Here There It’s That Time of Year

Ist candleIt was almost imperceptible as a lone snowflake lazily fell to the ground and vanished. Soon a smattering, then a flurry of like-minded flakes blanketed the countryside in a glistening quilt of white.

That was there but now I’m here.

It’s different here; where it’s not about snow it’s about oil, wax and paraffin. The first of many lights will soon appear bathing the landscape in an ever increasing glow of flickering lights.

 

The first strains of familiar seasonal songs arrive too soon; they are a harbinger of the coming of the familiar time honored perennial winter chorus.

That was there but now I’m here.

It’s different here; where every town, village and hamlet sprouts their own eight branched lights of freedom and the sound of Rock of Ages is still a week away.

 

Trees shorn at their bases, tied down atop cars heading for their final resting places soon to be laced in tinsel and adorned in strings of multi-colored bulbs.

That was there but now I’m here.

It’s different here; where trees are planted, nurtured and protected to celebrate the rededication of the land and its people, their history and their future.

 

A rather emaciated looking man with a white beard sporting a red suit and hat trimmed in white ermine sauntered down the aisle of a toy store. It was quite early for him to be out and about; perhaps he should have taken more time to fatten up.

That was there but now I’m here.

It’s different here; where men in black attire with starched white shirts hurry and scurry here and there, their destination is not of this world but of the world to come.

 

Drummer boys in splendid uniforms march in perfect cadence while merry greetings of joy fill the air.

That was there but now I’m here.

It’s different here; where boy scouts in the square are hawking their wares like seasoned professionals. Candles and oil for sale; the innocence of youth coupled with unabashed enthusiasm are their marketing tools.

 

Whether here there or anywhere it is that time of the year to renew that part within each of us that finds peace through respect for those with whom we differ.

How ironic that during the darkest days of the year invoking time honored traditions enables us, with light, song and hope, to dispel despair.

 

 

 

Being Jewish During Christmas: 10 Easy Steps

Photo by Joe Goldberg https://www.flickr.com/photos/goldberg/

Photo by Joe Goldberg

Being Jewish in the diaspora is especially difficult during Christmas. Christmas is such a shiny and beautiful celebration, that it is hard for Hanukkah not to be eclipsed by it. I decided to rise to the challenge. Here is how I did it.

1) Acknowledge the beauty of Christmas

Honesty is key. The Christmas decorations and lights are lovely. There is no harm in saying so. My family enjoyed admiring them all around us. At no time were christmas decorations allowed in our home, and my kids were never permitted to help their friends decorate a Christmas tree.

2) Control the radio and television

As soon as Thanksgiving is over, the broadcast media inundates everyone with Christmas music and movies. We made a point of listening to Hanukkah and Israeli music, and to watch movies about Hanukkah. We created our own Hanukkah bubble, which was surrounded by Christmas.

3) Instill pride with the retelling of the story of the Maccabees

Tell your kids the story of the bravery of the Maccabees. Use whatever resources you have at your disposal to bring it to life. Most kids are fascinated to discover that the weapon of mass destruction during their time was the war elephant.

4) Make Hanukkah crafts

We made our own beeswax candles and hanukiot. It was so much more meaningful for the children to light a menorah they had made themselves.

5) Participate in community celebrations

Your family may join an ice menorah sculpting and lighting happening, or go to the Latkepalooza to taste non-traditional latkes. Communal menorah lightings and celebrations are a wonderful way to feel part of your People during Hanukkah.

Photo by MathKnight https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:MathKnight

Photo by MathKnight https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:MathKnight

6) Create your own Hanukkah fun

We celebrated Hanukkah by making our own gelt, preparing latkes and sufganiot, and hosting at least one Hanukkah party. It is fun to serve Israeli foods during a Hanukkah party, as well as Sephardic treats and specialties from other Jewish communities. Of course, no Hanukkah party is complete without the dreidel game.

7) Light an olive oil menorah

Lighting an olive oil menorah transports you back in time to the Temple in Jerusalem. Your family can relive the rededication of the Temple after the victory of the Maccabees, and the lighting of the pure oil.

8) Give great presents!

