It’s Hanukkah time! Where’s the party?

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A Kosher Christmas Blog Photo ESBLast night marked the first night of Hanukkah! Menorah lightings will abound in homes and in public places. I presided over the menorah lighting at 35th and Park at 5:00. We were crammed onto the median with cars whizzing by! Exciting but a bit on the dangerous side!

Just overhead was the ethereal spire of the Empire State Building glowingly lit in blue and white and wrapped in mist! As with everything of import, there is a story surrounding the Hanukkah lighting of the Empire State Building! In 1997, nine-year old Mallory Blair Greitzer and her father wrote repeated letters to the management of the Empire State Building in Manhattan requesting that the color of the building’s tower lights be changed in honor of Hannukah. This request was steadfastly rejected on the basis that the management’s policy limited the lights to honor each religion on one day per year. (The landmark’s lights are blue and white for Israel Independence Day.) Mallory’s father then wrote to Leona Helmsley, the management company’s owner. Against the advice of her staff, Helmsley granted Mallory’s request. In celebration of Chanukah in 1997, the Empire State Building was (and each year thereafter has been) set alight with the colors blue and white. Grass roots campaigning at its best!

In homes and apartments everywhere, the wafting smell of latkes cooking in oil will flood kitchens and hallways and sufganyot will be plentiful! If you are looking for new and exciting events for Hanukkah, check out the following:

Joshua Nelson, the Prince of Kosher Gospel will perform a Hanukkah concert at the Metropolitan Synagogue at 7:00 pm tonight (40 East 35th Street, www.metropolitansynagogue.org)! For those not in the know, “Kosher gospel” is the union of Jewish religious lyrics and meanings with the soulful sounds of American gospel music. Not to be missed!!!!!!!! You’ll be dancing in the aisles!!!!!!!!

What else is there to do? Check out Major League Dreidel/Target Tops Tournament on December 13th at 8:00 pm! (This one I have written about in my book, “A Kosher Christmas: ‘Tis the Season to be Jewish.”) Created in 2007, Major League Dreidel has been described as an “amped-up Hanukkah party and battle royale.” Players compete for the longest dreidel spin. This year hosts the first doubles tournament. So register at info@majorleaguedreidel.com by Wednesday, December 12th. Proceeds of the event will benefit Playworks, a nonprofit whose mission is to end playground bullying. Even if you don’t register, take a look at the website and then head to Full Circle Bar, 318 Grand Street (between Havemeyer Street and Marcy Avenue), Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347 725 4588).
Matisyahu Festival of Light. Matisyahu, formerly Hasidic but always remaining a reggae star, performs his annual Hanukkah concert on December 15 at 9:00 pm. Spark Seeker Terminal 5, 610 West 56th Street (11th Avenue).

We also want to give a shout out to Jewmongous is Sean Altman! Fabulously funny, Jewmongous is irreverently comedy song concert taking place on December 15th at 8:30, Towne Crier, 130 Route 22, Pawling, New York. NOTE: This should not be mistaken for the Jewmongous show at City Winery on December 25th (more to follow on that one!) www.jewmongous.com

Menorah Horah! A Hanukkah burlesque show tonight, Sunday December 9th at 8:00 pm at the Highline Ballroom, 431 West 16th Street (8th/9th).

Don’t dismiss Santacon! There are always a few Hanukkah Harry(s) and Mrs. Hanukkah Harry(s) amongst the thousands of Santas that throng and cavort around New York City. According to the website (http.//santacon), the New York happening is on December 15th with information to be revealed the night before.

A Chanukah Charol. Comedian Jackie Hoffman reenacts her one-woman retelling of Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ using a semiautobiographical and very Jewish lens. December 8th-December 29th at 8:00 pm, New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street (8th/9th).

Fourth Annual Latke Festival. Chefs from 16 local restaurants—including A Voce, Balaboosta and Veselka—compete for first place latke on Monday December 10, 6:30 pm at BAM Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Avenue (Ashland Place/ St. Felix Street). Taste and judge for yourself! Profits from ticket sales will be donated to the Sylvia Center for childhood nutrition.

Gail Simmons: Latke Sizzle. Chef Gail Simmons talks with James Beard Foundation executive vice president Mitchell Davis about Latkes and other types of Jewish food to be followed by a latke tasting and vodka pairing. 8:15 pm, December 11, 92nd Street Y 1395 Lexington Ave (91st and 92nd).

The Big Quiz Thing’s Christmahanukwanzayear Spectacular. Noah Tarnow is host at this holiday-themed multimedia quiz show, 7:00 pm, Tuesday, December 11 – Wednesday December 12, Littlefield 622 DeGraw Street (Third and Fourth Avenues)

Delancey to Doughnuts: A Lower East Side Chanukah 2.5 hours Walking Tour at 10:45 this morning! see nycjewishtours.org

What is that song playing in my ear?

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Jews have played a crucial role in popularizing Christmas. They have enhanced the national observance of Christmas by composing many of the Christmas songs beloved by all Americans. More secular than religious, these songs, among them Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” Walter Rollins and Steve Fletcher’s “Frosty the Snowman,” and, most recently, Paul Simon’s “Getting Ready for Christmas Day,” remind celebrants that Christmas belongs to all Americans who share in the spirit of patriotism, generosity, peace, and good will. Ironically, other Jews in the United States have developed strategies to downplay the significance of Christmas by composing poems and songs–in print, performance, and the media–that satirize and neutralize the religious nature of the holiday. Humorous songs and comedic performances offer outlets for the disenfranchised to vent disappointment over society’s fixation with the crass commercialization of Christmas.

Harboring an appreciation for music, I listened to many Hanukkah record albums and compact discs that introduced new songs to the public. This led to my discovering musical parodies of Christmas and Hanukkah that were recorded on specialty labels and eventually recreated on CDs, DVDs, and YouTube. Check out the following:
• Kosher Christmas Carols (Audio CD, September 4, 2007)
• ‘Twas the Night Before Hanukkah – The Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights (Audio CD, Idelsohn Society)
• Brandon Walker – “Chinese Food on Christmas” (brandonwalkermusic.com)
• “Jewmongous” – seanaltman.com
• ‘It’s Christmas for the Jews” (Saturday Night Live)