though, it was just as good as money. And even better.
As we got a little bit older, our “richer” relatives gave us each a silver dollar as Chanukah Gelt. But after all was said and done, Chanukah Gelt never amounted to much more than a token.
I’m 55 years old, and I still have much of the Chanukah Gelt I was given as a kid. It meant that much to me.
Today, Chanukah has become a bit like Christmas.
A dollar gift for lighting the candles is an insult. Kids expect and get $20, $50 and $100. And some get presents. And I’ll bet that the money is not saved as a memory. And by the next Chanukah, the gifts received are all but forgotten.
I wonder how many Jewish kids even know the Chanukah story and why we light one additional candle every night for 8 nights?
On the first night we light just one candle from the primary (king) candle. On the second night we light two candles, until on the last night, there are 8 candles and the king, all burning brightly.
Anne and I are both Jewish Atheists who light Friday Sabbath candles whenever we get the chance, especially in the winter when sundown is so early and we are more likely to be at home.
And for Chanukah, Anne and I stand together every night lighting our candles. We don’t miss a night, regardless where we happen to be.
We make the short Chanukah prayer which I used to sing some 50 years ago. We pour some Kosher Concorde Grape Wine which we make a traditional Hebrew prayer over. And we ask whatever powers that might be, to take care of all the people and animals who deserve happiness.
We remember the people and animals we’ve loved and lost. And then we gently kiss, sip the wine, and give our thanks for having each other and everything else around us.
This is how we remember and celebrate our Jewish religious heritage. And we don’t need anyone telling us whether we are right or wrong. Or what to call it.
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