If you examine the reasons young children are envious of Christmas, one of the main ones is that gifts are involved. This one is easy to solve. I told my kids that while children who celebrate Christmas get gifts during only one day, kids who celebrate Hanukkah get gifts during eight nights. Then, I went out and bought eight great gifts for each of them. They had something to look forward to every day. When Christmas and Hanukkah were over, all the kids at school compared what they had received. My children were satisfied with their gifts.

9) Bond with other Jews

There is a special bond that forms in December between Jews. There are enough of us in the Philadelphia area that together we share a special Christmas tradition. Have dinner at a restaurant in Chinatown, and then go to a movie. Check the Jewish community listings for special activities and events scheduled on December 24 and 25. Single people in our community should go to the matzah ball where they can mingle with other eligible single Jews. Even when Christmas and Hanukkah don’t overlap, non-Christmas feels like our own special holiday.

10) Be genuinely happy for your Christian friends.

I always wish my Christian friends a happy Christmas, and I mean it. I love hearing about their different traditions and recipes. I have modeled this behavior for my family.

My kids are now young adults. I asked them what they thought of their Hanukkah experience growing up in the United States. They told me that Christmas is a beautiful holiday, and that they feel so lucky to be Jews celebrating Hanukkah.

Happy Holiday Season; Or Not?

TurkeyWhen is it okay to participate in holidays traditionally reserved for others?

Most of us have embraced Thanksgiving as the quintessential American holiday, and as such, we will be planning travel to visit other relatives, prepare a bountiful table and of course, watch the Macy’s parade in the morning and football thereafter.

However, we struggle with other American holidays. Many of us still wrestle with Halloween and most of us would not consider celebrating Christmas.

These three holidays are iconic parts of living in America. And all three share religious backstories. Christmas, as the celebration of the birth of Christ, is certainly the most obvious. Halloween is grounded in pagan rituals.

Thanksgiving is essentially a Christian Sukkot, rooted in a Christian religious tradition of gratitude for God’s bounty. What makes the secularization of this holiday such that we are able to embrace it and celebrate, stripping it of its original grounding and retelling the story in a way that it can become ours, and why are we unable to do likewise with the others?

Many of us kept our children from Trick-or-Treating, worried that dressing up in a costume and participating was an affirmation of a pagan ritual of witches and warlocks. However, Halloween has been stripped of its religious meaning.

I read recently how one rabbi used a creative Jewish lens through which the celebration included sharing excess candy collected by her children with the less fortunate. One of my fonder memories is taking my son by the hand, dressed in a costume that his mom created, while I was dressed up as a giant hamburger. The only bad part of Halloween was the stomach-ache and crash after my sugar high from over indulgence.

Christmas is a more complicated situation. But in this age of acculturation, interfaith couples and of course commercialization, there are places where we can enjoy the holiday. I say that very cautiously and carefully because I do not want to be disrespectful of those that hold this as a sacred holiday.

However, the Coca-Cola inspired Santa Claus and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer both pale in comparison when I faithfully listen as Bing Crosby sings White Christmas in the movie of the same name (Bing also sang it in Holiday Inn). Irving Berlin’s classic homage yearns for us to be able to embrace this American holiday as our own.

Coming from an interfaith background, I am familiar with the beauty of a family gathering, honoring my grandmother, and sharing gifts on a day devoted to love and togetherness. We as modern American Jews need to figure it out.  And in our own unique way, we have already begun.

We have substantially ramped up the Hanukkah holiday celebration. This is, however, a contrived response to a Christmas in which we long to participate. Without reservation, I fully support the increase in joy we bring to our “minor” religious holiday, including the latkes, Hanukkah cards, eight days of presents, parties, and so on.

We go a step further in our “Chinese food and a movie” ritual on December 25. The question is whether we maintain a fictional “Chinese wall” separating holidays, holding steadfast to our modern re-interpretation of Hanukkah, or can we consider an American Secular Christmas?

I submit that celebrating one holiday does not preclude the other, nor does such a celebration threaten our core beliefs. Instead, acknowledging Christmas in a modern American Jewish context can bring us in closer alignment with the Jewish dream of acceptance in America, and more importantly, serve as a significant learning opportunity to share with our children what these holidays might mean metaphorically and Jewishly.

