Saturday, October 13, 2012


I’m flying to Atlanta on Friday morning, and skimming the SkyMall catalog. I never find anything to buy in the catalog, but I always find something I wish I had invented. A colostomy bag that filters urine through a lemon processor connected to a lemonade dispenser hat with disposable cups hanging off the earflaps—why didn’t I think of that?

Anyway the item that caught my eye this trip was the Menorahment or Hanukkah Tree Topper®: a plastic Star of David attached to a wire coil that fits over the top of any Christmas tree. According to SkyMall this is a “must-have for interfaith marriages.” I assume they meant “interfaith couples” seeing as interfaith marriages need nothing other than a bride and groom of differing faiths, and someone to officiate at their wedding. The purchase of the Menorahment guarantees that an interfaith couple can “celebrate the warmth and wonder of both Hanukkah and Christmas.”

I have a few problems with this item. First it is a Star of Davidment and not a Menorahment. A menorah (or more accurately a hanukkiah) is a nine-branched candelabrum and has nothing to do with a Star of David.

Second, while I have no problem with consenting adults marrying whomever (or even how many ever) they wish, I do have a problem with the assumption that interfaith marriage always means a Jew marrying a Christian. Is there no warmth and wonder for a Jain who marries a Buddhist?

Third, there is no such thing as a Hanukkah Tree, so a Hanukkah Tree Topper® is absurd. The only reason to put a Jewish Star on a Christmas tree is to honor the religion of Jesus, though this may be offensive to many who follow the religion about Jesus.

And fourth, why put a Star on top of a tree rather than a Cross on top of a hanukkiah? The official candelabrum of Hanukkah has eight candleholders, one for each night of the festival, plus a ninth holding the candle used to light the other eight. Why not make this ninth candleholder in the shape of a Cross? Given that Hanukkah and Christmas can be weeks apart, having a Crossakkiah ® as your official Hanukkiah Topper ® and a Menorahment allows the interfaith couple to botch both sacred occasions equally.

The more I think about this the more I am convinced that the Crossakkiah is my ticket to fame and fortune (who needs warmth and wonder?). So don’t be surprised if next Autumn’s SkyMall catalog features one these bad boys for the holy days.


Erick Reynolds said...

I think you missed the real opportunity when you mentioned there is no Hanukkah Tree; and there is no Buddhist tree or Muslim tree, etc. The last Christmas ornament store I visited had a vast selection of animals, sport, colorful glass and bulbs, cartoon characters and tucked in a small cubby corner were a few Christian symbols and manger scene characters. Since the tree (and parties and gift giving) is a vestige of pagan winter solstice celebration, those who initiated a December Christ’s Birth Mass to supplant that celebration would have said there was no such thing as a Christ Mass Tree. But Christians are adaptable and took over the tree as a symbol. Why not have other religions join in on the solstice party by adding their symbols on to the trees? There is whole huge new market of ornament designs for non-Christians, except the Atheist Solstice Tree (90% of ornaments already work for this one).

Rabbi Rami said...

Thanks for this, Erick. And thanks for using the comments section to share you idea. I am getting tons of private email mostly of the negative variety.

Claire said...

My probably too long of a take on all of this:
There’s at least two holidays in our culture going on under the one name of Christmas. There’s a winter festival that is symbolized by evergreens, holly, and mistletoe; by our culture’s embodiment of generosity in Santa Claus, and related presents; and by wintertime snow and sleighs. There’s also a Christian holy day, celebrating the birth of Christ, which, for various historic propagandistic reasons, occurs on the same day.
Christmas, as winter festival, and to a lesser extent, Christian holy day, is a pervasive holiday in our culture. Capitalism has a lot vested in the “presents” aspect of the festival, so it gets remorselessly promoted.
Most Christians don’t have any difficulties with this promotion. Yes, sometimes you hear from time to time, phrases like, “He’s the Reason for the Season” or “Put the Christ back in Christmas”, which decries the materialistic aspects of the holiday. But generally it does them no harm to have their holy day in everyone’s faces. It reinforces their viewpoint of themselves as the majority religion, and it underscores their smug superiority.
People who are not practicing Christians but who come from a Christian background still usually have no major problem with Christmas, as they can fully participate in the winter festival and skip the holy day aspects of the holiday.
Jews are in a different situation. Their 2000-year history of being a minority religion has caused the Jewish tradition to be very strict in non-participation in the majority culture’s religious festivals. Because of our own culture’s confusion between the winter festival and the Christian holy day, most Jews feel that even the winter festival portion of the holiday is off-limits. They will say that “Santa Claus” is a Christian saint, for example, and therefore something Jews can have absolutely nothing to do with. And to some extent they are right – at one time, Santa Claus was a Christian saint, who had a saint-day some time near solstice, and somehow he got mixed up in the big winter festival. These same Jews will point to the Christmas tree, and say, look, it’s a Christmas tree, for heaven’s sake, the word “Christ” is in it, there’s no way it can not be a Christian symbol – or, if you point out that it was originally pagan, well, why should it being pagan make it any more off-limits to them as Jews than if it were Christian?
At the same time, Jews are confronted with the holiday at every turn. You have to be aware that the entire culture is preparing for and participating in this massive event. It can not be ignored.
Further, and annoyingly, the winter festival is tremendously appealing. Christmas trees are beautiful. Christmas lights are beautiful. Christmas parties are fun. Getting presents is fun. Sharing in a generous spirit is fun. Many Jews then respond to Christmas with deep resentment. Many Jews hate, hate, hate Christmas with a passion that I think can only be explained by the fact that they feel like everyone else is having fun when they can’t.
Personally, I have done enough genealogy to know that I have relatives at each generation going back 150 years that have intermarried into the larger community. My husband is also half-Jewish by ethnicity. My kids are, by blood, 1/4 Latvian Jew, 1/4 Ukrainian Jew, 3/8 German, 1/16 German Jew, and 1/16 English. (Does that add up right?) If we don’t have a reason to participate in the religious holy day of Christmas, I still feel we, as a household, have some claim on the larger cultural winter festival.
I carry a lot of ambivalence about Christmas. I hate the smug triumphalism of it, but I like the honoring of the evergreen, the marking of the darkest days of the year, and the celebration of the spirit of generosity. Jesus’s birthday, I’ll leave to the Christians. But me? I want to celebrate the winter festival.

Claire said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hanukkah Tree Topper said...

This product was meant for those who find joy in it in interfaith situations where one is Jewish and the other is Christian. 50% of jewish people in the last 15 years have married someone of another faith. It's not meant to reduce the significance of Hanukkah or Christmas or be a gag gift. It's brought happiness into thousands of homes, just look at all the photos comments from happy customers on our page. Either way we welcome and respect all opinions and are glad that it's being noticed. Thank you for your post Rabbi.