Many of y'all are confused, when it comes to Channukah, and you don't know what to say, nor how to react to your Jewish friends and colleagues. So, as a public service, I'm offering some of these potential questions/responses for goyim (here's your first lesson... "goyim" is a word we Jews use to refer to, literally, anyone else other than Jews. It's Yiddish for "nations"... and it really means "all of the rest of you"!)
When does Channukah begin?
Well, this year, Channukah began December 18 and ends on the 26th. And as with all Jewish holidays, it begins at sundown. That's so we don't have to refer to our fancy watches, world-wide, to determine when the holiday begins. All over the world, it begins when the sun sets.
Why doesn't Channukah start on the same day every year?
Great question. Jewish holidays are not based on the Roman calendar (don't get me started on how Jews feel about the Romans), they follow the lunar calendar. Since the lunar calendar doesn't line-up, the date jumps around year-to-year. Some years, Channukah is close to Christmas, and every now and then Channukah can be super early, or super late.
How do you spell this holiday? I see it spelled differently all over the place?
Yeah... so Channukah is actually spelled in Hebrew. And there is no truly accepted transliteration of the word into English. Everyone has their own version. Hanukah, Hannukah, Hannaka, Channuka, Channukah, Chanuka... they're all good.
Do y'all go to Church for Channukah?
Well, this here is a complicated one. We don't go to Church at all. Jews attend Temple, or Synagogue. And even though, here in the US, Channukah is kind of a big deal, and has been blown up to try to compete with Christmas (and seriously fails)... Channukah is really a very minor holiday commemorating winning a military battle over enormous odds against a Greco-Roman army (y'a see, those Romans again). So we don't typically go to Temple for Channukah.
Where do y'all go to get your Channukah Bush?
Yeah, we don't. There just ain't no sech thing as a Channukah Bush. Any Jewish family that tells you otherwise, is just trying to "fit in". Yes, I know that you all know a Jewish family that has a Channukah bush, or an outright Christmas tree, but the official stance is that it's a big no-no.
Does Channukah Chaim, or Hannuka Harry come down your chimneys?
Oddly enough I do know a couple of families who do the CC or HH thing. I find it kinda cute, but it's not a widely accepted practice. But either way, there ain't no way any self-respecting Chaim/Harry would be sliding down a chimney. Oy! They'd get all dirty, and schmutzy... let's use the front door, right?
Do you get offended if we say "Merry Christmas" to you?
No. We're delighted to be wished Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwaanza, Feliz Navidad or whatever pleasantry you'd like to use. We may respond with a Happy Holidays, or Happy Channukah right back atcha. Personally, I use Happy ChannaChristmaKwaanzaKah.
What do you call that candelabra you light?
Technically, the one used for Channukah is called a Channukiah (Cha-noo-keee-yah!). But most Jews just call it by it's generic name which is a Menorah. A Channukiah is very specific. It has places for nine candles. A generic Menorah usually has an even number.
Do you eat Chinese food for Channukah?
No. Traditionally Channukah includes fried foods... (suddenly sounds more appealing, doesn't it?). So in Israel, they often eat fried doughnuts (soof-gan-i-ot), but here in the states we tend to eat Latkes... fried potato pancakes.
Why am I thinking y'all eat Chinese food around the holidays?
You're probably thinking about Christmas. Since we Jews don't celebrate Christmas (that's right...we don't.) On Christmas day we find ourselves with nothing to do. Most stores are closed, and the only things we can find to do are see a movie, and go to a Chinese restaurant.
There... so I hope that helps. Chappy Channukah, y'all!
I get those surprised looks all the time.