Living in a predominantly Christian country, I don’t really have a right to feel outraged at all the Christmas decorations and promotions in the shops. But that doesn’t stop me despairing, particularly when Chanukah- a holiday which commemorates resisting assimilation and conquer- merges with it. Coming from a largely non-observant family, I’m no stranger to Christmas. We’ve had more Christmas trees than Chanukkiahs (Channukiot?), and although our celebrations are nothing to do with Jesus Christ, they definitely took- and take- precedence over the Maccabees and spinning draydelach. This year, London’s Chanukah in the Square festival has been cancelled by the Mayor of London, due to the fact that it ‘clashes with Christmas’. True enough, Chanukah starts on December 24th, but it’s eight days long. Eight days. And Chanukah in the Square could’ve been held on any one of those days (Secretly, I’m relieved that I won’t have to worry about gaining weight from the numerous free sofganiyot, but I have to at least pretend to be annoyed)!

To be honest, my mind boggles at how far removed Chanukah is from its roots. It’s a holiday which commemorates that Maccabean revolt. A holiday of Jewish resistance, Jewish pride. Draydelach originate from the tale of rabbis pretending to spin tops, to hide the fact they were studying Torah. These men had to study Torah in secret. They struggled, they fought- and how do we remember them? By turning Chanukah into ‘Chanukahmass’. By selling ‘Chanukah tree toppers for blended families’ and decorating ‘Chanukah bushes’, and even- G-d forbid- forgetting the holiday in honour of Christmas Day! How much longer will this go on for? How long until we can embrace our roots, honour our ancestors, celebrate our past? When will it end?

Before you order that trendy Chanukah bush to impress the neighbours, think about what you’re incorporating into your home and life. Think about what we’ve fought for through the years, and about what’s being cast aside. The Rebbe zt”l reminded us of the importance of the Chanukiah. Rather than placing it hidden inside your house, place it in the window. The light will illuminate the whole street, the whole community, and, as they say- one mitzvah leads to another…

Published by Lily Smythe