Holiday Tales: Hanukkah!

Holiday Tales: Hanukkah!

You know, growing up my winter holiday situation was far from unique, but it was definitely outside the expected cultural norm. See, for me, “holiday season” is an accurate description of what that time of year is like, cause it’s not, it’s not a way to get around saying “Christmas” because we also celebrated Hanukkah. We’d wrap up Thanksgiving, my dad would pull out the menorah, my brother and I would get Hanukkah cards for my grandma and great aunt up in New York, we’d eat latkes and gelt until we got sick, and then we get a few nice blue-and-white wrapped presents a few weeks before the Christmas present apocalypse descended. A few weeks later, my dad would pull out a Christmas Carol, Mom would put on the movie adaption of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather, And we’d have friends and family over for a big Christmas dinner of homemade Chinese food, which I only just realized was a family in-joke on the whole “Jewish families ordering Chinese food on Christmas” thing. What can I say, I’m slow about weird things. Now I always loved celebrating Passover and Hanukkah because it meant I got to hang out with my dad’s entire side of the family, and eat so much flourless chocolate cake that I forgot how to move. But the coolest part about it was the stories. And it only recently dawned on me that not everybody’s actually heard these stories. And while the story of Passover got the startlingly accurate cinematic adoption we deserved with ‘Prince of Egypt’, Hanukkah has been tragically overlooked. So today, I shall spin you a tale of bravery, miracles, and the most delicious potato based dish known to man. (Fight me, hashbrowns fans.) Our story begins in the second century BC, where the Seleucid Emperor Antiochus Epiphanes has broken Seleucid tradition (and pulled a real dick move) by outlawing Jewish religious practices and ordering them to worship Zeus instead. Fans of the Old Testament will recognize this as violating the whole “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” thing, so, suffice to say that this didn’t go over well. Mattathias, a Cohen, or Jewish priest, objected rather strenuously to this edict, by which I mean he killed the first guy who stepped forward to sacrifice to Zeus, and also killed the official who delivered the edict in the first place. Then he and his five sons booked it into the wilderness, where they were soon joined by a sizable population of other Jews who weren’t on board with having other gods before the big guy in the sky. So Mattathias runs the rebellion for a while. But eventually he gets old and starts dying and stuff, so he passes control of the rebellion to his son, Judah Maccabee, whose name probably means “The sledgehammer”, a Cohen and warrior praised for his tactical genius, valor, and overall badassery, who does a damn good job of leading the rebellion into an all-out war with the Seleucids. Thanks to a combination of clever tactics, advantageous battlefield selection, and marching at night to avoid pursuit, Judah manages to drive the Seleucids out of Jerusalem itself, which had been occupied since Mattathias started the rebellion in the first place. But when they reached the temple, they discovered that sh*t’s gotten real bad. Along with all the pagan statues everywhere, the Seleucids have been sacrificing pigs all over the place and contaminating the oil that they need to light the menorah which was at the time a seven-branched candle representing knowledge and creation and stuff, that’s supposed to be lit at all times Unfortunately that ship has sailed and the menorah has gone out. And worst of all they only have one jar of untainted olive oil which is only enough to keep its fire burning for one night. Now this is where sh*t gets miraculous. While they run off in search of more oil the menorah miraculously stays lit for eight whole days Enough time for them to return and replenish the oil supply. Now after the liberation of Jerusalem, and the cleansing of the temple Judah “the Sledgehammer” Maccabee continued to do his tactician thing, fighting off the Seleucids and eventually winning him and his people the right to practice their own religion without getting harassed 24/7, at least for a while. By the way as far as anyone knows that was all historical (Blue offscreen) Whoa whoa whoa WHAT? You said you were doing holiday folklore Anyway to celebrate that particular miracle We light eight candles over the course of eight days, and fry potato pancakes and doughnuts in deliciously unhealthy amounts of oil Also, thanks to a little holiday syncretism, a contemporary tradition of giving kids money to give to their teachers at school turned into a Hanukkah tradition of giving kids coins called gelt. Nowadays it’s mostly chocolate and kids gamble it on the game of dreidel. So the next time somebody tells you that Hanukkah is basically just Jewish Christmas you can look down your nose at them and tell them how wrong they really are Oh Hanukkah, Hanukkah Come light the menorah. Let’s have a party, we’ll all dance the Hora. Gather ’round the table, we’ll give you a treat Dreidels to play with, and latkes to eat. And while we are playing The candles are all burning low One for each night. Oh, they shed a sweet light to remind us of days long ago One for each night. Oh, they shed a sweet light to remind us of days long ago. What’s up everybody it’s that time of year again, you know what that means; more merchandise! we’ve got three and a half shiny new designs for you; a cozy winter vacation, courtesy of the underworlds number one power couple; a thrilling chase between Egypt’s many sun affiliated gods as they contend for the role of number one solar deity, and two variants of a design featuring everyone’s favorite one-eyed trickster god celebrating Yule in the fashion of the times and of course We’ve still got our old classics knockin around. So if you like wearing clothes or drinking beverages out of containers swing by our Threadless store and give our Cafe press a once-over! link’s in the description, and have a Happy Holiday

