Another year passes, another Hanukkah arrives. For those unfamiliar with the story of the festival, I explain quite a lot about it here, in last year’s post. The reason it held a particular attraction for me as a child was – apart from the delicious foods, fun rituals and of course, the presents – was that it emanated from a period of history that fascinated me from an early age. So much did the story interest me in fact, that at some point, when I was about fourteen I decided to turn it into a comic strip.
Obsessed as I was with the actual history behind the story, rather than with the traditions and alleged miracles, I was keen for the strip to be as close to the ancient reality as possible. Hence, the “evil Greek soldiers” were less evil Greek, and more, ruthless, professional Macedonian mercenaries; while my “heroic freedom-fighter” Maccabees were more, (equally) ruthless, uncompromising zealots. Moreover, although the comic never made it that deep into the narrative, I intended to portray the Hellenised Jews, as less “treacherous collaborators” and more, worldly, pragmatic rationalists (one of which I would like to think I would have been myself!).
However, as was often the case with my juvenile projects, the initial flame of enthusiasm died out before I’d really got going – in this case, after barely the first two pages.
Nevertheless, it remains fun to look at now, and had I finished it, with its austere red-to-black tonality, it might have emerged as an early example of the graphic novel.
In the meantime, I wish all my Jewish readers a very happy, healthy and peaceful Hannukah, and a very merry Christmas to everyone else!
6 thoughts on “THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS…”
I wondered if you had a teacher or books that led you to question the traditional beliefs you were taught. But then I recalled at the age of 12 I suddenly lost all belief in my family’s religion, and I don’t think there were any outside forces, just a questioning mind.
There have been a number of programs on our local televisions stations about the Americanizad version of Hanukah at least one of which gave a little historical background.
I hope you had a very good holiday.
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A similar thing happened for me when I was 15, when atheism struck. I guess it was a just the fact that I was so obsessed with the history of my people (and ancient history in general) that I found all the miracles and wonders boring by comparison. That, combined with an innate cynicism about the concept of a God, and “his” questionable personality (more worthy of condemnation than worship I always thought), that the whole religious thing just struck me as incredibly silly.
The best place to start with the Hanukkah story / history, is in Josephus’s “Histories” and then go on from there. But don’t get me wrong. I remain strongly, culturally Jewish. There’s so much more to being Jewish than the religion itself, and once conditioned into it from birth, it would be difficult to throw off entirely, even I wanted to.
Thanks for the good wishes, although I haven’t celebrated Hanukkah – or any other Jewish festival for over twenty years.
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My father, who passed when I was nine, would celebrate because it was Tuesday. I am not able to keep up with that, but I do believe in tradition and celebration for their own sake.
Hanukkah, as I understand it to be celebrated in the U.S., is a celebration of hope. That certainly is as good a reason as any to celebrate.
Our current community has a large population with Indian origins, and I learned this year that most – Singh, Hindu, Muslim, whatever – celebrate Dawali, a celebration of light over darkness.
Far-left Democrat friends in D.C., both of whom were raised in Communist households, did not reconnect with their Jewish heritage until they had children. Perhaps that’s what it takes.
You were a remarkable teenager to produce such a dramatic strip (both drawings and text). Just imagine what you could do now, should you want to finish it.
Happy Hanukkah – and hope for Peace on Earth.
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Thanks Mary – “he” seems like a different person from this distance, and sadly, the current version lacks “his” patience for the drawing side of it at least, although I do still tinker with the idea of a “gritty” and nuanced historical novel about Judah and the Hasmoneans – along the lines of a Robert Graves?