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Mama Deb
mamadeb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
Lights

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah.

It is a celebration of many things - of a miraculous military victory over greater forces, of the rededication of our Temple after desecration by those forces, of the faith that HaShem would allow one day's worth of fuel last until more could be procured. It is a celebration of lightS and of joy.

It is NOT a celebration of the coming of the light again, because it is NOT a solistice celebration.

1. It's a celebration of a historical event. It would be like calling Columbus Day an equinox festival. It happens roughly around the same time of year, so... (Passover is a spring festival, and effort is made to keep in the spring time. Of course, that keeps all the other holidays in their seasons, too.)

2. The idea behind solistice festivals, from what I gather (and if I am wrong, *please* tell me) is to either call the sun back because it's gone away OR as a reminder that the light will return - or to light the long dark night. None of those work for Chanukah. In the first two cases - it is a daily miracle that the Earth rotates and the sun rises every morning. EVERY morning. No matter the length of the day. To believe that God needs reminding or that we need reasuring makes no sense from that perspective. And Chanukah lights do not need to burn for more than an hour on weeknights (slightly longer on Shabbat), and they are lit as soon as possible after full dark. That doesn't do a good job of lighting the long night - especially since one is forbidden to use them AS a source of light. Their only purpose is to publicize the miracles.

Also note that Chanukah can be as early as November - three weeks before the solistice, while the days are getting progressively shorter. So they really can't symbolize the return of the light.

Not every culture has a solistice festival. Chanukah is a bright and lovely celebration in its own right (and I wish very, very much that it happened in some other month besides Kislev, because then none of these comparisons would have happened.)

Comments
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All that is true. But this year the first night falls on the solstice (forgive me for making a point of the spelling -- not "solistice"), which is a coincidence (just literally) that some may find pleasant. :-)

Some might, but I'm also seeing lots and lots of posts that seem to regard it as just another solstice festival.

Which is, *to me*, like putting ham in one's latkes.

This post made the think of this.

"if it weren't for the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem; there would be no Christmas to celebrate and there would be no Hanaukkah or Kwaanza, or Solstice or all of the rest"

From here

http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/money/is-jesus-being-removed-from-christmas-330828/

OMG this person is serious.

And this, friends and neighbors, is why we need multicultural education in the public schools.

I suspect at times that had it happened in some month that wasn't in the winter, we might have settled on a different mode of commemorating it.

But, yeah. Februaryish would've been nice.

Well, there is still the miracle of the oil, although that's actually a minor point.

As for February - too close to Purim. :)

The idea behind solistice festivals, from what I gather (and if I am wrong, *please* tell me)

One of the ideas behind my personal solstice festival is simply to mark another point along the yearly cycle of longer and shorter days, of seasons following seasons, that comes from living on a tilted planet. No miracles necessary... I just mark the wonderfulness at various points around the wheel of the year, noting time passing. Yule for me is a celebration of thankful warmth and light, hearth and home, contrasted against dark broad starry skies and chill winds sweeping across Midwestern snowscapes, and crystal-clear views of the local mountains after the downpour of Southern California rainstorm.

Here's another wish to add to my holiday hopes this season: may all of our celebrations be less misunderstood in the coming year! :-)

Your name is Elke? There is another Elke in the world???

I'd tend to disagree - but only slightly. Historically speaking , leaving od out of it, as it appears that the miracle of the lights was a later addition to make god's presence in the story felt. I'd argue that the method of celebration is in fact tied to most culture's sympathetic magic. It's light increasing at the darkest time of hte year.

That's far more than a slight disagreement. Even if it's a later addition, there's no record of a festival of lights prior to the Chanukah celebration. That is, it's not an explanation of what went before.

While there is sympathetic magic in Judaism - pounding willow branches on Hoshanah Rabbah, I don't think this is a case of it - if it were, there would be a greater effort to keep it this side of the solstice.

I hope that I didn't inspire this and if I did I apologize. I love that so many different traditions have celebrations at this same time of year; I don't think, and hope I didn't say, it has to all be for the same reason.

No - you didn't. Or rather, there was no specific post that did.

A frelichen Chanukah!

Thank you.

Not every culture has a solistice festival.

