What are you doing for the holidays? (Eating gumbo, Brunswick stew and vegetarian chili, in between whole batches of kale, swiss chard and lentils for breakfast, trying to keep the diet balanced, you know; drinking $8 cosmopolitans, pretending to be a grown-up, fine wine from Spain or hot tea in the afternoons, perfect for sitting around with a friend cracking pecans and/or finding a good lamp for these dimly lit days and plowing through Saul Bellows The Adventures of Augie March).
What are your plans for Christmas, er, Chanukah, or whatever? (Taking a quiet walk in the middle of the street on Christmas Day, happy for the solitude, just me and the golden leaves of the gingko trees and the remaining blueness of the plumbago plant, just me and the rest of the population that has no nostalgia with Christmas morning, no family history with the gestalt of Christmas).
Got your shopping done yet? (Nope. Too crowded. But I do have a recycling, regifting pile ready for wrapping and distributing).
Chanukahs late this year, isnt it? (Yes. The Jewish holidays are based on a lunar calendar so its always different, but I never remember the first day of the eight-day holiday starting the night of Christmas Day.) All those church sermon topics. My personal favorite: When its not your baby. (Huh?).
All that early New Year proselytizing about going to the gym since in our weight-obsessed society its OK to smoke as much as you want but the notion of putting on a few pounds is tantamount to a major moral failure not unlike a slow self-imposed death, a suicide, since not to exercise is not to take responsibility.
Since Ive fallen off the wagon lately with a swimming routine I thought I would follow forever (hah! so much for forever), I recently popped my head into the gym where I used to work out to see if that might be the route to take, something a little different, come 2006.
But I think not. All those machines and accompanying levers and pulleys looked more like a factory floor than a place of exercise. All those hydraulics. All those legions of thin women with the minimum of flesh (women who probably smoke to suppress their appetites and maintain their svelte figures).
I had forgotten about all the groaning and grunting that goes on in a gym, the utter grimness and near sexuality of the exertion, the sweating and then the stooping to mop the floor. The activity was all so much more public than I remembered. But the TV was a draw; I will admit that. And a dim memory of what happens when the endorphins kick in, the energy that produces.
Nope, theres no mistaking this month. The three shepherds, the star, the theme of hope, the little baby Jesus in the manger, all those years I mouthed the words Jesus Christ when I was singing carols in my pre-politically correct, predominately gentile elementary school because though no one told me so, I didnt think it was right for a little Jewish girl to say those things.
My teachers didnt know how I felt and I wasnt about to tell them and draw attention to myself, an outsider, especially since my school was a couple miles from The Shrine of the Little Flower, where Father Coughlin, a notorious anti-Semite, broadcast his vitriolic radio messages.
They couldnt imagine growing up anything but Christian. To them - and many people, still - the whole world is Christian. The whole world celebrates the baby Jesus and Christmas.
But the question I want to pose - is this: Since Jesus was Jewish, did he celebrate Chanukah?
Did he light the menorah with Mary and Joseph, one candle each night for eight nights, to symbolize the miracle that happened 2,000 years ago when a small band of Jewish fighters - led by the heroic Judah Maccabee - fought back the Greeks - or was it the Syrians? - in their attempt to turn the Jews into idol-worshipping hedonists?
Did Jesus and his family talk about what happened after the battle, about how the Jews found one little vial of oil, enough to light the menorah for one day, only to see the oil lasting eight days?
Did they invite friends over to make potato latkes - traditionally fried in oil, lots of oil - and to exchange presents and to talk about the possibility and the beauty of miracles?
If so, if Jesus did celebrate Chanukah, then why doesnt everyone, Christian and Jewish alike, celebrate Chanukah as well as Christmas?
Thats what I want to know.
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