100 thoughts on “Holiday Tales: Hanukkah!

  1. As a German, related to people in Treblinka and no, not inmates, guards, I dont see the point in all the anti semitism. Like it seems like a really nice holiday. To bad we still have swastika dipsh*ts here. Otherwise this could all be oodles of fun to learn and discover…

  2. I always thought that the candles were more of a metaphor in that there was a siege on the temple and they only had enough supplies for a day but lasted 8 days, long enough for someone to go get help.

  3. I wish I was Jewish. Then I would get to have two holidays and not going into existential crisis mode all the time. It does mean that their is a small chance that my parents ancestors were all killed in the holocaust so I wouldn’t exist, but I’d roll those dice.

    I also want some SICK MONEY BOIIIIII

  4. I don't really like latkes. Just something about the texture doesn't do it for me.

    Still better than hash browns, though

  5. Dreidel dreidel dreidel
    I made it out of clay
    Dreidel dreidel dreidel
    When you’re dry and ready
    Oh dreidel I will play

  6. I celebrate Hanukkah and christmas because my families are both Jewish and Christian. I have dinner at my Jewish family home and Christmas dinner at my Italian family.

  7. I remember in school that they read this kids book to us about this Jewish man outwitting various demons… I believe it was for 8 days?

    Could you tell that story?

  8. @1:10 nope. You're absolutely correct, and even as a fan of hashbrowns, nothing beats Potato Latkes. :3 (Not even Tater Tots.)

  9. The Jews have tried since the dawn of history to destroy every culture they infested. Extreme relativism for everyone else but supremacy for them. So called anti-semitism is just the rest of the world fighting back.

  10. According to Pew:

    1 in 10 Americans were raised in multiple religions


    6% belong to multiple religions

    That's a lot

    Use that next time someone questions you

  11. I do wish i had more jewish stories like this to see.
    From actual jews telling the stories as they see it.

    I keep running into the christian version of the tales.. T_T
    Annoying me to NO end.

  12. Hanukkah is about the second Jewish independence and the dynasty after David's line and reclaiming Israel from the hands of Evil foriegners who were cruel to Jews,the candle symbolized the power of God to light the entire temple and revive the Jewish nation and soul in those dark times even in presence of Pigs and Statues to Zeus.

