"Religion" means differing things to differing people. One way to cross the communication bridges between ourselves and others is to reach out for understanding about another's beliefs. On Sunday, December 21, the Jewish holiday Hanukkah starts at sundown. I've always been curious about the many traditions found in the religion and I found a little checking on the Internet profoundly helpful! If you have information you'd like to share about your religious holidays, please do it here.

Hanukkah, also known as Chanukah, is an annual Jewish holiday, which lasts eight days and eight nights. Hanukkah begins each year on the twenty-fifth day in the Jewish month of Kislev and coincides with fluctuating dates in late November and December. In 2008, Hanukkah is from sundown on December 21 until sundown on December 29.

The Hanukkah Story
Nearly 2,200 years ago, the Greek-Syrian ruler Antiochus IV tried to force Greek culture upon peoples in his territory. Jews in Judea - now Israel- were forbidden their most important religious practices as well as study of the Torah. Although vastly outnumbered, religious Jews in the region took up arms to protect their community and their religion. Led by Mattathias the Hasmonean, and later his son Judah the Maccabee, the rebel armies became known as the Maccabees.

After three years of fighting, in the year 3597, or about 165 B.C.E., the Maccabees victoriously reclaimed the temple on Jerusalem's Mount Moriah. Next they prepared the temple for rededication -- in Hebrew, Hanukkah means "dedication." In the temple they found only enough purified oil to kindle the temple light for a single day. But miraculously, the light continued to burn for eight days.

More about Hanukkah here.

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Old reliable...

Twas the night before Christmas, and we, being Jews,
My girlfriend and me-we had nothing to do.
The Gentiles were home, hanging stockings with care,
Secure in their knowledge St. Nick would be there.
But for us, once the Hanukkah candles burned down,
There was nothing but boredom all over town.

The malls and the theaters were all closed up tight;
There weren't any concerts to go to that night.
A dance would have saved us, some ballroom or swing,
But we searched through the papers; there wasn't a thing.

Outside the window sat two feet of snow;
With the wind-chill, they said it was fifteen below.
And while all I could do was sit there and brood,
My girl saved the night and called out "CHINESE FOOD!"

So we ran to the closet, grabbed hats, mitts and boots
To cover out heads, our hands, and our foots.
We pulled on our jackets, all puffy with down.
And into the car bound for old Chinatown.

In search of a restaurant "Which one? Lets decide!"
We chose "Hunan Chozer," and ventured inside.
Around us sat other Jews, their platters piled high
With the finest of foods their money could buy

There was roast duck, fried fake squid - sweet, sour and spiced
Dried kosher beef and mixed veggies, lo mein and fried rice,
Whole fish and moo shu and "shrimp" chow mei fun,
And General Tso’s chicken – yum, yum, yum, yum, yum!

When at last we decided, and the waiter did call,
We said "Skip the menu!" and ordered it all.
And when in due time the food was all made,
It came to the table in a sort of parade.

Before us sat dim sum, spare ribs and egg rolls
And four different soups, in ornately huge bowls.
The courses kept coming, from spicy to mild,
And higher and higher toward the ceiling were piled.

So much piled up, one dish after the other,
My girlfriend and I couldn't see one another!
Now we sat there, we two, without proper utensils,
While they handed us something that looked like two pencils.

We ate till we couldn't and drank down our teas
And barely had room for our fortune cookies.
But my fortune was perfect; it summed up the mood
When it said "Even if it was kosher, it was still Chinese food!."
But my girlfriend, well - she got a real winner;
Her’s said "Your companion will pay for the dinner."

Our bellies were full and at last it was time
To travel back home and write some bad rhyme
Of our Chinatown trek (and to privately speak
About trying to refine our chopstick technique).

The MSG spun round and round in our heads,
As we tripped and we laughed and gaily we said,
As we carried our leftovers home through the night
"Good Yom Tov to all and to all a Good Night!"

Happy Holidays all - Steve
You're a poet Steve-you know it?
This one isn't mine - it's one of the "old reliable" what-Jews-do-on-Xmas poems out "there"

Maureen Sharib said:
You're a poet Steve-you know it?
I just found "The Sourceranos" - I think it's time to unleash it to the RBC community...

Maureen Sharib said:
You're a poet Steve-you know it?
Let it rip.
What's up here, Maureen? Are you trying to curry favour with the Hebraic team so they'll come to your chat on Christmas Day?
Come they told me, pa rum pa pum pum...

Of course she is; after all, Jesus was a great networker.

Recruiting Animal said:
What's up here, Maureen? Are you trying to curry favour with the Hebraic team so they'll come to your chat on Christmas Day?

Christmas (IPA: /krɪsməs/), also referred to as Christmas Day or Christmastide, is an annual holiday celebrated on December 25 that marks and honors the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. The birth of Jesus, which is the basis for the anno Domini system of dating, is thought to have occurred between 7 and 2 BC. December 25 is not thought to be Jesus' actual date of birth, and the date may have been chosen to correspond with either a Roman festival, or with the winter solstice. More on Christmas here.

