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Chanukkah, etc - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Chanukkah, etc
Chapter Four of Shifts (Guardians) is up at the Quill.

It's Hanukkah, aka Chanukkah, aka, Chanuka, aka just about any other spelling you can think of of if you're my Christian family. Naturally, because I didn't sleep well last night and am starting to feel sick, I crashed into my bed immediately upon getting home from work and slept until eleven. My candles were lit late. For folks who don't know, this is a relatively minor holiday in the cycle, commemorating the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabees re-took it from Antiochus's forces. Because the Temple had been used for very non-kosher things, they had to re-dedicate it. Wikipedia entry. Because of proximity to Christmas, it's become very heavily celebrated, but it's nowhere near the theological significance of Christmas. (There's not really an equivalent Jewish holiday; personally, I'd say Passover comes closest in mood--the ritual retelling of a hopeful foundational story, traditional foods to eat, traditional songs to sing, and so on--with the solemn High Holidays being more Easter-like, but given the seasonal proximity and textual connections to Easter for Christians, I think I'd have a hard time selling that one. Hanukkah, at any rate, bears only a seasonal connection. As far as fun minor holidays I wish would catch on in the mainstream, I think you can't beat the cheerful Purim.)

I'm trying to decide whether a little Hanukkah-inspired Potterverse fic would be a good way to celebrate, or slightly tacky.


Here's hoping I'm not being blasphemous and insulting people, but I did my first paper in comparative religion looking at secular things that mimic religious behavior (my favorite example, she says fondly, was in a random teen magazine that included a letter offering the testimonial that putting a houseplant under a picture of Sean Astin made it bloom; the same issue had instructions for celebrating Kirk Cameron's birthday), and it's just the way I think.

So here's a comparison that I've never been able to help making.

Jews are Bible fans.

No, I don't mean in the sense of, "The Bible says 'x' and it is therefore true and beyond all question." On occasion yes, sometimes flatly no, and it differs not just from movement to movement but from individual to individual, but not what I'm getting at. I mean that I can't help looking at the Talmudic sages and thinking they'd have been all over internet communities, having arguments about whether or not Lilith was canon (and therefore must be believed in) or folkloric (aka, fanon). There's a huge tradition of Biblical expansions called Midrash, and it is, more or less, fanfic. There are weird little OT discussions that spring up all over the Talmud, including one about whether or not eating cheese that was touched by a mouse makes you forgetful. So many Jewish texts are totally interactive that reading them is like participating in a thread that's been going on for a few millennia!

I'm not comparing the level of devotion--as much as I love Harry Potter and Star Wars, I wouldn't die for them--but just the behavior pattern. It's intersting to me.
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Comments
alphabet26 From: alphabet26 Date: December 7th, 2004 10:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
You've read Seldes Katne's Hanukkah story, haven't you? If she can do it, I don't see why you can't.

As far as fun minor holidays I wish would catch on in the mainstream, I think you can't beat the cheerful Purim

I read the All-of-a-Kind Family books when I was younger and I used to WISH I could celebrate Purim. It seemed like the most fantastic holiday. Well, Syndey Taylor made every aspect of their lives--except not having books; that would be horrible--seem fun, even though I can now see that some parts obviously weren't. But who wanted to be a little Jewish girl living on the Lower East Side of New York City in 1905? Me!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 7th, 2004 10:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, no I haven't read that. Must do that; I enjoy Seldes Katne's work in SW, but I haven't read her HP stuff yet.

Ah, yes, Purim. The only religiously mandated fan drinking game. And no, not kidding. There are rules about at which points in the story you're supposed to chug wine. It's very fun. And noisemakers and costumes... and it's at a part of the year where it's not competing with anything.

(Psst, the nice things about Jewish holidays for Christians is that there's nothing theologically preventing you from celebrating most of them. The Book of Esther is still in the Christian Bible... why not do Purim?)
sannalim From: sannalim Date: December 8th, 2004 07:53 am (UTC) (Link)
(Psst, the nice things about Jewish holidays for Christians is that there's nothing theologically preventing you from celebrating most of them. The Book of Esther is still in the Christian Bible... why not do Purim?)

