In my opinion, Christmas is a better holiday than Hanukkah. There, I said it. I think I’m a pretty unbiased judge of this debate. My mother’s family is Christian and my father’s family is Jewish, so I was brought up celebrating both holidays. And the fact is that the Christmas experience is much more exciting. Christmas is more than just a celebration of the birth of Jesus, as evidenced by the fact that as an atheist, I still look forward to the Christmas season with child-like glee.
Modern-day Christmas encapsulates so many opportunities for creative expression: holiday TV episodes, snowy romantic comedies, children’s books with heavy-handed morals, and songs that are blared in shopping malls across the country. Some of my favorite arts creations are the product of Christmas mania—Love Actually anyone?
Christmas music is not limited to “Silent Night” and “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” Modern songwriters in need of a quick dollar have seized on the occasion, and the result is undeniably catchy. I can’t divorce my mental movie of Christmas from a soundtrack of Mariah Carey singing, “All I Want for Christmas is You.” And who can forget the iconic scene in “Mean Girls” when Lindsay Lohan et al. perform a sexy version of “Jingle Bell Rock?”
Hanukkah music simply can’t compete. No one makes an iTunes playlist of Hanukkah tunes to nostalgically listen to during July. While I often hum “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on my way to class, you won’t catch me singing “Dreidel Dreidel Driedel” in the shower.
So as a young half-Jewish child searching to balance out my opinion on holiday cheer, I was disappointed by the selection of modern Hanukkah songs to match my love of latkes. Then, I stumbled upon “The Hanukkah Song” by Suburban Homeboy, also known as Eric Schwartz.
Schwartz created a modern Hanukkah classic by parodying the song “Hey Ya” by Outkast, clearly the pinnacle of musical composition in the twenty-first century. While the original version has its share of hilarious lines (“Shake it like a Polaroid picture”), “The Hanukkah Song” creates huge laughs for any young Jew. Schwartz writes gems such as “Manischewitz and kosher varnishkas” in place of the ideal Polaroid line and “Why don’t you meet my rabbi, he isn’t such a bad guy.” The best line, however, is “Oy is just yo backwards,” a line that I quoted at length throughout my middle school year.
So, in conclusion, the holiday season inspires the best and worst of composers and songwriters to come out of the woodwork and express their religious and secular cheer. It is a time for family, friends, generosity, and parody in the name of commercial success. And really, any holiday can be made into a creative statement, if only one is willing to invest the time in coming up with potentially offensive stereotypical statements.