Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Chanukah explained by Cynthia MacGregor

Chanukah explained by Cynthia MacGregor
Jews all over the world are getting ready to celebrate Chanukah by
lighting menorahs. In the spirit of equal rights, I want to know why
we don't have womenorahs too.
Actually menorahs ARE a woman thing--isn't that what we get once a
month when we bleed for a week?
No, I'm thinking of the minstrel cycle--people in blackface who ride
bikes and bleed.
The money Jews get for the holilday is called "Chanukah gelt." If
they forget to light the candles they get "Chanukah guilt." If they
wrap their presents in gold-toned paper, that's "Chanukah gilt."
Actualy the presents are just the icing on the cake--and if I sing,
everybody'll leave the room before they get any cake.
The Jewish hymn for Chanukah bears the same name as an unrelated
Christian hymn, "Rock of Ages," which is the first example of
liturgical music being rock.
Every night of Chanukah you light one more candle, and nothing candle
your celebration faster than finding you're out of matches.
The traditional Chaaunkah toy is a dreidel, a kind of top, which is a
misnomer, 'cause when you spin it, it always lands on its side, never
on its top. Little known "fact": When Cole Porter wrote, "You're the
Tops," he was attending a Chanukah party.
The Hebrew letters on the dreidel stand for the words Nays Gawdawl
Hawyaw Shawm, or in English, Made in Japan.
No, actually the words mean, "A great miracle was there." The miracle
is that there are any new customers left to buy more dreidels in each
successive year.
The dreidel game is a gambling gmae--you put in or take out a certain
amount of money from the pot according to which letter comes up when
you spin the dreidel. (Don't look for the joke--that part was true.)
This is how Jewish people teach their kids to count. (THAT was the
Chanaukah is sometimes erroneously called "The Jewish Christmas," but
really the two holidays, though they occur in calendar proximity and
both feature gift-giving, are unrelated. The old bearded guy in the
red suit at your Chanukah party is just eccentric Uncle Bernie, who
ate too many latkes, drank too much schnapps, and now is trying to
stay awake long enough to play "Pull my finger" with his nephew Morty.
Latkes are the traditional food for Chanukah--they're Jewish potato
pancakes, cooked in deep oil. Supposedly Chanukah celebrates the
miracle that occurred after the Jews, under the leadership of the
Maccabees, routed the Assyrians, who had defiled the Temple--there
was only enough oil left to keep the Eternal Light (no relation to
The Guiding Light--this was on a different channel) burning for one
day, but it lasted eight days till a new supply could be trucked
in... er, camelled in? But you see, we all know the *real* reason
they ran out of oil is they were celebrating the victory over the
Assyrians aby eating copious quantities of latkes... and that, of
course, called for cooking in copious quantities of... you got it!
"Latkes" (pronounced "LOT-kehs") are not to be confused with "lox."
There are many Jewish loxsmiths but no latkessmiths. Lox is always
too salty. Latkes always need more salt. Lox is fish. There's
something fishy about a Jew who doesn't like latkes. They're called
LATkes 'cause you eat a LOT of them. Some Jews eat latkes with
applesauce; some eat them with sour cream; most eat them with
anything they can get them with.
Latkes are traditional with pot roast. Pot roast is NOT something you
get high on.
Pot roast for a Jewish person is always made with brisket. A brisket
is not to be confused with a bris kit, the little bag carried by
every good mohel. (As the old joke says, mohels don't get paid well
but they get a lot of tips. But that's such an old joke I won't
repeat it.)
Another traditional Jewish food is gefilte fish, which is NOT
"filtered fish." And smoked fish--another Jewish delicacy--is not
fish that took up Camels at an early age. (Next to lox or nova (to
Christians, a Nova is a car, but to Jews, it's heaven with a schmear
of cream cheese), the most popular Jewish fish is sturgeon, which
sounds like "my son the doctor who operates," but actually that "t"
makes all the difference--which is just what the Brits say every
afternoon around 4.
Then there is sable, which can be eaten or worn, and whitefish, which
in the South used to think it was superior.
Another traditional Jewish food--and one you'll find on many tables
at Chanukah--is matzo balls. The well-made matzo ball is light and
fluffy, but this is difficult to achieve. My old neighbor Sadie was
the epitome of a bad matzo ball cook... but the Israeli army drafted
her to work in their munitions factory. Her matzo balls were their
secret weapon.
Whether you spell it "Chanukah" or "Hannukah"--or take the cheater's
way out and just call it the Festival of Lights--it's a joyous
holiday (till you get your credit card bill for all those presents
you bought), and one that lasts eight full days. (Do we Jews know how
to celebrate, or what?)
Just remember, when you light all the andles on the final day, you
DON'T make a wish and blow them all out. No birthday cake or ice
cream, either. It's not anyone's birthday. (That's the Christian
Chanukah... er, Christmas.)
Besides, you wouldn't have room for cake. You'll be too full of latkes.
Cynthia MacGregor

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