The Southern Belle Mother of Hanukkah & How the Festival Became a Holiday: An Archives Article

Penina Moise was not merely an author and composer but an old-school Southern Belle and the Mother of Hannukah. (isla.org)

Penina Moise was not merely an author and composer but an old-school Southern Belle and the Mother of Hanukkah. (isla.org)

She”s been entirely forgotten, but she was a feminist, a slaveholder, a spitfire, a spinster and a brilliant writer of wit, piety and iron will, and without her the United States and even the world would likely not be seeing a proliferation of blue candles in the coming weeks to mark the annual Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Holiday in the sense of celebration, family dinners, gifts, games and other traditions, but not in the strictest sense of religious intent.

President Ronald Reagan accepts a menorah in the Oval Office from rabbis, 1986. (RRPL)

President Ronald Reagan accepts a menorah in the Oval Office from rabbis, 1986. (RRPL)

Barton's Hanukkah Candy tin. (etsy)

Barton’s Hanukkah Candy tin. (etsy)

Still, in that way which has been unique to the American culture of E Pluribus Unum, the Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, and Atheists all know about Hanukkah and many join in the Jewish celebration events around the same time as Christmas.

The winding tale of just how this mere celebration became a big time of year for many Jewish-Americans is a convergence of faith, immigration, marketing and advertising, repression, even humor. Its evolutionary tale involves an orthodox rabbi and a very unorthodox rabbi, Chinese restaurants, kids, candy and card companies – and some facts on just how it was that the color blue became somehow the “official” one of this holiday.

Here again is that tale, American Hanukkah: How Pop Culture Created ‘Jewish Christmas,‘ a highly popular and lavishly-illustrated one from the archives of Carl Anthony Online. It’s a long read, ideal for a rainy weekend afternoon, being stuck in traffic or an excuse to procrastinate at work.


Categories: Diversity, Hanukkah, Hanukkah, Holidays

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