from today's Washington Post: Many Jewish parents have responded to Christmas madness by trying to invent Channukah madness. Channukah is arguably the most festive of the Jewish holidays, but the Jewish holidays are a sombre lot. Many of them commemorate the Jewish people's survival of a tragedy or simply remind them to be more pious and humble. I have no doubt that in a generation or two the Holocaust will have its own holiday. Jewish holidays are really not meant to be "celebrated" in our sense of the word. Christian holidays have lately become causes for raucous commercialism. This is understandable. Christendom was for centuries a community of endemic poverty. Its taboos against sanitation, literacy and profitable enterprise generated a thousand years of ignorance, plague and squalor known as the Dark Ages. Christian people have a lot of happiness and gaiety to catch up on. The Jews have always promoted sanitation, literacy and profitable enterprise. Christians had to resort to the vilest acts of discrimination to keep the Jewish communities in their midst from becoming beacons of health, wisdom and prosperity to their suffering children. In particular Christians had to live with the hypocrisy of concentrating their capital into the shtetls. Like Muslims, for centuries they intepreted the biblical admonishment against what is commonly translated as "usury" to mean any borrowing and loaning of money for interest. In a proper economy this practice benefits both borrower and lender and is one of the strongest engines for the creation of the surplus--or "capital"--that increases prosperity over the generations. Therefore they were forced to encourage the Jews to go into the banking business, and watch as the principles of Economics 101A strengthened the Jewish community. The Jews came to be stereotyped as literally "rolling in money," because it was only an exaggeration of reality. The Jews did not need to turn their holidays into excuses to exchange money, because their communities had a viable economy year-round. With this history, there is no strong motivation to turn Channukah into a celebration of spending as there is with Christmas. In the long run I suspect that the commericalization of Channukah will fade away. The Jews will continue keeping their holiday in their own traditional way, and they will be at peace with watching the Christians go crazy and put a Christmas tree on every flat surface. They'll even accept the invitation to the globe-spanning Christmas party and enjoy the food. And those who are bitching will be encouraged by the wiser among them to shut up.