The Corner

Stiffening Derb’s Anti-Multi-Culti Spine

A reader: “Well, I’m afraid your anti-mulitculturalist credentials _are_

slipping a bit. No one doubts that Hanukkah is a real holiday, and I am

glad you enjoyed the Hanukkah ceremony at your friends’ home. But one of

the main reasons Christmas has been marginalized and even the word

’Christmas’ is disappearing from public discourse is because Hanukkah has

been elevated to a position out of all proportion to its traditionally minor

significance. And the success Hanukkah has enjoyed in gaining public

recognition has inspired the more recent success of Kwanzaa, Ramadan, and

other winter festivals in gaining prominence in America, all at the expense

of Christmas.

“It is rather easy making a distinction between Christmas and all these

others. As I drove into work this morning, one of our local classical

stations played ‘Lift Up Your Head, O Ye Gates’ from ‘Messiah,’ one of

Torelli’s Christmas concerti, John Henry Neale’s translation of ‘In Dulci


Christian Men, Rejoice’–and a fantasia of carols by Ralph Vaughn Williams.

Neither Hanukkah nor the other winter festivals have anything to match even

this very tiny portion of all the great art inspired by or associated with

Christmas. However, once we admit that Hanukkah should be treated as the

equal of Christmas, despite the fact that its significance in Western

culture is close to zero and its significance in traditional Judaism is

minor, we really cannot complain about Kwanzaa or Ramadan. And this leads

us, inevitably, to ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘winter concerts’ featuring Kwanzaa

songs. Merry Christmas!”

Just one nit to pick there. Since the Islamic calendar is strictly lunar

(unlike the Chinese, by the way, which has lunar months but throws an extra

month in every 3 years or so to keep the years in sync), Islamic festivals

“float” through the Gregorian year at a rate of roughly 11 days a year, i.e.

on a roughly 33-year cycle. Thus Ramadan can occur in midsummer, or

midwinter, or at any other point in the solar year. It is therefore

impossible to “fix” any one Islamic celebration to coincide with

Christmas–even approximately, as is done with Hanukkah.