25 Songs of Christmas (or Hanukkah) – Double play
People of my generation all remember when Adam Sandler released ”The Hanukkah Song. “ It was huge! Suddenly this holiday that only had the dreidel song for little kids had this awesome fun, pop culture touchstone. It put Hanukkah on the map for cool kids in the ‘90’s. Suddenly I realized several of my friends from middle school were either Jewish or came from religiously diverse backgrounds. It made me wonder why that had never come up before. I mean, I was 12 and all I’d gotten in school was some little worksheets and a few vague paragraphs about candles. And this was Tampa Bay, Florida. It’s not like we didn’t have a Jewish population. Why had they been made to sing years worth of Santa songs and I learned my first Hannukah song (A song about how many people were Jewish) from a Saturday Night Live skit?
It seems funny to say now, but it was kind of a radicalizing moment for me. All those names, all that fun, this entire epic holiday I knew virtually nothing about. How had I missed that? And more importantly, why had my Jewish friends and neighbors never had their experiences validated by our shared culture? It made me wonder all sorts of things for the first time, like if we shared so much else about our likes (schools, friends, sports, hobbies), why couldn’t we share cultural experiences, too? Or why haven’t we hadn’t we talk about these things before? Why had I assumed all my friends were Christian? What did we have to gain by drawing those dividing lines? Most importantly, though, it made me wonder what else I’d been missing.
Make no mistake, I had been missing out, too. My Jewish friends had missed out on hearing their songs and stories in communal spaces, but I had missed out on even knowing them at all. My life, my experiences, my faithful understating suffered due to the full richness of this magical season being either ignorantly omitted or willfully withheld. We all suffer in that scenario because we miss out on the unifying threads that can bind us together across differences.
I’m trying to do better for myself and for my family. For the last six or seven years, we have shared our holiday traditions with our Jewish friends. They decorate our Christmas tree with us; we light the menorah with them. They hunt for Easter eggs with us, we celebrate Passover with them.
When you open yourself up to those sorts of encounters, it’s impossible not to realize we have more in common that we have diving us. It doesn’t matter if we celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, or Solstice, we people of faith are all searching for light in a world that too often glorifies darkness. The light of a star, the lights of a menorah, the lights that guides us out of our exile, the light returning minute by minute, we are bound together by light and love.
So today you get two songs.
The first is the song that shone a light into my cultural darkness.
The second is my favorite of the many fun Hanukkah songs that I’ve learned since then.