Question: “Rabbi, how do you feel about a Chanukah bush or Chrismakah?
Answer: “I hate it.”
Does that answer your question? Well, if not here’s a bit more. Neither the Chanukah bush nor Chrismakah are Jewish by any stretch of the imagination and frankly that’s the point. They run contrary to everything Chanukah stands for. Chanukah is a holiday celebrating Jewish identity and the fighting Maccabee spirit. These were men and women who were very clear about who they were and what they fought for – the right to live and practice as Jews. They were willing to sacrifice everything giving us the gift of our Jewish identity today. When we celebrate Chanukah thousands of years later, when we light the menorah and spin the dreidel we are honoring their sacrifice, our Jewish identity and the clarity that comes with these strong, rooted values.
A Chanukah bush, on the other hand, is some new-age, wishy-washy, not Christian, not Jewish, mishmash. And Chrismakah, I have to believe, is simply a joke. It is confusing. It is disingenuous and though many adaptations made by the modern, progressive Jewish community have been good ones let’s be honest and call this a mistake. If you are Jewish and want a Christmas tree (although I discourage it) at least have the courage to call it what it is a CHRISTMAS tree. There is no Hanukah bush.
If you have Christian friends and family, as do I, then invite them over for latkes and menorah lighting and go to their home to be with them as they celebrate Christmas.
Christmas is Christmas and is celebrated by Christians on the 25th of December.
Chanukah is Chanukah and is celebrated by Jews on the 25th of Kislev.
They aren’t the same holiday. They aren’t the same message. They deserve to be celebrated distinctly.
Let’s be true to our respective religions, religious values and practices as we respect and celebrate each other’s differences – not mush them together into a meaningless day called Christmakah and an inauthentic ritual called a Chanukah Bush.
Happy Chanukah to the Jews, Merry Christmas to the Christians,
Happy Kwanza, Blessed Ramadan and for the rest of us there’s Fesitvus (another conversation for another day, indeed).
Rabbi Baruch HaLevi
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