Today’s theme song in ENGL 203-04 is “Joy to the World,” as performed by The Klezmonauts. The song is from their album Oy to the World and is available as a free download from the album website.
This coming Sunday is the first night of Hanukkah, the Jewish eight-day celebration marking events in Jewish history from the second-century BCE that may be seen as revolving around the principle of religious liberty. The name Hanukkah in Hebrew means “re-dedication,” and it refers to the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem that took place after the successful Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy.
The central symbol of Hanukkah is the menorah, which is lit each night of the eight-day celebration.
As we continue our reading of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, it’s worth thinking about the central role of light, as a symbol, in a variety of celebrations connected to the winter solstice. One of these celebrations was the Roman festival of Saturnalia, which included many of the symbols and activities that later became part of Christmas tradition.
Although Hanukkah and Christmas lights have particular meanings associated with their respective holidays — the same holds true for the lights that play a role in Kwanzaa, a celebration of African heritage observed in nations of the African diaspora — we might ask ourselves, broadly, why light would serve as a central symbol in all of them, given their place on the calendar.
We might also ask ourselves how this common thread through holidays representing multiple traditions relates to ideas at the heart of Dickens’ tale.
Finally, we might ask ourselves why it would make sense to a klezmer band to mash-up a Jewish musical tradition with a traditional Christmas song.