Happy Holidays and Chag Sameach!

Music Chat: Twas the Night Before Hanukkah

— by Hannah Lee

Maybe it’s because I was not born of the faith — I’ve joked that I’m from beyond the Pale — but I’ve always loved Christmas music. As an Orthodox Jew, I don’t experience the December Dilemma, because I know which is my holiday. This also means that I can enjoy the lovely music, without any psychological conflicts, any envy. When we first visited Scotland, I bought a CD of Christmas music on the bag pipe — how’s that for combining my interests! As soon as I learned about the new offering by the Idelson Society for Musical Preservation, I had to get Twas the Night Before Hanukkah: The Musical Battle between Christmas and the Festival of Lights.

More after the jump.
The Idelson Society for Musical Preservation is composed of a team of professionals from the music industry and academia who “passionately believe Jewish history is best told by the music we have loved and lost.” They have done so in several ways: by releasing lost Jewish classic albums and the stories about them; building a digitally-based archive of music and the artists who created them; curating museum exhibits; and staging concerts that bring our elderly performers back onstage to be appreciated by younger audiences.

Their 2010 release of Black Sabbath: The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations was a delight for my ears: Johnny Mathis on “Kol Nidre” (1958); Nina Simone on “Eretz Zavat Chalav v’Devash” (1963); and the Temptations on a Fiddler on the Roof melody (1969).  I loved most of the selections by other artists on the album, such as Aretha Franklin; and Lena Horne, but I was not enchanted by Billie Holiday’s rendition of “My Yiddishe Momme” (1956) and I choose to skip over the first track when I play the CD.

Their 2012 release, Twas the Night Before Hanukkah comes with an essay by Jenna Weissman Joselit, Professor and Director of the Program in Judaic Studies at George Washington University, in which she chronicles how the minor holiday of Hanukkah became commerce-driven. A little-known recording by Woody Guthrie (“Hanukkah Dance”) keeps company with selections by traditional Jewish performers such as Cantors Yossele Rosenbaum (“Yevonim”) and David Putterman (“Rock of Ages”) as well as younger modern artists such as Jeremiah Lockwood, Ethan Miller, and Luther Dickinson. The latter are from separate ensembles —  Sway Machinery and Balkan Beat Box, North Mississippi All-Stars and The Black Crowes and The Howlin’ Rain and Comets on Fire — who come together and blended “the Jewish soul of Lockwood, the Southern gris-gris (voodoo talisman) of Dickinson and the New Weird American sounds of Miller” to create a version of “Dreidel, Dreidel” that is both Jewish and American.

My interest laid with the second CD on the album, which was introduced by music journalist and critic, Greil Marcus. It is the far better one musically — for composition, vocalization, and orchestration. This CD included Christmas songs that have been recorded by Jewish performers, such as Bob Dylan, Joey Ramone (born Jeffry Ross Hyman in Forest Hills, Queens), and Sammy Davis, Jr. Z (who converted to Judaism in the late 1950s). Alas, selections from Barbra Streisand’s A Christmas Album, released in 1967, does not appear on this album.

The introduction from the Idelson Society begins with a quote from the writer Philip Roth’s Operation Shylock:

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and then He gave to Irving Berlin “Easter Parade” and “White Christmas.”  The two holidays that celebrate the divinity of Christ — the divinity that’s the very heart of the Jewish rejection of Christianity — and what does Irving Berlin brilliantly do?  He de-Christs them both!  Easter he turns into a fashion show and Christmas into a holiday about snow…He turns their religion into schlock. But nicely!  Nicely!  So nicely the goyim don’t even know what hit ’em.  They love it. Everybody loves it…

Roth’s perspective is a novel one, but it’s not kind. I love Christmas music —  from Irving Berlin’s to Felix  Mendelssohn’s (the grandson of the Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn) — because it is beautiful music that soars and lifts the spirit.  I believe that God works through music and maybe peace on Earth could come when we all enjoy creations made in his honor.  