Everyone has their own Christmas traditions; mine will start on Christmas Eve when, around 4 p.m., the hustle and bustle of the day’s preparations will settle into a quiet and hushed anticipation of the evening’s celebration. My family and a few close friends will begin arriving at my house in small groups before the evening meal, which generally begins around 6. They’ll bring delicacies and cookies, candy and bags of presents. The house will be lit with myriads of fragranced candles and both fireplaces will be blazing. I’ll shush the animals (three cats and a dog) outside but they’ll scoot back in when someone opens a door to retrieve more firewood or at the first opportunity presented.

This year we’ll have a rib roast with potatoes and Caesar Salad, one of my specialties. Everyone will rave about how good everything is and around 8 we’ll begin exchanging gifts. There will be a box of chocolates we pass around; recalling how as kids we would pinch out the bottoms to see what was in them. My brother will comment on my mother’s old pinched glass ornaments that survived their innards being poked out and my sister will inspect the tree decorations, recalling minute memories of our shared past Christmases. My nephew, now sixteen, will plant himself on his knees at the tree’s base and (still) excitedly pass out gifts, calling out each recipient’s name before passing the brightly wrapped box over heads, knees and elbows. A pile of paper, ribbons and bows will accumulate on the floor and furniture until someone thinks to retrieve a bag large enough to start stuffing everything into. Invariably, some small, usually light token will get swept into the bag only to be missed days later after the trash has gone out.

This year, my fifteen month old granddaughter will be the center of attention. Toddling, she is all agog at the bright lights of the tree and the shiny ornaments that twinkle their reflected light. Intrigued, she stoops and pulls at the gathering boxes beneath the tree, offering me the smaller ones with a hopeful and growing expectation that I might just open one for her. (I have to admit I have.) The fun of watching her anticipation mounting is hard to describe. I can only wish this blessing for all of you someday.

It will be the usual mayhem for about an hour until the last gift is passed and the tree stands with its base starkly bare. We’ll sit around and remark on the different gifts and exchange stories of glory how each was won or almost lost. I’ll look to the tree and wish silently we could back things up a couple hours once again as my siblings and theirs begin to accumulate what is now theirs and pack it all into bags for the trip home. They’ll leave with as much as they brought plus leftovers that will become part of my sister’s early afternoon meal that will go on into the evening the next day that all of us will be present at. Some of us will head for Midnight Mass – not me this year; I will head for bed with my little charge within minutes of them leaving. There will be some presents held back for her Christmas morning. In the dawn there will be another wild explosion as she tears through what Santa brought the night before. I can hardly wait.

"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ." ~ Philippians Ch 4: V. 7

'Twas the night before Christmas,
Da whole house was mellow,
Not a creature was stirrin',
I had a gun unda my pillow.

When up on da roof'
I heard somethin' pound,
I sprung to da window,
To scream, "YO! Keep it down!"

When what to my Wanderin'
eyes should appear,
But dat hairy elf Vinny,
And eight friggin' reindeer.

Wit' a bad hackin' cough,
And da stencha burped beer,
I knew in a moment
Yo, da Kringle wuz here!

Wit' a slap to dere snouts,
And a yank on dere manes,
He cursed and he shouted,
And he called dem by name.

"Yo Tony, Yo Frankie,
Yo Sally, Yo Vito,
Ay Joey, Ay Paulie,
Ay Pepe, Ay Guido!"

As I drew out my gun
And hid by da bed,
Down came his boot
On da top a my head.

His eyes were all bloodshot,
His b.o. wuz scary,
His breath wuz like sewage,
He had a mole dat wuz hairy.

He spit in my eye,
And he twisted my head,
He soon let me know
I should consider myself dead.

Den pointin' a fat finga
Right unda my nose,
He let out some gas,
And up da chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh,
And away dey all flew,
Before he troo dem a beatin'.

But I heard him exclaim,
Or better yet grump,
"Merry Christmas to all, and
Bite me, ya hump!"
or if you prefer,

The Night Before Christmas, Legally Speaking

Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse.

A variety of foot apparel, e.g., stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick AKA/St. Nicholas AKA/Santa Claus (hereinafter "Claus") would arrive at sometime thereafter.

The minor residents, i.e., the children, of the aforementioned House were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e., dreams, wherein visions of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.

Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as "I"), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the parts of the second part (hereinafter "Mamma"), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g., kerchief and cap.)

Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtenant to said House, i.e., the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.

At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter "the Vehicle") being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus.

Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter "the Deer"). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional coconspirator named "Rudolph" may have been involved.)

The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.

Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations.

Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute "gifts" to said minors pursuant to the applicable provisions of the US Tax Code.)

Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as "lookouts." Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.

However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim:
"Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!"
Or words to that effect.

New Year's
New Year's Day is the first day of the new year. On the modern Gregorian calendar, it is celebrated on January 1, as it was also in ancient Rome (though other dates were also used in Rome). In all countries using the Gregorian calendar, except for Israel, it is a public holiday, often celebrated with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the new year starts. January 1 on the Julian calendar corresponds to January 14 on the Gregorian calendar, and it is on that date that followers of some of the Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate the New Year. More here.

What are your New Year traditions?

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