Every year I choose a holiday wrapping theme and as 2007 was a particularly dark year for me, marked by increased psychological struggle, I decided reflect this darkness in this year's theme, "Black Christmas.......................(/Hanukah).
Yet the ".......................(/Hanukah)" addendum to the blackness strikes me as somewhat redundant because I've always felt that Hanukah carries a certain darkness within its heart anyway. It's a holiday that evolved from an originally pessimistic state, from the Jewish peoples not believing the oil would last all of those eight days. Somehow blue became the official holiday color, only a few shifts from black on the spectrum but carrying with it its own melancholy associations. And if you've ever paid any attention to the lyrics of the popular Hanukah songs-- which are all a collection of dirge-like chords-- you'll notice that they build upon a root philosophy which can be scrunched down to, "Well, shit happens." In the "I Have a Little Dreidel" song, the dreidel in question is one that doesn't really exist at the time of the singing. The child self-deceives that, "When its dry and ready/then dreidel I shall play," but in my experience of the song, the rounds repeat and repeat and repeat (in fact, much like a spinning top), and unlike "99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall," there is no final point of achievement, of release. Even at the end of "I Have..," the dreidel isn't yet in play. The fun never begins. The singer sings about the desire to begin but never actually enjoy the fruits of her clay-manipulating labor within the boundaries of the lyrics themselves. And if you've ever heard "Rock of Ages," then you know that it's the musical equivalent of the Sisyphean task. It's a heavy song, man, and I don't mean heavy in the sense that you'll light your menorah and sit in the dark wondering what you've done with your life all year, but in the sense that the song feels like you went to the gym and decided to flirt with pumping the three-hundred pound dumbbell. It ends on even more of an explicitly downbeat note than the dreidel song, reminding us that while perhaps God's "word broke their sword...our own strength failed us." We couldn't lift that dumbbell. Jews, not known for their athleticism.
Happy holidays, everyone.
So today I put a deposit on an eight-week-old puppy who can't come home for another week, and I've named her Christmas.