King Davids of Comedy in NYC

Tired of Chinese food and a movie on Christmas Eve? Try some of the top Jewish comics in the business as the King Davids of Comedy take the stage. Our mensches present their hilarious schtick as the great tradition of Jewish comedians continues at the brand new Laughing Devil Comedy Club. Shows are hosted by Philadelphia Jewish Voice writer Steve Hofstetter from the Late Late Show and lineup is TBA – though past guests have included Jeff Garlin, Sarah Silverman, and more.

More after the jump.

Shows:

Click on desired showtime and use Promo Code: PJVOICE

One-third of ticket price will be donated to support the Philadelphia Jewish Voice if you use the Promo Code: PJVOICE .

“Being Jewish at Christmas” Family Fun at Museum of Jewish History


PHILADELPHIA – “Being Jewish at Christmas,” the National Museum of American Jewish History‘s annual day of family fun, will be bigger and better than ever this year as the popular program is hosted for the first time in the new Museum building, which opened in November.

“Being Jewish at Christmas” will include the music of Jon Nelson’s Rockin’ Kids Review, returning this year to rock the house in the 200-seat Dell Theater.

“Being Jewish at Christmas,” featuring music, comedy and more, is being held this year on Friday, December 24 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. in order not to conflict with the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday, Dec. 25. Performances begin at 11 a.m. and will repeat at noon and 1 p.m.

More after the jump.
Joining Jon Nelson’s Rockin’ Kids Review in returning to “Being Jewish at Christmas” is entertainer Michael Rosman, whose amazing comedy feats, perfect for all ages, have been seen on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and who has performed numerous times in Atlantic City. Also returning is Wondergy, the “Best of Philly” party entertainers who fuel curiosity by making science fun and exciting.

Jon Nelson is a mainstay on the national children’s music scene, as a solo artist and with his Jon Nelson’s Rockin’ Kids Review. His unique performances for children and their families are rooted in his love of rock and roll and his desire to teach children through fun and interactive music. Jon Nelson’s Rockin’ Kids Review treats audiences to a rip-roaring, hand-clapping, foot-stomping educational and interactive concert that every child, parent and grandparent will love.

The Museum, and its exhibition, café and store, will close at 3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 24. There is a 20 percent discount in the Museum store on NMAJH logo merchandise on Dec. 24.

“Being Jewish at Christmas” will be held at the National Museum of American Jewish History, 101 South Independence Mall East (at the corner of 5th and Market streets), from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The program is free with the cost of Museum admission. Children 12 and under are free. BJAC is free to Museum members.  Visit the NMAJH website for prices and details and to purchase advance tickets.  

In addition, the Museum will be holding a kosher food drive during the program for the Mitzvah Food Pantry, which provides ongoing food relief to vulnerable households. Visitors are encouraged to bring kosher, non-perishable, packaged food.
more …

The Museum will also be open Saturday, Dec. 25, Christmas Day, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tickets can only be purchased in advance on the Museum’s website. “Being Jewish at Christmas” is sponsored by the Robert Saligman Jewish Heritage Fund.

Reframing the Hanukkah Christmas Dilemma

Rabbi Goldie Milgram

In memory of my father Samuel Milgram and his birthday on the third Hanukkah Light

When almost all your congregants raise their hands to the question “Do you have a Christmas tree up this season in your home?” it’s quite unsettling for a rabbi. This happened to me back in 1989 in a rural pulpit. The Hanukkah-Christmas dilemma full-blown. What to do, if anything?

A creative program came to mind during a night of troubled dreams. The president of the congregation, ever a supporter of my tendency towards R&D on behalf of the Jewish future, organized everything perfectly to my specifications. And the congregants came, almost all of them.

More after the jump.
First, we set up the synagogue president’s dining room perfectly ready for Passover.

Then we set up her basement, perfectly ready for Christmas with a whole set up borrowed from a pious Christian neighbor.

Then we set up her den with menorah, dreidl, Hanukkah decorations and foods.

Perhaps you can intuit why this particular set-up, a month before Hanukkah and Christmas which fell close together that year.

Bringing in the Light of Spiritual Intimacy and Understanding

As each couple arrived for the program, they received a questionnaire suggesting they go to the Passover room, if raised primarily Jewish, and the Christmas room, if raised primarily Christian. And there to sit quietly and sing along with the music, look at the tree, the art, the food, allow memories to arise and then answer a series of questions.

