I have received many inquiries asking what the heck the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is all about. More specifically, people want to know what the significance is of each night. I am happy to provide this brief primer to help everyone understand this important holiday.
The First Night:
This is the first night that we remember a time when a bunch of idiots in the desert (my cultural ancestors) failed to correctly calculate the burning time of a vial of oil. However, celebrating the first night of Hanukkah is really pretty stupid. After all, the oil was supposed to last one day. At this point it had, in fact, lasted one day. So what else is new? I recommend skipping the first night.
The Second Night:
Happy second night of Hanukkah. The second night of Hanukkah is important because it represents the first night on which the Jewish people realized that they had underestimated how long oil burns. As noted, for the entire first day, they were burning a vial of oil that they expected would last for one day. No big whoop. But, by the second night they had to be saying to themselves, "Hey, look at that! The oil is still going. Guess we were wrong."
It was this famous miscalculation that caused the Jewish people to conclude that maybe they should learn to be accountants.
The Third Night:
Shalom! It's the 3rd night of Hannukah, or is it Chanukah, or Hanukkah? Whatever. As long as you've got some h's, some n's, some k's, and some phlegm, you're good.
By this point there were a whole bunch of Maccabees scratching their noggins under their yarmulkes, wondering who measured the oil and what they were smoking at the time. Everyone knows that smoking and oil don't mix, but hey, they were under attack. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.
This is the night when modern Jews make a special blessing that Hanukkah happens at about the same time as Christmas, which is very convenient for piggybacking on Christmas sales.
For those of you that don't know, "Christmas" is the holiday in which Christians celebrate the birth of yet another Jew. No one knows how much that particular Jew understood about volumetric measure and the combustion rates of lipids, but we do know that his parents appear to have had a rather shaky understanding of the relationship between sex and conception.
It's the 4th night of Hanukkah! Woo hoo! Half way, baby!
You might be wondering why we light the candles from right to left. Well, go ahead and wonder. I could tell you, but then I’d have to convert you.
Hanukkah Episode V - The Maccabees Strike Back:
By now it was becoming clear that there was a major fuck-up. The oil had lasted five days. All along the big machers were going on and on about the calamity of running out of oil. No doubt the people must have been pretty peeved that they were warned about this huge, fat emergency, but it really wasn’t a problem at all. Clearly this is when someone penned the first version of the parable of the “boy who cried wolf.”
[BIG MACHER, n - Hybrid English-Yiddish term for big shot. A man who is (or thinks he is) really important. Usually refers to someone who is showing off in some way.]
The <yawn> 6th Night <yawn>:
If you’re not Jewish, by now you should be just about as sick of this whole thing as we are.
If you are Jewish, yes, we have to keep on doing this, and no, gifts for the final nights aren’t going to be crappy, and we don’t appreciate that kind of language in this house. It’s not easy coming up with eight nights of gifts for each of you. Your mother worked very hard finding presents that will be fun, educational, age appropriate, non-violent, locally made, hypoallergenic, and avoid gender and racial stereotypes. I think you owe your mother an apology, or you can just give back the gifts right this minute!
I’m out of ideas, and making this post format correctly is getting on my nerves. Here’s a quarter and some mediocre chocolate wrapped in gold paper that’s supposed to look like coins.
Don’t spend it all in one place.
Amongst much bickering over who was going to lose their job from this massive screw-up, someone came up with the brilliant idea of declaring it a miracle. The true miracle was the whole lot of them weren’t fired.
Hanukkah is celebrated for 8 nights because that's how long it took to come up with an explanation that covered their collective asses.
I hope this clears things up and puts the eight nights of Chanukah/Hannukah/Hanukkah in an appropriate historical perspective. Regardless of your faith or anti-faith, may you all have an entertaining holiday season.
[PS: Thank you to the many web sites from which I stole the images used in this post.]