Friday, December 15, 2006

Jews on Christmas

A collection of clips, sites, and info that really capture the spirit of the season...for us. Oy vey. Chappy Channukah.
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Clark W. Griswold: Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no! We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here! We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye! And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he's gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse!

Clark W. Griswold: This is what Christmas is all about. I'll uh, park the cars and check the luggage, and uh, I'll be outside for the season.

Todd: Where do you think your gonna put a tree that big?
Clark W. Griswold: Bend over and I'll show ya.

What do Jews do on Christmas?

Also, from

A dreidel is a four sided top with the Hebrew letters, nun, gimel, hey, and shin, printed one on each side. The letters stand for Nes gadol hayah sham "A great miracle happened there." (In Israel, of course, the letters are nun, gimmel, hey, and pey, for Nes gadol haya poh "A miracle happened here.")

The dreidel is a traditional game played by children as the candles of the Hanukkah burn in the Menorah, the 9-candle candelabra of Hanukkah. Each player puts a token in the pot: a piece of candy, a raisin, nut, or chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. Then the first player spins the dreidel. When the dreidel stops, the letter that is facing up determines the play: nun indicates neither win nor loss, gimmel allows the spinner to take all the tokens in the pot, hey allows the spinner to take half of the pot, but shin forces the spinner to put one token back into the pot.

The game of dreidel was played throughout Europe in the Middle Ages under various names. The Hebrew letters are probably borrowed back from the Yiddish or directly from German: N(un) for nichts "nothing," G(immel) for ganz "all," h(ei) for halb "half" and sh(in) for stellen "put in." Legend has it that Jewish children living under the persecution of the Persians and Greeks spun the dreidel as they studied the Torah and Talmud, so that their persecutors would think them playing rather than studying forbidden holy writ.

Dreidel is a Yiddish word spun from the German verb drehen "to spin, turn". This word is related to English throw, which originally meant "to turn or twist." The Latin descendant of the same original root is torquere "to spin", the root of our words torque, torture, and torment. In English it ended up as queer, another way of saying "twisted". (Everyone at alphaDictionary wishes all our Jewish friends the happiest of Hanukkah seasons, especially those in Israel, where we hope the Festival of the Lights will illuminate a brighter and more peaceful future.)