To the best of my recollection the questions were:

1. Please list all holiday and religious symbols in this room and  their meaning to the best of your knowledge.

2. Make a list of those with whom you’ve primarily shared this holiday with over the years and how that is for you.

3. What are your favorite foods for this holiday?

4. What are your most and least favorite customs and practices for this holiday and why?

5. Is this a holy day for you and what makes it holy for you?

Now, if you are in the Passover room please go to the Christmas room and vice-versa, turn this page over and answer do the same as you did here, answering the questions as well for that room as duplicated on the other side of this page. When you have been to both rooms, we will meet up in the Hanukkah room for a discussion of our findings, three couples will explain why they either a) have a Christmas tree and a menorah in their home, b) have only a menorah for this season c) have neither. We will conclude with a Hanukkah teaching with Reb Goldie.

What Do These Symbols Tell Us?

It was so moving to watch laughter and tears flow softly as congregants moved from room to room experiencing the differences among the holidays. The sharing was profound and interesting. What does the wine mean on the seder table? Jews would say joy, several Christians reported it symbolizing the blood of their Lord Jesus. Wine in Judaism actually symbolizes the joy of the gift of life, the life-force itself.

The painting of Jesus on the Cross that we were given to put up in the room with tree, presents and carols, Yule log (both aflame in fire place, and a yummy cake), Wassail bowl, etc. Jews reported sadness and some fear at seeing a young Jewish man dying a horrible death as a religious symbol, Christians reported the symbol of what their Lord Jesus did for them that their sins might be forgiven.

We listened to each other, educated each other, forgave each other our misunderstandings, appreciated fears of loss of identity, of family connections and histories, made room for respective persecutions across the ages. The power of Passover, one of our major holy days, became so palpably meaningful it seemed to all present. Dealing with the bitterness of slavery and taskmasters of old, within and present employers on the metaphor level. The importance of a holy day that values the tears of effort and pain shed on the way to eliminating slavery. Breaking the bread of affliction, the matzah over our hearts to led in the Light of healing…and so much more.

Balancing a Festival against a Holy Day – Ahhh, We Get It

Christmas tree envy was indeed described and receded as the program progressed and a striking concept emerged through our studies. The Hanukkiah, the menorah, is mentioned twenty-seven times in the Torah. Precise details of its construction are given when Moses is alone on the mountaintop, listening to G*d and seeing the Architect’s vision (Exodus 25:31-40). The menorah, then, becomes a symbol of this listening and holding of the Light of awareness that began for him at the Burning Bush. The menorah’s original shape is, indeed, that of a tree.

More on Menorah as Inspiring Metaphor

Torah (The Five Books of Moses) is called a Tree of Life and is made of the original light filtered, condensed, formed into creation, and encoded in letters dancing with energy. The menorah symbolizes the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, the awareness it only takes one person of vision to lead the way to face the pharaoh’s of our times and all times, the menorah is our Burning Bush. Its light is God as Torah, filtered through the prism of your soul and actions, focusing us on the mission of the Jewish people, to live mitzvah-centered, rather than self centered lives.

The original menorah had seven branches. The Hanukkah menorah has nine, to commemorate the Maccabees’ eight day festival for rededication of the temple, plus one extra branch for the shamash, a helper candle to ignite the others.

What about the miracle of the cruse of oil lasting eight days? This and many other stories arose long after the event, entering the realm of our tribal sacred myth. The Hanukkah menorah, however, does recall miracles-that there was enough “oil,” then and now, enough of the Jewish soul left after so much assimilation and trauma, to rededicate ourselves to the covenant of living as Jews. Even today a huge menorah engraved with scenes from Jewish history stands outside Israel’s parliament, an enduring symbol of that dedication.

The Seleucid Empire, part of the Greek Empire and its intent for homogeneous practices among its citizens, had enacted edicts prohibiting Jews from living our Torah. We were prohibited at peril of death to observe the sabbath, have a Jewish name, keep separate milk (the gift of life) from meat (life taken away), and worse. Hanukkah also symbolizes the courage it takes to trust and maintain our ways. We are one of the longest continually existing peoples on the planet with much of depth, importance and beauty to transmit across the generations. We exist for a purpose.

