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
Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Q2FjJAUT0U

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