The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hannukah and Christmas

Back in January, I happened to mention that I'd had a busy "Christmas Season". This prompted someone to comment, asking about whether or not I "supported" both Christmas and Hannukah - as though the two holidays were in conflict. I'm not sure what was meant by "supporting" the holidays, but I did talk about celebrating both of them, because I do. This prompted the following question:

"Don't know how you can celebrate X-mas and Hanukkah. Are you Messianic? Confused?"

I'd written out a comment, but decided that it was long enough to put it up here. To answer:

I'm neither messianic nor confused. You make that statement as though the two holidays are contradictory or in conflict, which, in fact, they really aren't.

Both holidays celebrate historical events. Hannukah commemorates the rededication of the Temple, and the "miracle" of the ceremonial oil lasting for 8 days when it should have only lasted for 1. This took place around 165 BC, following the defeat of the Selucids by Judah and the Maccabees.

Christmas, of course, commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. While there is some speculation as to whether Jesus was actually born in December, it is undisputed that he was born and that he lived in Judea.

If you recognize that Christianity descends from Judaism, and that Hannukah as a celebration pre-dates the birth of Christianity as a holiday, then there is no conflict. Hannukah doesn't deny anything in Christian faith, nor does Christianity deny the celebration of Hannukah. The same holds true with other Jewish holidays: I have a number of Christian friends who celebrate Passover by participating in a seder (after all, the last supper was a Seder), and have done so for many years - some long before I knew them and some who started after having Seder with my family.

I could see some concern were I truly celebrating Saturnalia - the Roman Winter Solstice festival giving thanks to Saturn. Historically, there is a theory that the Christians chose that time to commemorate Christmas - and, in fact, there are many similarities between the Saturnalic rituals and Christmas: work and educational holidays, the decoration of evergreen trees inside homes, the exchanging of gifts. Much in the same way that modern Jews elevated a minor holiday like Hannukah (which isn't one of the big four religious holidays on the religious calendar: Purim, Passover, Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippur). The Christians wanted to have a holiday surrounding something familiar to many - likewise, modern Jews wanted their children to have a celebration like their Christian friends.

In the end, Christmas is about, as Linus Van Pelt (yes, of "Peanuts" fame) put it best: Peace on Earth and Goodwill Towards Man. See the picture above from the "Charlie Brown Christmas Special" (not "Holiday" special: an important point).

Who doesn't support a sentiment like that?

And don't underestimate the seminal importance of that special. Much like "Schoolhouse Rock", that cartoon taught a lasting lesson to the kids of my generation.

As for me, and this might be more information than I might be normally willing to share, I was raised in a multi-denominational environment where we were taught to learn about and respect other faiths. I currently live in a multi-denominational environment as well.

Knowledge and respect leads to understanding and friendship. Ignorance and disrespect lead to conflict and hatred.

So, does that answer your question?

And because we're starting in on "reading books" in our household, I have some questions for you, in "reading book" format:

1) Do you now understand why there is no conflict between Christmas and Hannukah? If not, where do you see a conflict?

2) What are the author's reasons for recognizing both holidays?

3) Tell us a bit about your faith. What holidays do you celebrate, and how do you celebrate them?

- Andrew Langer

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is great! Langer can rationalize anything to meet his purpose. By celebrating Christmas, you are, in fact, celebrating Jesus' birthday as you already know. This is in direct conflict with being Jewish unless you accept Jesus as your Messiah. This will, by the way, make you Messianic. If you celebrate both because you want to be "multi," then you have assimilated to a point that most Jews don't identify with you.

March 13, 2007 5:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Out of curiousity, what do you raise your kids as? Jewish? Christian? Both?

March 13, 2007 5:05 PM

Blogger Andrew Langer said...

A) None of your business what or how I raise my kids. If you haven't noticed, I very rarely talk about my kids here - largely because of anonymous posters who have no business asking questions about my kids asking questions about my kids. I used to be a lot more open about my personal life until a pseudo-activist from California got pissed off that I was exposing her and started creeping out my family;

B) "Langer can rationalize anything to meet his purpose." Jeezus - does anyone actually talk that way?

You sound like there's this grand conspiracy out there that I'm the evil mastermind of.

Is this your theory? What's the "purpose" that I'm supposedly "rationalizing" for, Anon?

Besides - you're the one who comes hopping over to the blog, taking anonymous potshots (like you've been doing over on Craigslist and elsewhere on the web).

So, be a man. If you've got a legitimate beef with me, then focus on the specific reasons, and do so by telling us who _you_ are and how you've come to your perspective on life.

I mean, I'd really like to know more about just who it is who sees a problem with someone who believes in celebrating rededication while at the same time celebrating peace on Earch and goodwill towards man.

- Andrew Langer

March 13, 2007 10:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should run for office. You effectively avoided the questions posed to you in the first comment.

March 14, 2007 1:29 AM

Blogger Andrew Langer said...

There were no questions in the first comment. There were statements - statements that had already been dealt with in my initial post.

OTOH, you have avoided answering just about every question put to you - and your attempt to deflect back towards me simply won't work.

March 14, 2007 7:23 AM

Blogger The leftist southpaw said...

just wanted you to know that I am not the anonymous poster! My days of harassing you for the sake of harassment are long gone...(now I'll just harass you because of your misguided politics!)

