Okay, maybe the older version of that title phrase (involving contempt) might still be true regarding annoying relatives. (My father used to insist there was just one small group of them who went from wedding to bar mitzvah to reunion, changing accents and clothing but otherwise identical, and including the great-aunts who commiserated about their digestive issues, the cousin who told offensive jokes, and the cocktail-swilling uncle who insisted on singing his off-key version of “New York New York” with the band. But I digress.)
However, I have noticed that when people get to know someone with a different political viewpoint, sexual orientation, or national origin, they are much more likely to view them positively. This has been strikingly true when it comes to issues like same-sex marriage, where even die-hard conservatives with gay relatives soften their views (unless they have another relative running for office on an anti-gay-marriage platform… see Cheney: Dick). I know I’ve become more tolerant of conservative views with which I disagree since I found out a few of my best friends are Republicans and I took the time to listen to their reasoning. (I still disagree with them, but at least I don’t think of them as mutant aliens — remember, I live in the San Francisco area, where Republicans are as rare as Democrats were when I was growing up in Orange County.)
Speaking of growing up in Orange County, back in my day, Jews were equally rare, so I was usually the only kid in my class who could explain our holidays. I actually did have to correct one fourth grade classmate who had heard that Chanukah involved worshiping potato chips. (He’d heard something about potatoes and frying . . . love that fourth grade logic!) (Mind you, Jews can be equally ignorant, especially given the rampant commercialization of Christian holidays — when they were little, my sons were convinced that Christmas celebrated the birthday of Santa Claus.)
So in honor of Chanukah, I thought I’d offer a few pointers to help those of you who don’t celebrate it.
- Chanukah started several thousand years ago, so it isn’t part of an insidious war on Christmas.
- Chanukah is a relatively minor holiday (we have TONS of them), so faux-Christmas touches like Chanukah bushes are not very authentic.
- Latkes (potato pancakes) and sufignot (jelly donuts) are traditional and delicious, meaning the holiday is a great excuse to eat fried food.
- Contrary to what some envious kids might think, Jewish kids don’t usually get eight days of elaborate gifts (as a rule mine get one big present and 7 days of wrapped-up books, snacks, and socks… hey, I’m a working musician and this is my busy period!).
And in case you need any more clarification, here’s a little musical explanation: