Bothered, And Bothered by It

I made the following post to a forum I frequent, but I also wanted to post it here to get feedback from some folk not on that forum. Let me very clear up front that nothing in this post is against the publishers of the product.

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So yesterday, the awesome folks at Evit Hat put out Spirit of the Season, a free supplement for Spirit of the Century that’s very much holiday-season oriented. It presents Nick Saint, aka. Secret Santa, and his Reindeer Men, as they battle against a bevy of Christmas-based foes like Dr. Scrooge and Jacques Frost. The supplement is excellent, as is to be expected from EVP, and I’m both thankful to them for putting it out, and enjoying it very much. I say all this to be very clear that everything that comes below is all about me, not about Fred or EVP.

Now, when I first read that this was coming on Fred’s LJ, I asked him, “Do we get some Channukah love in there as well?” to which he replied, “Not *really*, since the idea revolves around a Santa figure.” Peachy. He then goes on to mention the product may be expanded in a for-pay version that might include some Channukah-themed pulpy goodness as well. Yay.

Cut to yesterday when I get the PDF and as I am looking through it, and enjoying the reimagining of the tropes into cool pulpy characters, I run into Stories of the Season, a series of adventure hooks, and into this (pg. 43):

CHANNUKAH IN PERIL!
At the start of Channukah, in old Palestine, in the city of Jerusalem, Baroness Blackheart has unearthed a cache of consecrated oil dated from before 70 AD and the destruction of the Temple She intends to corrupt the oil’s purpose in her alchemical pursuit of the Elixir of Life! Can Nick Saint and the Reindeer Men brave international politics and reclaim the oil from Blackheart before this holy relic is lost forever to her sinister purposes?

And immediately the grin I had on my face vanishes and I get this very uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. A million thoughts are racing through my mind: Fred said there’d be no Channukah stuff in there, so why this? Santa Claus has to go save Channukah? What kind of crap is that? Why is there no Jewish pulp hero to take down the Baroness’s ass and save Channukah the way Judah Maccabee did it centuries ago? Why am I so fucking bothered by this???

Why, indeed?

I thought I was overreacting; I was going to post this last night but I said, no, let me sleep on it and see how I feel in the morning. I feel the same way.

The simple solution is to take matters into my own hands and create the aforementioned Jewish pulp hero that can defend Channukah: Agent Makav (Hammer) and Team Menorah. I’ll write it up and get some art done and voila. That part is taken care of. But that doesn’t address why I got so upset over this.

I think it’s because of the appropiation of my holiday. To wit, Channukah is not that big a deal in the Jewish holiday cycle, at all. Important, yes, but not one of the major ones. The only reason Channukah has this level of visibility is because it falls during the Christmas season and American Jewry has turned into a sort of Jewish version of Christmas, which it isn’t, at all (but that’s for another topic). Nevertheless, at a time when I can’t step out of my house without being bombarded with Christmas imagery (seriously, my neighbors across the way have this huge and very tacky inflatable snowglobe that makes the most horrendous noise), when I can’t go to buy my groceries without having to pass a pine tree honor guard, when I can’t put gas without getting an earful of “Jingle Bells” or “White Christmas” or whatever Christmas song was released by whatever pop star, Channukah is my own symbol that I can cling on for a bit of sanity. Seeing menorahs all over the place (I live in Miami Beach, so there are quite a few of us around here) raises my spirit and gives me an anchor to hold on to in a sea of wreaths and manger scenes. And just to be clear, I have nothing against Christmas; I obviously don’t celebrate it, but the rest of my family does (but again, that’s another topic).

So when I read that Santa Claus has to go all the way to Jerusalem to stop a plot to destroy Channukah, it irks me, big time. It’s not like there’s a team-up between gentile and Jewish pulp heroes to bring down evil, just the guy in red. We have been, effectively, written out of our own holiday.

And this isn’t about Evil Hat. Whoever penned that section wrote a kickass adventure seed that actually sounds very cool. This is about how I perceive it as an appropiation of my one beacon of light during December. And I still feel like that, and I don’t know what to do about it.

Am I overreacting? Fellow Jews, do you see what I’m getting at, or does it not make a difference to you? Comment away.

