December 4, 2002


Chanukah, classical and pops: Like the Maccabees of old coming down from the Judean hills to reclaim the Temple, Chanukah CDs are coming from the most unexpected of places to rededicate the holiday musical landscape. (Paul Wieder, Dec. 4, 2002, Jewish World Review)
Shelley Olson uses classical music traditions to inform her Chanukah Cantata. And Shirley Braha, a.k.a. Little Shirley Beans, collected a dozen bands you've never heard of (unless you are a fan of the Casino Ashtrays, Chariots of Tuna, or Gumdrop Alley) and charged them with writing all-new Chanukah songs for the anthology I Made It out of Clay.

[T]he wildly eclectic I Made It out of Clay [is] billed as the first "Chanukah Indie-pop compilation." "Indie" is short for "independent," as in independent film. The two media also share an do-it-yourself, hey-why-not ethos. However, there is a "tight sense of community that builds around it," that is lacking in the film world, Shirley Braha, the album's producer, notes.

The performers on Clay are based in a dozen states, plus Canada and Finland, where they know something about winter. Kisswhistle remakes Elvis Costello's "Veronica" into "Verhannukah," and Mesopotamia harmonically laments the passing of a tail-chasing dog named Dreydel. The tones range from meditative to raucous, and encompass sounds from samba (Jumprope's "Hanukkah in Brazil") to nursery rhyme (the Boyish Charms "Theme for a Defiled Temple"); DJs will probably find "Hanukkah Girl" by Metronome the most radio-friendly cut. Many of the tracks feature muted vocals, but the full lyrics to all 20 tracks are enclosed.

We unfortunately have this one. "Unfortunately" because the kids like it but it makes adults want to set themselves on fire. Posted by Orrin Judd at December 4, 2002 2:27 PM

The problem is, Channakuh is not Christmas, nor is it even remotely like Christmas. One is a holiday celebrating the birth of God Incarnate, and the other is middle-level festival celebrating a rather obscure historical event which isn't even enshrined in the Jewish Bible--though, ironically, it is in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles.

A lot of secular Jews like to set Channakuh up as an alternative to the tempting red-suited, fat man to make their kids feel better, but they wind cheapening their own tradition by turning it into a pale reflection of another.

Of course, it's not as bad as Kwanza, which is the ultimate case of elevating the ridiculous to the sublime.

Posted by: Derek Copold at December 4, 2002 4:41 PM

Yeah, but couldn't Irving Berlin or whoever have written a Chanukah tune that doesn't suck?

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2002 6:00 PM


Hey, what about Adam Sandler

(Just kidding of course.)


Posted by: Ed Driscoll at December 4, 2002 6:17 PM

It should be the other way 'round.

It should be Christians who dump Pope Julius's 350 AD "me-too'ing" of the birth of Mithras, in favour of the holiday that gave birth to Christianity AND Judaism as we know it - that is, Hanukkah.

As for the practice of Yule trees, the Prophet Jeremiah put it best: "Do not learn the ways of the nations,...the customs of the peoples are vain; it is a tree out of the forest, the work of a craftsman's hands with an axe. They adorn it with silver and gold; they strengthen it with hammer and nails." (Jer 10:1-5).

Blogged it...

Posted by: David Ross at December 4, 2002 7:01 PM


Did he play Hanukah Harry?

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2002 7:16 PM

AUTHOR: Ed Driscoll
DATE: 12/04/2002 09:11:00 PM
AUTHOR: Ed Driscoll
DATE: 12/04/2002 09:11:00 PM

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at December 4, 2002 9:11 PM

I thought Christmas was the Church co-opting the pagan celebration of the period just past the winter solstice because the sun was out for a slightly longer period each day.

Noel Erinjeri

Posted by: Noel Erinjeri at December 4, 2002 9:57 PM


Not so loud, please.

And David Ross is right: No Chanuka, no Jesus. (So much for obscure historical events.) But maybe one should tread softly on that point, too.

For those who feel deprived of Chanuka "carols," there are several nice, if esoteric, tunes. And for the more ponderous, Handel's Judas Maccabeus might be a possibility.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at December 5, 2002 4:20 AM

Well, we were going to celebrate the Nativity on some day or another, weren't we?

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2002 7:23 AM

Orrin, check with your kids. they know two excellent Hanukkah songs: Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah and Kindle a Candle of Light!

Posted by: DCJ at December 5, 2002 7:59 AM

If you accept that Jesus is the Incarnation of God, then it doesn't really matter if the Maccabees existed or not. There are certainly far more critical events in OT history leading up to his career, such as Passover, the Davidic kingdom, the Babylonian exile, etc.

When I mentioned the fact that Channakah is a mid-level holiday for Jews, I was pointing out a fact. There are other far more important days, Passover, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hoshanna. A better comparison in relative importance would be between one of these holidays and Christmas.

Yes, the Pope chose 25 December, but not because of Mithras, rather because the winter solstice used to observed on that day in his time. Before then the day had bopped around, some observed it on Jan 6 and others earlier. It was standardized and used to displace pagan ceremonies, not to accept them. As to the trees and the logs, if you want to have a huge cow over them go right ahead, but bear in mind that the Old Testament is chock full of its own pagan borrowings: the flood story, Hammurabic code, the spring festival, Purim, the month of Tammuz, etc.

Posted by: Derek Copold at December 5, 2002 10:37 AM

I thought it was the British who put it on the 25th so it would be the day before Boxing Day?

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2002 12:11 PM