A happy eight-day celebration in December, called Chanukah (alternately spelled Hanukkah) centers around the lightning of a “hanukkiah”. This special Menorah with 8 lights (actually 9 when you count the Shamash – the helper), celebrating the 8 days when the Temple in Jerusalem was liberated by the Maccabees from the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E.

When the Western world for the most part, goes absolutely crazy in decorations, hot chocolate and Christmas carols and movies, Jews has (if I may say so…) a more simple approach for celebrating this (sometimes similar) Feast of Lights – Chanukah. In interfaith families the holidays are sometimes merged and referred to as “Chrismukkah”.

Anyway, all though Chanukah is probably the best-known holiday among Non-Jews, it is not uncommon (at least in Denmark) to experience the terrifying look, people will give you when you (diplomatically) reveal, “nope, we do not celebrate Christmas and we do not decorate a Chanukah Bush – but we survive anyway”.

I am not writing this to provoke anyone, but just to mention, that this is the time of year, where we Jews often distinct ourselves from the December madness (loved by some people, intensively hated by other – mostly because of the fuss, the gift giving and the family dramas).

In many Jewish families, the tradition of giving a small gift to your children every day for 8 days probably matches the gift rituals during Christmas (in Denmark celebrated on the eve of December 24.Th). On that evening many Jews in Denmark meet with their relatives and/or friends for a delicious dinner –or travel if they can.

I guess, I am in between when it comes to these traditions. I love the idea of lights in the Scandinavian darkness (which drives me crazy every year…), I love the hot homemade applesauce and the crispy latkes we eat – not only for Chanukah – and the Sufganiyots (Berliner Pfannkuchen) soaked in oil, dipped in sugar and filled with raspberry jam. Yummy.

But I am increasingly uncomfortable with the gift exchange rituals, stressing a lot of people and an economic unnecessary burden to many.

There is a real good reason for Scandinavians to celebrate, that the days with the shortest daylight (we wake up, it is dark, we get home from work, it is dark, and if we have seen the sunlight – sometimes replaced with weeks of concrete grey sky) are being replaced with the “light turns” as we say. Winter depressions are not uncommon in our region, which only stipulates the fun of lighting the whole hannukiah plus grab another sufganiyot and enjoy it big time with a hot cup of tea.

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