The cruel truth is that Hanukkah is a seasonal festival of light in search of a pretext and as such is doomed to be forever the poor relation of Christmas. No comparable grandeur in the singing, no comparable grandeur in the giving, no comparable grandeur in the commemoration (no matter how solemn and significant the events we are remembering), in which even the candles are small and burn out pretty much the minute you light them.
In countries that turn snowy in December, Christmas has been brilliantly marketed. We see the baby Jesus shivering in his wintry crib, admire the twinkling lights in the Norwegian pines, and go out on to the snow on the new toboggan Santa brought us. It’s of a piece.
Compared to this, no matter how conscientiously we go on reinventing Hanukkah for the electronic age, exchanging animated Hanukkah messages by e-mail and sending one another links to Hanukkah YouTube videos, those Hasmoneans ”” who sound too hot for this time of the year ”” don’t have a chance of engaging our imaginations.