On the Roman arch of Titus, commemorating the conquering of Jerusalem, the Romans are shown carrying off the menorah in triumph. Those Romans didn’t know that the most precious part of all had been left behind, carried in the soul-sparks of our people, every one of us a branch of a hidden menorah, carrying the light of Torah.

Through our congregation’s program and studies we became a menorah of community in the room; each soul a candle burning brightly with a vision of God’s light coming into us as inspiration for living mitzvah-centered lives.

Making Each Night of Hanukkah Remarkable

We began to brainstorm how to make each night of Hanukkah a gift of awareness, spiritual growth, family and friend connection, and caring beyond our immediate circle. Jewish families, someone noted at that program, tend to randomly come home with gifts for our children throughout the year. Those presents are one way we show love and recognition of the interests and abilities of our child. On Hanukkah, we realized, the present is how we receive and utilize the light of Torah.

To transform from consumer consciousness to mitzvah consciousness on Hanukkah, over the years with communities, we’ve brainstormed:

On the first candle of Hanukkah some of us venture with into attics, closets and garages to find surplus things – bikes, tv’s, vcrs, computers; and after school and before lighting the menorah, brought these goods to family service professionals who know those in need…

Some of us focused on saving energy and care for the planet by putting in more efficient light bulbs, having energy audits, doubling up on blankets and lower thermostats for another day of Hanukkah…

Some hold an Israel arts evening as the Hanukkah candles glow, each family showing something they’ve acquired to symbolize the miracle of Israel realized in our times in their hearts and homes….Some also hold out a light to the Palestinian and Israeli peoples and hold a Hanukkah fundraiser for joint learning centers and summer camps…

The fifth candle might include an invitation to bring a photo of Hanukkah family times past, to tell and video stories of those no longer with us whose lives added light to our own… Some consider our own inner light on Hanukkah, is our spark dim or bright? What do we need to do to heal in order to become better able to serve and savor in this life?

By the sixth candle some of us take our tzedakah boxes (where we regularly drops coins and bills to accumulate for charity) and open them to count what has accrued over the year for distribution. Each person brings information about a good cause and those present become a holy allocations committee, sometimes adding Hanukkah gelt – funds dedicated with care on Hanukkah…

The seventh candle might involve bringing a menorah, candles and home-made latkes over to share at a shelter for abused women and children, homeless persons, or a home for elders…

The last night of Hanukkah, as eight lights blaze in the menorah sometimes we do an Internet search on the meaning and places in Torah and Jewish literature and history of  our Jewish names and make or give a piece of jewelry to honor the freedom we have to hold those names dear…

The eighth night is also a time to dream of peace and good lives for all, to discuss and donate to causes that work for education, well-being, the environment and peace. The root letters of Hanukkah come from the term for education and dedication. All ages who can be present for such discussions increase the light of understanding and let it fuel constructive action.

How the Christmas Tree Question Received Closure

My first pulpit showed me how to cast light on making Hanukkah spiritually meaningful. On the Shabbat of Hanukkah they brought their handmade menorahs from a congregational workshop and in front of the lights dedicated themselves to advancing their learning and practice. Each year I taught a series on one of the ten major aspects of living a mitzvah-centered life – Prayer, God, Torah, Shabbat, Hebrew, Halachah (guidelines), Mitzvot (actions to engage in and refrain from), Life Cycle Rituals, Peoplehood and Hebrew, our sacred language wherein so much wisdom and light abides. These teachings became my first three books.

My first congregation’s farewell service to launch me into a new career chapter as a seminary dean offered closure on the original Christmas tree question. After a quilt with a square of learning from each family was presented as part of the ritual, the president asked, “How many present put up a Christmas tree for the family at your home on the holidays?” As I recall, one new member family and one long-time member family raised their hands. I encouraged them to go to extended families for Christmas with love and joy, bearing and receiving gifts if that is expected. Their own homes had become Jewish homes with a tree of the light of Torah, the menorah at the center of their holiday season.