  13. 1 I also celebrated hanukkah and Christmas as a kid
    2 my last name is cohen
    3 the angel of death said he would "pass over" the marked doors and god sees what we did there

  14. The “big guy in the sky” could really just be Zeus. You know, with his ‘sky daddy’ role? (Look, he banged pretty much everything in existence, he is 100% a ‘sky daddy’

  15. LOL with the Ankh necklace thing; I once went to a menora lighting in an Artemis shirt. Jewish mythology nerd problems

  16. I was raised in a Christian (Lutheran) household, but don't consider myself religious now (although I did go through the process of Confirmation for the sake of the relatives who would care whether or not I did that). But the weirdest part was the fact that our church did Seder dinners in collaboration with another local Lutheran church, or at least a bastardized version of one. It's been a while, but I want to say that the arrangement on the plate was accurate and we did have an "Exodus story-time!" for any children in attendance. I'm honestly not sure why our Lutheran church was having a Seder dinner, but I thought it was kind of cool once I was older and developed a fascination with other religious practices.

  17. Huh. No dreidel origin. INFO DUMP!!
    Traditionally, they were used to hide the study of Torah from the Seleucids by saying "We're gambling!"
    A dreaidel is a four sided top. Each side has a Hebrew letter, Heh, Gimmel, Nun, and Shin (or Peh). Each player starts with a set number of things (pennies, candies, etc.) and a bunch in the pot. On your turn, you spin the dreidel and on a Nun, you do nothing, on a Heh, you get half the pot, on a gimmel, you get the whole pot (then everyone returns 1 or 2 or 3), and on a Shin, you give 1/2/3.
    The letters stand for "Nes Gadol Haya Sham," "A great mirracle happened there."
    In Israel, the Shin is a Peh, the phrase ends in "Po," which means "here."
    The word dreidel is Yiddish for "top." In Hebrew, it is a "Sivivon," also meaning "top."

  18. Another interesting thing about Hanukkah is that it was purposefully suppressed by later Jewish sources, and the reason is really interesting. You see, the Hasmoneans (the dynasty of priest-kings that ruled Israel after they won independence from the Seleucids) that came after Judah Maccabee were all horrible rulers! There was so much corruption and assassinations that Jerusalem felt less like the City of Peace and more like King’s Landing. This is why the book of Maccabees is not in the Jewish bible but in the Christian one, because the early Rabbis mostly scrubbed the Hanukkah story from the religion when they were compiling the Tanakh (a book of all Jewish scripture, of which the Torah is just one third). There was also the part the Judah Maccabee and his brothers had seemingly no relation to King David, which went against the part of the Tanakh that said only members of the Davidic dynasty would rule Israel. If those Rabbis had their way, Hanukkah would be relegated to an incredibly minor holiday, but then two things happened that made Hanukkah huge: American businesses and the creation of the State of Israel. The first one is pretty obvious (and also a total guess on my part so please take it with a grain of salt, but it makes the most sense to me), American CEO’s wanted more markets to advertise to during the lucrative holiday season, discovered Jews have a holiday close to Christmas and were like “Eh, it’ll do.” The version from Israel is a lot more interesting, however. You see, having fought several wars to maintain it’s independence during the country’s early years, Israelis could relate to the underdog story story of Judah Maccabee. This is also found in how American Jews and Israeli Jews celebrate Hanukkah; American Hanukkah music puts the emphasis on the menorah and all the delicious deep-fried foods, while Israeli Hanukkah music is much more about the seemingly impossible miracle of the Hasmoneans actually winning against the Seleucids. So, a little info-dump for you.

  19. I celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas when I was a kid. I think I celebrated both because my maternal grandfather couldn’t take a break from work on Hanukkah so we just gave him his presents on Christmas.

  20. There actually is a common Mideast that Pharoah survived the sea, so the decision does have legitimate basis.

  21. My first grade teacher and rugrats helped me know about those holidays like Hanukkah and kwanza same with Arthur like when I was a little kid I wanted to celebrate all of those holidays because in my little kid mind it’s more presents!

  22. Latkes are great but when you're a cook with terrible organizational skills, they are literally the worst things to cook.

  23. If you're ever strapped for video ideas: yeah, Passover has gotten a big-name cinematic representation that would make your recap not-exactly-necessary, but you know what hasn't? Purim. Just sayin'.

  24. As someone who isn't even Jewish I can agree that latkes are far superior to hash browns. I found a recipe online and make some after the burning curiosity of how they tasted overthrew everything else.

