The usually-amusing Senor Hitchens presents us with an interminable history lesson about Hannukah on Slate this morning – “Bah, Hannukah!”. His point, I guess, is that the Epicureans were more fun than the Ancient Hebrews.
Maybe. I wasn’t there. But where I have been on numerous occasions are Hannukah events and, as a fellow atheist (okay, I’m more of an agnostic – Hitch knows God doesn’t exist… I think it’s over my head), I will remind him that Hannukah was traditionally a relatively minor holiday in the Jewish calendar that grew in importance mostly in America during the Twentieth Century.
The reason had nothing whatever to do with Hasmoneans, Epicureans, gray-bearded Talmudic scholars, candle oil or anything really religious. It had to do with that immortal triumvirate – children, food and presents!
Christian kids had this great holiday called Christmas and what did the Jewish kids have? Some minor event called Hannukah. Jews built it up, so our families would have celebrations too. Hence, Hannukah crossed the bridge from Brooklyn and menorahs proliferated in Manhattan, much to the joy of Macy’s and Gimbal’s.
Maybe Hitchens missed this in the UK, a less important Jewish outpost. But he shouldn’t be such a Scrooge around Christmas/Hannukah time. What’s wrong with a little mythology if it’s a good excuse to have a few drinks and exchange gifts? Who knows? They may even include a copy of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. [Hitchens didn’t write that article to sell books, did he? -ed. Nah.]