Blessings this Hanukkah to experience and increase “de”-Light.

See the Reclaiming Judaism Website for books by Rabbi Goldie Milgram.

Silent One Day Sale, Holy One Day Sale

— Steve Hofstetter

I imagine it’s much more difficult to be a Jew on Christmas than it is to be a Christian on Hanukah. You don’t find many Hanukah specials about families getting stranded in an airport learning the true meaning of the menorah.

But if there were lots of Hanukah specials, I’d be just as annoyed as I am at those about Christmas. I finally realized that I do not dislike most Christmas specials because they are about a holiday I do not celebrate – I dislike them because they’re really, really cheesy.

I love the original Grinch cartoon. The Peanuts specials are always fun, and Seinfeld’s Festivus episode is a classic. A number of sit-coms have simply had funny events happen at Christmas parties, which is fine considering that the holiday is a part of our country’s pop culture. But the shows that have people changing their lives based on the true meaning of Christmas really exasperate me.
I am a very spiritual person, and I have never changed my life based on the true meaning of a holiday. And let’s just say that learning the true meaning of a holiday, sans bastardization, was actually possible. Would we want that lesson to come from ABC Family?

Any holiday is okay in small doses, but TV networks go absolutely nuts on Christmas. I am pretty patriotic, and generally a big fan of the whole America thing. But I wouldn’t be able to accept a bunch of sitcoms telling me the true meaning of July 4th. Imagine the final two weeks of every June filled with TV characters ending episodes with an arm-in-arm chorus of “My Country Tis of Thee.” Which they couldn’t do because no one knows the second verse.

There are several sitcoms that have two Christmas episodes. Sure, most sitcoms are already ridiculous, but how long are they trying to celebrate this holiday? I know about the supposed “Twelve days of Christmas” thing, but I don’t know anyone who actually celebrates the holiday for more than a day and a half. I bet someone in religion marketing noticed that Hanukah has eight days, and decided that something had to be done to compete. “They have eight days? Well, we can have twelve!” But if you’re going go 150% on the Jews, you have to keep it up across the board. Every Yom Kippur, Jews don’t eat for 25 hours. If you can go 37.5, I’ll give you 12 days of Christmas. Until then, forget about your golden rings and admit that Christmas is a one-day event.

I wonder if any Christian kid actually enjoys all of the Christmas sitcoms. I doubt that there are any 19-year-olds watching TV during winter break saying, “you know, I completely missed the point of this holiday. Come on, everybody – let’s go caroling!”

TV execs should realize that the way Christmas is portrayed on the majority of their shows is not how it’s celebrated in a majority of the country. First of all, more than half the marriages in America end in divorce, which destroys the notion of the large family meal with everyone accounted for. Right there, you’ve already entered minority territory. Then there’s the realization that not everyone is Christian (gasp!), and many of us spend Christmas surfing JDate. Some of the people who are Christian don’t have a dozen relatives that want to come over for dinner. And most importantly, a lot of people out there don’t get along well enough with their extended family to do anything but hurl insults and mashed potatoes.

In a rush to beat each other to the holiday punch (ba-dum!), TV networks have been airing Christmas episodes earlier and earlier. It used to be the week before Christmas. Then it was two weeks before Christmas. Now, they air the first week of December. Pretty soon, Christmas specials will start so early that they’ll air during the Christmas prior. And the year in between will just be one continuous commercial.

Uncle Jesse can tell DJ all he wants about how Christmas is about love and selflessness and family, but not until after Macy’s tells you about their one-day sale. There is a certain irony to running all those sale ads during the heartwarming story of a family learning about the wise men. The only wise men here are the ones in the ad department.

Christmas TV teaches you that you should give. And to help, it also directs you to the nearest store. Driving up profits in the retail sector is the true meaning of Christmas sitcoms, and that’s something I discovered without the help of a snowed-in airport.

Learning this true meaning has made me all warm and fuzzy inside. Come on everyone – let’s carol. How does that Macy’s jingle go?

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been VH1, ESPN, and Comedy Central. To find out how to book him at your next event, visit SteveHofstetter.com. This column was originally published on jdate.com.