Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Happy Hanukkah

TigerBlog's people began their eight-day celebration of Hanukkah last night at sundown.

Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights. It tells the story of when the Maccabees, led by Judah, fought off the Greeks and restored a desecrated temple. Along the way, oil enough to last one day lasted eight days, allowing the Maccabees to restore the temple.

Somewhere through the centuries, this grew from a nice story about Jewish resistance to an excuse to give Jewish kids presents around Christmastime. At least that's the Americanized version.

TigerBlog has no memory of getting eight presents in eight nights when he was was a kid. Nor does he know anyone else who did.

As Jewish holidays go, Hanukkah isn't a really a important one from a religious standpoint.

Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Passover are way bigger. Hanukkah, TigerBlog would argue, doesn't even match up with Purim, which tells the story of another time TB's people were threatened for practicing their religion.

There's an old joke about all this as it relates to Jewish holidays. It goes: "they tried to kill us; we overcame; let's eat."

At the very least, Hanukkah and Purim are fairly equal. And yet Hanukkah gets all the attention, while hardly anyone ever thinks about Purim (which is in the spring, by the way).

So why does Hanukkah get all the attention, with menorahs almost as visible in public places as Christmas trees?

Well, like TB said, it's about having a holiday around the same time as Christmas, so the Jewish kids don't feel left out. And there's some political correctness/anti-Christmas bias involved as well.

Even back to when he was a kid, there were Hanukkah songs that were sung in school concerts, right alongside the Christmas ones, even if those Christmas songs just happen to be some of the best songs ever written and the Hanukkah ones don't come close to matching up, except for possible Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song," which is pretty funny.

Anyway, that's TB's take on Hanukkah.

The most interesting thing about Hanukkah is that, like all Jewish holidays, it's scheduled by the Hebrew calendar, which changes radically year-to-year from the Gregorian calendar. Last year Hanukkah started on Thanksgiving. Next year it starts on Dec 6, so it would be over by now. In 2016 it starts on Christmas Eve, which takes it to New Year's Day.

This year? It started last night and runs its eight-day course.

Princeton will have only seven athletic events during the current Hanukkah, and one of them was the women's basketball game last night at Delaware.

There are three home Hanukkah basketball games, two of which are Friday night, when the women play Portland State and the men play Lipscomb, and then the men's game at home Monday against Liberty.

There's also the Princeton Athletics holiday party, which is Thursday night.

It's okay with TigerBlog if it's called a Christmas party. For starters, Christmas is a federal holiday, not just a religious one. TB isn't offended by it.

It's also the only holiday around here that completely stops the athletic program. There have been games on Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Easter, Passover, every religious holiday.

This year, Princeton even played basketball on Thanksgiving.

Would there ever be games on Christmas? Unlikely. The only way would be men's basketball for television, but that's not likely.

There no college basketball games on Christmas this year for any college teams. There are also none on Christmas Eve or the day after Christmas.

And that's as it should be.

Hanukkah? Go ahead and play.

It's a nice holiday remembering a nice moment in Jewish history. It's just no Christmas, that's all.

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