Monday, December 24, 2007

Wednesday Dec 24

Christmas Eve.
at Rifkis and then
with Clara B. at Sophie
Zimermans house,


Matt's Notes

Christmas obviously wasn't that important to Papa as a religious holiday, so he probably mentions it here due to its more secular implications: an early exit from work on Christmas Eve, a day off on Christmas Day, and chance to stay up late visiting Rifki and Sophie Zimmerman (whoever they are) in the company of his cousin Clara Breindel. While he eventually learned to make other holidays like Thanksgiving his own (in a pattern typical for Jewish immigrants like Papa, certain American holidays didn't make their way entirely into his life until his child, a.k.a. my mother, brought them home from school) I expect he remained only incidentally interested in Christmas throughout his life.

It's worth noting that Papa doesn't mention Hanukkah in his diary at all -- evidence, perhaps, of its unimportance to Jews of earlier eras. (I've never known a time when Hanukkah wasn't a major gift-giving holiday, but most Jews I know consider its popular elevation to Christmas-like significance to be an obvious and even unseemly contrivance.) Then again, if we consider that he argued to nickname his chapter of B'nai Zion, the Zionist fraternal organization to which he belonged, "The Maccabean" after the Jewish warrior heroes of the Hanukkah story, we might conclude that Hanukkah meant at least something to him. In fact, he didn't write his his diary for the three days surrounding Hanukkah's December 22nd start, and as we've learned by now his diary silences often signaled some kind of emotional struggle: When Papa was a boy, did his his father, the religious school teacher, thrill him with tales of the Maccabees and their exploits? Did Hanukkah, despite its insignificance to the Jewish community, trigger in Papa a longing for home? Was this longing even more difficult this year because his father died only a few months earlier?


Update 12/25

My mother says Papa always told her stories about the Maccabees on Hanukkah, confirming (perhaps) that Papa may have heard those same stories from his own parents.

1 comment:

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