Growing up in the Reform community in the US in the 50s and 60s, I remember the constant discussions of the Chanukah-Christmas dilemma. Was it possible to disengage Chanukah from the seasonal linkage to Christmas, and keep it somehow true to its roots? Or was it doomed to be "the Jewish answer to Christmas," which increasingly meant an orgy of shopping and materialism?
In 1974 in Philadelphia, a small menorah was lit in front of Independence Hall, home to the iconic Liberty Bell. The menorah was crude and made of wood. Five people attended what is now considered to be the first Chabad-Lubavitch public-menorah lighting.
The challenges and contradictions of being a Jew in America are never more obvious than in the month of December. Christmas is unavoidable from before Thanksgiving until well after New Year's. Every year, I wonder how much I should participate in the hoopla.
As you’ve undoubtedly heard, the Jewish calendar and the secular calendar offer a strange convergence in the United States this year as Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincide. The Jewish media has been full of humorous articles about combined menus (like this one from Jewish cooking expert Tina Wasserman) featuring foods like latkes with cranberry sauce, and the term “Thanksgivukkah” has been coined to describe the merged holiday.
I’m pretty sure my family coined the term Christmukkah. We were interfaith hipsters, once we realized that the alternative, Festivus, wasn’t really for the restofus.