March 14, 2007 11:56 AM

Blogger Andrew Langer said...

Thanks, Kess. I've got a good feeling for your writing style, and knew immediately that it wasn't you. I also know it isn't one of my other anonymous commenters - she's got a more conciliatory and "question yourself because self-examination is a good thing" style.

No, this anonymous poster is the gentleperson who has some beef with CEI, Reason, Me, and a few others, and because of that beef has been spreading ficticious stories about me on Craigslist and on the general World Wide Web.

But thanks for speaking up and making sure. All is well in your world, I hope?

- Langer

March 14, 2007 1:49 PM

Blogger The leftist southpaw said...

check out my blog for pics of my bundle of joy, Leia!

March 14, 2007 3:47 PM

Blogger Cajun Tiger said...

I think your "friendly" anons have found their way over to my side of the blogosphere...nice bunch they are!

March 15, 2007 2:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I generally disagree with the author of this blog's positions on most things. I was pleasantly surprised to see the "Hanukkah and Christmas" entry, especially at this time of the year!

Very nice article.

Peace on Earth, is that too much to ask?

March 17, 2007 10:03 AM

Anonymous Dirk said...

"By celebrating Christmas, you are, in fact, celebrating Jesus' birthday as you already know. This is in direct conflict with being Jewish unless you accept Jesus as your Messiah. This will, by the way, make you Messianic. If you celebrate both because you want to be "multi," then you have assimilated to a point that most Jews don't identify with you."

Are you Messianic? Most Jews I know don't celebrate both. Do you put up X-mas lights? Most Jews I know do not. Do you get a tree? Do you call it a Hanukkah bush or a Christmas tree? Most Jews only put up their candle-holder thingy during Hanukkah. Seems confusing to me.

March 21, 2007 3:15 PM

Blogger Andrew Langer said...

"Are you Messianic?"

That's already been asked and answered. No, I'm not "messianic".

"Most Jews I know don't celebrate both."

Well, that's neither here nor there. I don't know how many Jews you know. I don't know what kind of Jews they are (reformed, orthodox, ultra-orthodox, Lubavitch, Satmar, etc).

I know a number of Jews who celebrate both holidays, and have known Jews throughout my life who celebrate both holidays, but who are not Messianic, and are merely celebrating the sentiments of the season.

"Do you put up X-mas lights?"

Which is neither here nor there. I also put up Halloween lights. This does not make me a satanist or a wiccan.

"Most Jews I know do not."

Which, again, is neither here nor there. See above. I've also known a lot of Jews who put up lights in December.

"Do you get a tree? Do you call it a Hanukkah bush or a Christmas tree?"

Well, considering the Saturnalic roots of the tradition of putting an evergreen tree in one's house and decorating it for the month of December, I suppose I can ask you, then, if you consider yourself a worshipper of the Roman God Saturn for doing so?

You're _NOT_? Then why are you carrying on this Roman/Pagan tradition in your home?

"Most Jews only put up their candle-holder thingy during Hanukkah."

You mean a "menorah"? Well, that sentence says several things to me:

1) That obviously you're not well-versed enough in Judaic traditions that you could comment on what that "candle-holder thingy" is actually called. Therefore, the entire thrust of your argument is compromised;

2) We've already been over the Americanization of Hannukkah, and the actual significance that holiday has in the Jewish faith. And given the depth of committment that you claim your Jewish friends have towards their faith (no Xmas lights, etc), one wonders how much they really understand their faith - and how they've been able to explain it to you.

3) And now you've gone from "most jews you know" to "most jews". That's a tremendous leap of logical reasoning, and one not warranted at all.

"Seems confusing to me."

It's fairly clear that you're confused. I, however, am not the source of that confusion. I've been abundantly clear.

- Andrew Langer

March 22, 2007 9:19 PM

Blogger new beta test said...

Dear Anonymous,

In my house we celebrate Christ's birthday by going to church, praying and other religious behaviours.

I plaster my house (inside and out) with all things Christmas related because its a) fun to look at and b) beautiful to look at. My decorations have little to do with what my religion dictates. I am a huge fan of Santa and so most of my Christmas decorations have Santa in them. That does not mean I worship Santa or that I am or am not a Christian.

Why can't Andrew have some fun in a season that is supposed to be filled with joyous feelings? Leave him alone, he's entitled to celebrate his holiday his way and however he wants to decorate his house is up to makes him happy and frankly, I don't understand why its anyone's business why he choses to put up a tree or not or decorate his house or not. A true Christian should not spend time criticizing what others do or don't do...its hard enough keeping our own selves on the straight and narrow, kwim?

March 27, 2007 9:03 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So how was Passover and Easter? Did you put up Easter bunnies everywhere, find the eggs and later find the matza? Hope you didn't serve any ham at the seder!

April 10, 2007 2:08 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew, which book do you think people will still remember in 100 years, Eco-Freaks or a Brief History of Time?

Just curious.

May 05, 2007 2:39 PM

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June 12, 2007 5:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 'Joel Phillips' who posted the above comments is not Joel Phillips of Religious Freedom Watch, who has complained about being impersonated in this way, on his website.

August 18, 2007 10:33 PM


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