My family does! We celebrate Passover and Purim and Sukkot. We make honey cake for Rosh Hashanah, but that's about all we do for that holiday.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: December 7th, 2004 10:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I read the All of a Kind Family books when I was a kid, too! (Longer ago than I care to think about.) I loved them.
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: December 8th, 2004 04:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Me too! My parents used to think it was weird, the way I adored them.
From: anatomiste Date: December 7th, 2004 10:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've been convinced for a while now that certain fandom-based concepts would come in extremely handy in religious discussion!

Confused myself today when pondering number of books in the Bible: "and then Luther brought up the question of whether St. James was really canon" -- "aren't I silly applying that word to this concept?" -- "Susan you moron, that's where it came from in the first place!"
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 7th, 2004 10:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've totally done that! :)

And the lovely thing about traditional Jewish religious discussion is that it does use a lot of concepts that we think of as fandom-based. I don't know enough fan anthropology to know if this is a direct influence--Jewish influence on fan culture--or if it's just parallel development, as it's a great way to discuss and interact with texts.
From: magnolia_mama Date: December 8th, 2004 03:35 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm trying to decide whether a little Hanukkah-inspired Potterverse fic would be a good way to celebrate, or slightly tacky.

I don't think so, though I'm not Jewish -- I'd just suggested to a friend in search of plot bunnies that she try something different from all the tree-decorating, presents-unwrapping, under-the-mistletoe-kissing fics and wrote a fic with a more Hanukah-esque theme. So I say go for it.

I love the idea of Midrash as Biblical fanfic. I'd never looked at it that way before, but it's true -- not only do you have the fics, but the meta as well!

MM
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: December 8th, 2004 03:59 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm trying to decide whether a little Hanukkah-inspired Potterverse fic would be a good way to celebrate, or slightly tacky.

Not tacky, I'd love to read it. I've always assumed Hannah Abbot's family was Jewish, tho it's not specifically stated.

Shari Lewis has gone a long way in our family's appreciation of Hanukkah and Passover. She made two videos which are a lot of fun for kids and have prompted us to celebrate (more than those two) Jewish holidays over the years. (Or at least discuss them when we don't "do" them every year -- tho we did a brilliant Passover two years ago, complete with Lambchop's "It Would Have Been Enough" song done by my son.)

If the HP-universe is reflective of the real one, there's every reason to believe they would run the gamut of ethnicities and religions. Personally, I've been hoping someone would do a Dora and Remus future Christmas drabble, complete with kids trying to listen for Father Christmas and Remus fiddling with getting magical toys assembled. :)

readerravenclaw From: readerravenclaw Date: December 8th, 2004 02:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I must say that Abbot does not sound at all like a Jewish name to me. (Though, of course, there are Jews with very un-Jewish names.) Anthony Goldstein is the token Jew in the Harry Potter series.

Personally, I think that introducing any real Christian or Jewish religion into the Harry Potter books is an excercise in awkwardness, because let's face it; according to both religions, magic and witches are evil. Most Christians/Jews don't have any problems with Harry Potter because it's obviously fantasy, and as long as Harry Potter is kept within its bounds of "not real" the magic/witch aspect is equated with day-dreaming and wish fulfillment, with fantasy, as opposed to being equated with the actual witches (and wizards) that according to the Bible actually existed and could actually do magic using supernatural evil forces.

Once you start really dealing with religion, as opposed to just mentioning Christmas as an almost secular holiday of gift-giving, you run into real problems, because there's just no way to square someone who is truly a religious Christian or Jew and a wizard/witch at the same time. That's why JKR's mention of witch-burning in the beginning of PoA bothered me; equating the fantasy witches and wizards and magic of Harry Potter with the witches/wizards/magic spoken of in religious contexts, when in fact they are not alike at all, is in my opinion pushing the bounderies of comfort for religious people farther than necessary - and since JKR is Christian herself, this was particularly strange to me.