  25. The first time I heard this story was on an animated hero classics style vhs tape, and man is it watered down comparatively.

  26. All the Hanukkah songs I’ve heard from my Jewish Friend are unique and mysterious and beautiful.

    And Christmas songs are just like

    wE wiSH YOu We WISh yoU a MERry CHRistMaS!!1!11!!

  27. I remember an episode of SNL where Adam Sandler (Yeah, it was back then) came up with a Hanukkah song that he performed. He was upset that Christmas had tons of songs unlike Hanukkah and that was his way of alleviating that.

  28. Chanukah story! My family has had their own urban version of the "miracle of light" going on. We have a box of Chanukah candles which we keep in a cabinet and we only take them out for Chanukah. We've had THE SAME BOX of candles for several years in a row. It's not a particularly big box. Maybe enough for 1 and 1/2 Chanukahs but the weird thing is, everytime we get them out, the box is so much fuller than it should be. So for the last several years we've been using one box of candles that seem to magically create MORE CANDLES. No one goes out to buy any but we just keep getting more! No one knows what's happening but I'm convinced that the candles procreate throughout the year. Also like Red my family celebrated Christmas and Chanukah so that intro gave me nostalgia flashbacks ☺️

  29. And in conclusion, Jewish control of Jerusalem didn't last- insert centuries of historical and ongoing Muslim anti-semitism – and we got to the burning back of shit the Middle East is today….

  30. My favorite part of hanukkah is hearing the story, and eating all the yummy food. My dads a rabbi so we have alot if people over for the first day of hanukkah and its lots of fun!

  31. So, had the Maccabees lost, the Jews would have been the bringers of Hellenic/Greek enlightenment to Europe, rather than 3 greatly and bloody monotheisms.

  32. I used to like the Prince of Egypt as a kid, but it's really overrated (though the music is still good). They try to make it like Pharaoh (Ramses) was refusing to let the Hebrews go out of spite. But if you bother to read the relevant chapters in Exodus, you see that God not only was the one to harden Pharaoh's heart, but he outright says before hand that he will do it, several times, just so that he can show off his "wonders." That might seem like a good thing if you're a fan, until you realize that all of the misery and suffering of this episode, both to the Egyptians AND the Hebrews, is all the result of God being a dick. Pharaoh AGREED the first time Moses asked, to let the Hebrews go and worship in the desert. Had God not intervened and hardened Pharaoh's heart, the Hebrews could have quietly made off under the pretense of "worshipping in the desert," and left Egypt behind, without any needless to do.

    One has to remember that the Pentateuch wasn't written by Moses, but by Ezra, when the Jews were in Babylon. It's all just an origins story, Genesis and Exodus anyways, with no basis in historical fact, though the wanderings and conquest in the latter three books is somewhat plausible.


  34. The 8 days of oil burning thing is what gets told to little kids (our version of Santa Claus) but I think the original reason C/Hanukah was 8 days was because the Jews of the time weren't allowed to celebrate Passover and Sukkot, two very important holidays that are also 8 days long. Not sure, haven't looked into this stuff in a while.

  35. It's great that everyone had fun but how much of a miracle is it that someone likely just snuck in some non-holy oil when people weren't looking

  36. Let me just say, the Jewish have been through so much shit, it's unbelievable. Like, throughout history, all that happened was death and destruction for them. We studied the crusades and all that junk in the dark ages, and boy, they took a beating. Well, honestly everyone took a beating in the dark ages.

  37. Did anyone else have Hannah the Hanukkah Mouse as a Santa alternative or was that just thought up by my aunt?

    I got to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas as a kid, too, and loved it.

  38. This might interest you a little bit, and I don’t know if I’ll ever look at the story of Hanukkah the same way again after reading it:

  39. Gelt just sounds like a weird way of saying money in most German and Dutch. Both calling it "Geld" and the frisian "Jild".
    Is calling the money "gelt" by any chance a consequense of the Jewish diaspora in Europe?

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