I remember as a child the inundation of X-Mas Spirit after Macyâs Thanksgiving Day Parade. Already in the parade, an air of X-Mas was apparent. But no one dared to declare the start of X-Mas marketing till the gravy had congealed, and the stuffing demolished. Sadly those days are gone. As I walked into a local Starbucks for a meeting, I was struck in the face by a large, white, X-Mas decoration hanging from the door. Once inside, my familiar Starbuck experience was replaced by winter-wonderland, replete with wreathes and reindeer. I began to reel and waver, the room was spinning, I just about passed out, only to be supported by my friend. Oh, to be Jewish in the Diaspora, in Golus. Just when you think that you have been immunized, the whole monster virus mutates, once again overcoming your self-defenses.
This year X-Mas began November 1st, just after Halloween (based on the pagan Celtic day of the dead) was cleared from the streets. The candy not yet consumedâadvertisers, retailers, propagandists, were already hawking X-Mas . Mass materialism, consumer addition, how long can people continue to replace meaning with tchachkes? And what of Thanksgiving, a truly universal holiday that Jews can celebrate in tandem with their gentile neighbors. A holiday which actually can carry meaning and good-will to our fellow humans. A holiday which does not require expensive credit card bills spent on narrishkeit (nonesence). A time to volunteer at the soup-kitchen, a food drive, or another civic event aimed at sharing the wealth. It seems that Santa has run his sled over the turkey. The pine needles are sticking into the pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving is just a day of football and shopping for X-Mas presents.
To nag, alas, is very Jewish. Yes, there is what to complain about. However, there is a silver ling, so to speak. An opportunity to reflect upon the nature of being Jewish in exile, a Jew in golus.
Once upon a time, gentiles victimized Jews during the holiday season. X-Mas , New Years, and Easter, offered kick-the-Jew season. This kicking sometimes escalated into full-blown pogroms. It was evident that we were less than wanted. And since the gentiles didnât want us, we didnât want them. North America 2004 presents a radically different model for being Jewish vis-avis this gentile world . They love us to death. Menorahâs and Chanukah decorations coexist with X-Mas decorations. Small Jewish retail-ghettos in stores offer random and silly Chanukah tzachkes, like small unisex bears with tallesim and kippahs. Chanukah retailing, marketing, tzachka-ing blazes new and creative ways to separate Jews from their gelt, and Chanukah from its meaning. The brilliant scene at the end of the Hebrew Hammer where the villain asks âWhat is the meaning of Chanukah?â? The Jewish hero stumbles, falters, stutters. This bold-biblical brother, defending the Jews from the goyim in the chood, cannot come up with the meaning of Chanukah, though he risks his tuches to save it.
Since I lack the purchasing power to alter the marketing strategies of the major retailers and advertisers, it is unlikely that I can have any major affect on the current trend to make X-Mas a season starting after Labor day. Therefore I must suggest other ways of dealing with this maniacal nuisance, this nemeses of Jewdom, this killer of Thanksgiving, this false messiah of credit.
Besides the obvious alternatives, like living in Monsey, New York (which we tried), or moving to Israel, I want to offer some practical ways of dealing with this mega-trend without relocation. Mind you, these are only cures to the symptoms and not the cause. They are inoculations against the virus, but offer no cure, and are not 100% effective. True insulation from the juggernaut is simply not possible without retreat to a mountain survival bunker in Idaho.
1) By Chanukah CDâs and play them while you drive, study, or cook.
2) Study about the deeper meanings of Chanukah in The Book of Our Heritage by Eliyahu Kitov, Feldheim Publishers.
3) Plan many Chanukah parties.
4) Attend many Chanukah parties.
5) Have a HUGE shabbaton (this year X-Mas starts Friday Night).