Sunday, December 17, 2006

On happy holidays

Okay, so please be so kind as to allow me a brief rant.

I don't know where Jewish people go to decorate for holidays. I'm assuming they do, because I've seen lovely homes decorated tastefully and not-so-tastefully for the winter Festival of Lights, and I'm sure that they all didn't hand-make their menorahs and lighted stars of David and six-foot inflatable lawn dreidels from bits and things they found around the house.

Where they got them, though, I don't know. Because when I went out today a-hunting for materials for my office's holiday cubicle decorating contest, I found... Christmas stuff. Christmas stuff everywhere. There were the more ecumenical Christmas trees and Santas Claus, but there were tons of religiously-specific objets as well - angels, nativity scenes, plastic light-up shepherds and animatronic twinkle-light sheep. Just about anything you could hope to find to tacky up your house and/or lawn in red and green was available anywhere you chose to look.

Hanukkah stuff? Not so much. Or, to be more accurate, not at freaking all. Two crafts stores had precisely nothing. The local Party City had bags of gelt for a very affordable 50 cents, dreidel stickers, and star-of-David napkins and paper plates. And Target, the last place I looked before I got fed up and went home with a can of hair mousse and a bottle of diet root beer, had one end cap of cheap Hanukkah goodness.

The end cap, for the retailly uninformed, is those three shelves at the tip of a long stretch of shelves, offering possibly eighteen square feet total of display space facing out into the main aisle to catch shoppers' eyes. In this case, shoppers looking for Christmas bows, ribbons, stockings, wrapping paper, cards, ornaments, garlands, wreaths, lawn decorations, lights, and musical dancing snowman figurines were likely to miss the one five-by-three-by-two selection of menorahs (one silvery and art deco, the other cheap, plasticky, and multicolored), candles, plastic dreidels, party invitations (with star of David, of course), and two kinds of wrapping paper. All told, more display space was devoted to humorous birthday cards specific to one's grandfather than to a holiday that is celebrated by 14 million people worldwide and lasts approximately four times the length of Christmas (counting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).

It struck me, as I stood staring at the cheap foam dreidel stickers destined to be a gift to some poor kid from that aunt who always thinks he's four years younger than he really is, that Jesus, as a Jewish man in common era, would have probably celebrated Hanukkah in the winter. He certainly wouldn't have been celebrating his own birthday at that time, since archaeologists and historians have shown that he was actually probably born sometime in June, the holiday being pushed back six months by the Christian religion to overshadow and incorporate pagan solstice observances of the time. But somehow, it's good enough for Jesus, it's good for the Hebrew children, but it's not good enough for the retail buyers at Target.

Maybe there's a special Jewish decor showplace that, as a Catholic, I know nothing about. Maybe if I called Temple Beth-El up the street and asked where they got their decorations, they could go on for days about the Jewish Decorating Warehouse off of 280 that's packed floor-to-ceiling with tasteful decorations in shades of blue and silver. Maybe I'm making something out of nothing. But the next time I hear someone bitching about the "War on Christmas," I'm going to chloroform them, stuff them in the trunk of my car, drive them out to Target, and slap them awake in front of the one tiny, pathetic, pitiful end cap of Hanukkah-themed crapulence that is the entirety of Target's seasonal observance for members of the Jewish faith. And if that doesn't convince them that Jesus isn't going anywhere, I'm going to tie them up with tinsel garland and leave them in Bedding and Domestics, then head off for latkes and a bottle of Manischewitz with my friend Sarah. Because wherever it is she gets her decorations, she sure knows how to party.

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