We generally address topics that are endemic to America Jewish culture at Christmastime; however, occasionally, an article or event catches both our collective eye and imagination!
Anyone who has spent time in London during the Christmas season knows that Hanukkah does not share the popular spotlight with Christmas in British culture. When in London during a 2012 speaking tour, our then 12-year old New York City-bred son, dazzled and somewhat bewildered by all of the holiday lights and decorations but aware that something was missing, noted: “Mom, where are the menorahs? Why don’t the pharmacies have Hanukkah gelt?” Hanukkah was not to be found in public to be sure.
So, it is with great surprise and a bit of appreciation (with a raised eyebrow as it concerns a British tabloid) that I noticed a recent article by Leanna Faulkner in the the Mirror, entitled: “When is Hanukkah 2017 and what is the story behind the Jewish Festival of Lights? Dates, facts and activities for kids. Here is everything you need to know about the story of Hanukkah and how to celebrate the special Jewish Festival of Lights.”
I must admit that I am completely taken with the 2007 photograph of the kippah-sporting Prince of Wales (Charles) and the Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla) lighting a Hanukkiah. [Fact-checking the tabloid photo, we did uncover a series of AP photos of the couple lighting a hanukkiah on December 12, 2007 in Hendon, northwest London.]
Noting that thousands of Jews celebrate Hanukkah in the UK, the article instructs readers about the holiday given that ”not many people know much about the celebration referred to as the ‘Jewish Christmas’.”
Ultimately instructive, the tabloid article does contain a few inconsistencies and what should be characterized as “what is that all about?”:
- A reference to the menorah as an “eight-pronged candle,”
- A description of the gift-giving tradition using a photo of a Christmas present with the following caption: “A man about to open a Christmas present. Almost two out of three people receive a Christmas gift they do not like, but many are too polite to ask for it to be exchanged for something else, a new study has found.”
And, in an endearing mash-up, the following Hanukkah facts:
- Around 17.5 million oily doughnuts are eaten in Israel during Hanukkah, commemorating the miracle of oil.
- The word Hanukkah means ‘dedication’.
- Since Hanukkah is a Hebrew word, there’s not one proper translation [transliteration], meaning there are a whopping 16 different spellings.
- Whether you spell it Hanukkah, Channukah or Hunnakah, you’re correct.
- In Yemen, children went from house to house, tins in hand, to collect wicks for the Hanukkah menorah.
So a proverbial hat’s off to the Mirror! And perhaps as we light our hanukkiot this year, we should all say “Next Year in London!”
And for those traveling to London during Hanukkah, since 2015, there is a menorah lighting in Trafalgar Square through the auspices of Chabad Lubuvitch UK.