8 comments

  1. appropriating your holiday

    Well, maybe. But is it being taken advantage of any more than Christmas is? As a Christian, how much do I see of Christ’s birth outside of Sunday Mass? Not much. It’s all Santa. Yes, perhaps a secularized version of Saint Nicholas. Heck, everythign you mentioned has nothing to do with the real meaniong of Christmas.

    It’s all how you look at it, really… I could get all torn up at what happens to a significant event in my religious calendar, but quite honestly, I don’t. It doesn’t affect my faith and beliefs one bit. I still have my relationship with Christ, and that ultimately is what matters to me. The rest of the world can melt away.

    Are you getting upset by what you believe to be a Christian attack on your religion (which I do not see it as, because Santa is not Christian – at least not to me), or by something else? If it is, then what is it really?

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  2. Man, I wish I had something useful to say. I’m at a loss.

    Let me try to let my thoughts stew as I put myself in your shoes as best I can and see if I can get a better sense of how that would make me feel.

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  3. Shavua Tov.

    I would definitely enjoy a special Chanukah gaming session centered on Judah Hammer and his brothers. But (not having read the publication) I can guess that a different set of heroes for one of the adventure hooks would not make much sense for the supplement.

    Still, I agree with you 100 percent. It’s not that I blame Evil Hat for trying (and you made it clear that you don’t either). It’s just that I wish everybody else would stop celebrating my holiday and turning it into something it’s not. I hate when I walk into a store and I’m told “Happy holidays” or when at work they schedule the “holiday party.” They can say “Merry Christmas” to me. I’m not offended. I acknowledge that I’m in the minority here and recognize people’s right to celebrate their holiday even if it’s terribly inconvenient for me. What really bothers me is that they pick this holiday of mine as the one to pay attention to. What about Sukkot or Pesach or Shavuot? What really bothers me is the suggestion that Chanukah is also celebrated by giving gifts instead of by eating fried foods and gambling. And to top it all off, those Jews who don’t know any better, believe what they hear from other sources instead learning about the richness of our own traditions.

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  4. Are you getting upset by what you believe to be a Christian attack on your religion (which I do not see it as, because Santa is not Christian – at least not to me), or by something else? If it is, then what is it really?

    Chris, the answer to your first question is: No, this isn’t about a Christian attack on Channukah, because as you well noted, this isn’t about the religious meaning of the season, but rather its riffing on the more secular one, the whole Santa thing. I guess it’s more about a cultural appropiation, and I don’t know if you would be able to understand it as well given you are not in the minority. But then again, you might.
    I will agree with you that the religious meaning of Christmas is under a heavier assault there than Channukah, but then again, that is a larger cultural issue. As someone pointed out in the other thread where I am discussing this, if Santa had gone to save baby Jesus, then we’d be in the very same place and you (as well as any other Christian) would be quite more irate. I guess it is about how it’s ok to culturally-appropiate Channukah, but no one would dream of doing the same to the Christian meaning of Christmas.
    And just to be clear, I am very much in favor of Christmas being taken back to its religious roots and celebrated for what it is. There’s a reason why Jews don’t celebrate it, and it is precisely because of that reason that Christians should celebrate it correctly and fully in the know of the relevance and importance it has to them.
    Man, I wish I had something useful to say. I’m at a loss.

    Mick, from your gut, man. The reason I sent this to you guys is because you are all spiritual but from other angles, so you’d be able to examine my reaction from a variety of POVs.
    It’s just that I wish everybody else would stop celebrating my holiday and turning it into something it’s not.

    David, again, in the other thread, someone made a very true assertion: just call it a Christmas supplement; calling it a “Holiday” supplement hints at a sense of inclusive pluralism that effectively robs us of our identity and tradition, because we are the minority and get swallowed up by the avalanche that is the general populace.

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  5. Funny, I saw and downloaded Hanukkah Havoc already, and did not like it either. Yeah, it’s “Hannukah” themed (and not really, it could have been set around any holiday by just changing the contraption to allude to another symbol), but it was flat and cartoony. Not offensive, just bleh. I think people keep missing out on the richness of the holiday as a source for really good material for games.

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