Thursday, December 8, 2016

Confucius Says: I Have No Idea What to Cook for Hanukkah

I have a problem. And, if you usually host a first night of Hanukkah celebration, I’m guessing you have a problem, too.

Hanukkah this year begins on Christmas Eve. So as I prepare my menu for the first night, I find myself wondering: Latkes or kung pao?

Before we dive into the sweet-and-sour meat of my problem, first let me be clear that I don’t think Hanukkah is something special. It’s a weird little commemoration of a short-lived military victory that pales in comparison to Yom HaAtzmaut in terms of pride and importance – and to Christmas in terms of absolutely everything else.

And second, we’re all going to have to come clean about Christmas. My rabbi, of all people, last year wrote a Facebook post about our tribe’s devoted rituals surrounding the holiday that began, “I think we should stop pretending that Jews do not celebrate Christmas. We do. Perhaps not with Christmas trees and Jingle Bells. But certainly, we have created our own tradition…”

And yes, the rest of that line read, “Chinese food and going to the movies.”

We Jews love our Christmas rituals. We love Hanukkah, too, but only because of its proximity
to Christmas. Without the Christian holiday as a counterpoint, Hanukkah is basically Veteran’s Day with hash browns.