I suppose the explanation for it is that like so many other things forbidden in the Bible, Christians nowadays consider it outdated, and I imagine that there are very few Christians who actually believe that real supernatural/magical forces once existed, so the connection doesn't bother them at all.

Still, if you're planning to write a story about a Jewish student at Hogwarts, you might want to make the person in question not much more than a traditional Jew, lighting candles on Chanukah and such but for the cultural aspect of it, not the religious aspect.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 8th, 2004 02:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, the witchcraft forbidden in the Bible has nothing to do with what's practiced in HP--no one in HP calls on foreign gods for their powers.
readerravenclaw From: readerravenclaw Date: December 8th, 2004 08:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I mentioned in my post that the two are nothing alike. :) That's why most religious Christians and Jews don't consider the HP books to be at all problematic. However, JKR DOES come uncomfortably close to relating the two, by referring to the witch burnings - and partly because of that, I think that having a very religious Christian or Jew as a witch or wizard would just be too awkward. To me, fantasy and (the Jewish or Christian) religion just don't mix well. Religion is meant to be the ultimate truth, whereas fantasy is very distant from reality by definition. Trying to reconcile the two in one universe, in my mind, just doesn't work. I know I'm not being very clear.... I haven't been getting much more than five hours of sleep per night recently, so my ability to think clearly has been negatively affected, unfortunately. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 8th, 2004 10:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think that the perception from the outside would be that way, and that a Muggle-born with a religious outlook would have a problem (in fact, I think it would make an interesting story). But pure-bloods and those raised in the wizarding world wouldn't really run into that, since they know how it works. The HP universe seems to be fairly reasonably reflective of modern culture, so there's probably a multitude of different practiced faiths and levels of devoutness in the wizarding world, the same as in the Muggle world. I don't see any reason why there wouldn't be.

That said, where I think it would get hinky would be if the reader were asked to believe in a certain religion during a fantasy, because it's asking the reader to accept two different mythic structures. (I disagree that fantasy is divorced from reality; like myth itself--and this is the reason religion clashes with it--it seeks the ultimate truth about reality and the nature of mankind.) Characters can practice a religion within the scope of a fantasy, but the story itself is the foundational myth of the thing, so you can't suddenly have G-d sending Harry help because he prays for it.
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: December 8th, 2004 05:23 am (UTC) (Link)
First, Happy Hannukah!

Second, I don't think a Potterverse fic would be tacky. There's all sorts of Christmas ones out there, so why not a Hannukah one?

(Deleted comment)
scionofgrace From: scionofgrace Date: December 8th, 2004 01:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Happy Hanukkah!

I always liked the story of Esther (who says the Women of the Bible don't rule?), and Purim did always sound cool to me. This grouping of holidays around the Solstice isn't exactly a coincidence, is it? I guess us Christians started it, putting a major feast-day right next to a pagan one. Talk about the snowball effect.

A Hanukkah-based HP fic doesn't sound tacky. I'm sure there's any number of Jewish wizards/witches, we just haven't heard about them.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: December 8th, 2004 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I say a Chanukah fanfic does sound tacky, because fanfics based entirely on a holiday always are.
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: December 8th, 2004 04:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Right, okay, but not because it's trying to make the Potterverse ethnically diverse when we don't know how diverse it is...not that there aren't any Jewish wizards, but that we have only been introduced to those that celebrate Christmas.
I'm really bad at explaining.
cheshyre From: cheshyre Date: December 10th, 2004 05:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dunno if you've seen but mamadeb has written a Hannukah fic
adinarj From: adinarj Date: September 1st, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I came upon here while searching LJ for "All of a Kind Family". I'm not sure how I ended up here, but I'm glad I did.

I agree with your comparisons of the Jewish and Christian major holidays. It's a shame that calendar closeness seems to dictate the similarities in most cases, and people forget the original point.

Oh, and -- I'd love to see a Jewish-based Potterverse fic!
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