A very true statement. They tend not to show up in cultures that use lunar calendars like ours, Islam, and a fair number of Asian calendars. The notion that "everybody" has a solstice holiday seems to have come out of the same "movement" that thinks that everything European is what everyone does -- or New Age types who are invested in the unversalness of their ideas.

They also infest fantasy novels with pagan religions. Somehow, there HAS to be a gift-giving holiday in midwinter. Always.

(And most of them measure their calendars in moons, not months...)

I find it interesting that almost every major relgious tradition has some sort of celebration involving lights during the darker days of the year. (BTW, the Xtian tradition of Advent is not a "return of the sun" celebration, either.)

However I can totally see the God I believe in thinking that the shorter, darker days of the year are an extra opportune time to perform a miracle involving lights. {grin}

May you and yours have a rewarding holiday celebration as you contemplate the hope and joy of this miracle.

Only Europeans seem to have such festivals. As osewalrus says above, most non-European cultures and religions actually ignore the solstice.

Well-said. Thank you. The effort to make holidays somehow equivalent that aren't wears me down (though that feeling is prompted more by christmas than solstice, because of how we've done up Channukah here in modern-day America).

I don't see the need. Christmas is a fine holiday all on its own (I could wish that those who celebrate it didn't see the need to make everyone ELSE celebrate it, too, but that's a side issue.)

Solstice/Yule? Same thing - deeply meaningful for those who celebrate it, as it should be.

Why try to force Chanukah into a similar mold? It doesn't make Jews feel more included, even if that is the intent. Let Chanukah be what it is.

i gave this drasha when i was filling in for my rav at his shul this past shabbos

we do have some kind of solstice consciousness!

based partially on ideas from a few years ago

We do. But it's not the reason behind the holiday. It's a post facto homiletic. Which is my point.

You're right, of course.

Candles to publish the miracle. Hallel. An extra Torah reading. Nothing to do with solstice.

But then, we find ourselves in places like Poland, Russia, and Minnesota. And the long nights we did not know in Jerusalem, Bavel, Spain or France. The seasonal affective disorder sets in.

And suddenly its more than publishing the miracle. It's staring at a natural light that grows with each day. And it grows in prominence the farther north we move. Because the eyes thirst for the light of those candles. Had Chazal lived in, say, International Falls, I feel certain that בורא מאורי האש would be among the blessings.

So while Hannukah and solstice may be unrelated, I am grateful it was there to step up to the plate when we Jews needed a way to fend off the winter blues.

Yes. The lights of Chanukah give us this feeling of literal light in the darkness of winter. That's not a bad thing.

But that's an extra layer of personal meaning, and, as you said, has nothing to do with the intrinsic meaning or history of the holiday. Which is what my point is - it may happen around the solstice, but it is NOT a solstice celebration.

Thank you for striking a blow for individual cultures! Why must we all be lumped into one big Politically Correct Winter Holiday Celebration Extravaganza?

A most happy and blessed Chanukah to all in your house!

You said exactly what I was going to say!

Thank you - I did not know this at all.

You're welcome. I'm glad it was interesting.

it is a daily miracle that the Earth rotates and the sun rises every morning. EVERY morning. No matter the length of the day. To believe that God needs reminding or that we need reasuring makes no sense from that perspective.

Heh. Which shows that Judaism originated in southern parts... Also even with a technical sunrise still present, the way you don't see the sun for days because it is so overcast that it's almost as if it wasn't there, plus it being really feeble, the need for reassurance that it will be back is far more pressing than when you are in the Middle East somewhere. I mean, there the sun doesn't really go away seasonally like it does in northern Europe.

Heh. Which shows that Judaism originated in southern parts...

I was thinking something similar. *g* I think the main reason for the Advent/Lucia/Christmas/New Year/Twentieth of Christmas celebrations in Sweden is so we don't go stir crazy from the lack of sun. I mean, today in my town the sun rises at 8.35 AM and sets at 3.38 PM, and at the far north of Sweden it simply doesn't rise at all. (I shudder at the mere thought of living there.) "Let's have a party!" seems like a sane response.

Anyway. mamadeb, I hope you have a happy Hanukah and don't have to suffer to many idiots. Here's to Judas Macchabeus! (Sorry, I can't help bringing Tom Lehrer into everything...)

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