Monday, December 26, 2005

106. Rambling Rantings, mostly about Christmas

The school has a “Christmas Program” every year. This year one of the teachers suggested that we call it a “Holiday Program” and add in a Chanukah song. I was against that. I don’t like Chanukah being treated as a part of the Christmas season, as in Christmas means snow, trees, ornaments, and Chanukah. (I especially hate Christmas trees with a little menorah under it among all the presents.) I don’t like the school programs that throw in Chanukah songs. It feels kind of patronizing to me, and many years they end up singing the song AFTER Chanukah ends. Besides, what am I supposed to do, teach a class “I Had a Little Dreidel”? No one should have to learn that song. No one should have to teach that song. No one should have to listen to that song. I hate that song. Basically, I hate the dumbed-down English songs. And I am NOT up to teaching anyone “Maoz Tsur”. OK, I do like “Light One Candle”. There is an English song that follows the meter and rhyme scheme of “Maoz Tzur” that goes through all of Jewish history (well, the song was written a while ago, so it only goes through Entebbe) that I like. (Does anyone out there have the words?) I also sort of like “Chanukah in Santa Monica” by Tom Lehrer, whom no one in Deering has heard of. I said that I do not like the idea of calling it a “Holiday Program”, but they decided to call it that anyway.
The program began with the first graders singing two Christmas songs and reciting a Christmas poem. The lower grades did a play about how the angel became chosen for the top of the Christmas tree. (Santa and an elf are trying to decide what to use to top the Christmas tree. All these things come by to suggest themselves, including a flea, and apple, an alien, etc. Meanwhile, the angel keeps coming to try to get them to take a break and eat. One time the angel happens to come and stand by the tree and they realize the angel is perfect for the top of the tree. It is a great play for little kids because you can write in as many parts as you need for any size class.) The upper elementary school all told what they were thankful for, and then sung “The Twelve Days of Christmas” Eskimo style, which was kind of cute and interesting. (Presents included slices of liver, pair of mukluks which are fur lines boots, fishermen a-fishing, and five ivory rings.) The middle school did a play called “Ann’s Favorite Christmas, which is about the family all coming together for Christmas. (Does this sound like a “Holiday Program” or a “Christmas Program” to you?)
The high school students did presentations called “What I remember about 2005”, mostly slideshows, but a few movie clips that they shot. They were pretty interesting. Most of them referred to news stories in the past year. Some were about their families, a few about the school trip to San Francisco that some of them went on. The most common news events were Hurricane Katrina, Saddam Hussein’s trial, and the death of Eddie Guerrero (who was a wrestler, I didn’t know that either). Only one student mentioned the discovery of the probably-will-be-designated tenth planet.
There was a Christmas tree that people who came put presents under for people in the town. After the program they were given out.
I made the programs for it. I called it a “Christmas Program”, as did everyone else towards the end of the planning. (One person mentioned to me that the reason he/she preferred “holiday program” was that some people do not like Christmas because the Christians sent in missionaries to replace their native culture.) I do not appreciate the phrase “Holiday” used instead of “Christmas” to try to sound all-inclusive for what is obviously a Christmas whatever. What is a “Holiday tree”? It is a Christmas tree that someone is trying to make sound ecumenical. Come on, one thing no one has ever accused the Jews of is stupidity.
I also don’t see the need to change “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays”. It does not bother me if someone wished me a “Merry Christmas”. I find that most of my friends agree with me. I think that most Jews with a good solid Jewish identity are not bothered, but it bothers those to whom “being Jewish” mainly means “does not celebrate Christmas”.
Parade Magazine had an article today by Maya Angelou about Christmas. It ended by talking about how everyone was getting ready for Christmas or Chanukah or Kwanzaa or Ramadan. Although Chanukah comes late this year, I’m pretty sure they would have just as soon run this in a year where Chanukah ended by Dec 12. Whoever came up with Kwanzaa decided to put it on December 26, so if it gets mixed in with Christmas well it’s their own fault and was probably intended anyway. In 2001 Kwanzaa fell around Christmas and that was right after 9/11 when people said hey-we-have-to-be-sure-to-include-Moslems, and no one has bothered to notice that this year Ramadan ended two months ago.
The healthy-living teacher read the students a section about Chanukah. She explained to the class that it is important to know about other religions. Chanukah was the only Jewish holiday in this book called “Holidays Around the World”. Why? I think because it falls around Christmas, so everyone thinks of it as THE major holiday. Also, the book gave the Hebrew date Chanukah begins (25th of Kislev) and gave a date for the last day. That is incorrect. Since Kislev has 29 days some years and 30 days other years (so that Yom Kipper is never on a Friday or a Sunday) the date of the last day of Chanukah varies. Come on, get your facts straight.
Maybe I’ll rant some more another day.

I always thought that "Happy Holidays" was an originally Christian greeting referring to Christas and New Years (and whatever other minor/major holidays they have scattered around now, like Advent whatever that is). "Happy Holidays" only became useful lately when people realized that they should be inclusive and not offend others who don't celebrate Christmas. So it's suitably vague.
Good ranting! I am in complete agreement about leaving khanike out of christmas things. Other than that (and some of the muzak) I have nothing against the holiday.
Yes I want to ditto this one as well. I wish I had a dollar for every time I explained to a non Jew that Hanukkah was a relatively minor holiday celebrating a military victory by what would be considered "fundamentalists" vs. "progressives."

Chocolate Lady . Yiddish question for you ... I vaguely remember the term "hazzerai" as the term for "a collection of useless odds and ends and trinkets." If this is true .. would "schnauzerai" be the correct word for a collection of cute but not terribly useful schnauzer kitsch.

I pantingly remain

Ariel H.:
khazeray in Yiddish means dirt, filth, stinginess, and immoral behavior. I think the definition you remember exists only in English. There are a number of words (like kvetsh) whose English use differs from their Yiddish use (In Yiddish kvetsh means to squeeze, to press, to hug, and in internet parlance, to click as in: Give a kvetsh In Mol Araan).
I heard this usage of khazeray only once. I don't know how widespread it might be. Schnauzeray sounds good.
Chocolate Lady, the world of Yiddish can become quite complex, because you not only had the literal meanings, but also a cornucopia of idiomatic meanings, some of which may have been local to only a small number of communities.

"Chazzerei" (we all have our own spellings), in its darkest meaning, is trash and filth, non-worthiness. It also encompasses non-edible food, either from a nutrition viewpoint, such as excesses of candy at Halloween, potato chips for someone on a diet, or from a non-kosher aspect, such as all pork products. This is food that is inherently non-kosher, but doesn't include non-kosher beef or chicken, which is from an animal that could have been kosher had it been properly slaughtered.

What is a "chazzer"? Literally, I believe that's just a pig. Idiomatically, it is also a person - one who is greedy, inconsiderate of the less fortunate, and self-centered. He feeds only his own face. A "chazzer" might be a slob in the worst interpretation of that word.

Then you come to "chazzerei" with reference to merchandise. The underlying theme is unworthiness. Thus the word can mean the lowest class of souvenir trinkets, rip-off merchandise that falls apart, clothing that unstylish, poorly made, totally non-durable. Stuff that is a complete waste of hard-earned money. This is what Ariel refers to.
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