Friday, December 24, 2010

The Chrismanorah, Hanukkah Bush, and Other Holiday Hybrids

Slightly modified from from a piece from the vaults:

Although the modern reader could be forgiven for interpreting the image of the menorah morphing into the Christmas tree as some sort of cutesy multiculturalism in this age of Chrismukkah, the reality is rather different--though there is a connection.

As an exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Berlin from 2005 explained, the concept goes back over a century to a time when increasingly assimilated German Jews appropriated Christmas celebrations in their own secular manner. (The original term was Weihnukkah, of which Chrismukkah is just an anglicization.)

In recent decades, the term has become respectable--half-serious and half-humorous--and taken on a life of its own.

This image of the menorah evolving into the Christmas tree here comes from a postcard sold by the Museum, and the original intent was critical rather than celebratory. The caption reads:
"Darwinian: Zionist caricature on assimilation, from the periodical, 'Schlemiel' (1904)"
It seems bitterly and tragically prescient now, given that precisely these most assimilated and patriotic German Jews were the first to fall victim to the Nazis.

Certainly, issues of identity, assimilation, and faith are important and still stir personal and political passions.  All the more reason, then, to appreciate the value of humor.

In any event, greetings of the season on whichever holiday(s) you happen to be celebrating.

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