Monday, December 29, 2008

Holiday Happenings- Radio Hanukkah and so much more...

Happy holidays ye old townspeople... I took a small sabbatical from writing (and pretty much everything else) over the holidays just to recuperate a little more from school (like I really need that much support ;) but more importantly to kick back and enjoy the holidays. And that includes everyone no matter what you celebrate- even if you celebrate simply having time off from whatever you do on a normal basis.

So as the Festival of Lights begins to flicker away - no pun intended, it just sounded nice when I thought it out, here's a few things that were apparent over this year's edition of the holiday season:

For me personally, Hanukkah shares a special significance: My Hebrew birth date -aka the date I was born on in the Hebrew calender - is the 25th of the month of Kislev - the first day Hanukkah. I was actually born on the day (not the preceding night) and literally just made it before sunset, thus making it the 26th. I like to remind my parents that I was their 'miracle baby' and 'the light of their lives' or any other useful Hanukkah metaphor that could be fit with birth :)

So when the first candle was lit - that was the moment I finally felt 21. To honour the times, everyday @ morning services, there's an additional reading from the Torah, which I usually try to read for the congregation every year. It's a challenge, but I love it. So I spend a little time practicing, even though a lot of it is the same words over and over again. Look it up and you'll know what I mean.

Anyways about the holidays...

I'm sitting in my Dad's car Sunday morning (on the 21st) waiting for my dad to return after picking up a Toronto Star at the local Shopper's Drug Mart after morning services. Unfortunately, there's no National Post on Sunday, which is really too bad, if you ask me...

So as I'm waiting I begin playing with one of the car's coolest features: XM Satellite Radio
We've only had the car since July but we can't get enough of it. It actually provides us with what we want without any tassels or what not. Everyone gets to listen to what they like and variety is at a premium (Note- this is not a plug for satellite radio, rather a kudos for its services).

One of my favourite stations is the all Led Zeppelin station on channel 39. It happens to be the first of the rock stations on the dial. As I'm listening I go to turn up the volume and accidentally hit the channel changing nob instead, to channel 38. What I hear next is quite astounding.

"For the next 8 days and nights, tune into Radio Hanukkah, channel 38 on XM Satellite Radio for all your holiday favourites and classics, as well as live footage of the lighting of the White House National Menorah in Washington..."

Interesting. After all the years of having to listen to the same Christmas songs, I can now go into the car and hear all my favourite Hanukkah songs!

Okay that wasn't my real initial reaction, but I was surprised to hear something remotely Jewish on the radio, let alone a national station (satellite nonetheless) completely devoted to something of a Jewish nature, the holiday of Hanukkah! I ended up getting my family hooked to the station. Of course you had your usual songs like Hanerot Halalu, Maoz Tzur, and Oy Hanukkah ("Oy Hanukkah, Oy Hanukkah, come light the menorah, lets have a party, we'll all dance the hora..") but there was so much more. You could even hear those songs in several different languages, (Yiddish!) and in different musical forms (Klezmer!). Yeah I'm being sarcastic but just like your typical Christmas music that's played over and over again, unfortunately it's not too different from the Hanukkah music, so what gives? you ask...

Like bands like Zeppelin, AC/DC, Elvis, Springsteen and the Grateful Dead, who all have their own stations on satellite radio, you have to have a pretty large catalogue of material to demand that kind of air play. Not to mention the demand (yay!!) The station, which is in its 3rd year, is only available for the 8 days if the holiday (so ends tonight :(

The station features all sorts of music such as the usual classics, Klezmer bands, Israeli folk and traditional music, kids music, contemporary Jewish music, music from Jewish themed and inspired movies and Broadway plays, as well as hourly live features from Jewish bands such as Soulfarm, Blue Fringe, Rebbie Soul and others. Not only is there music, but there's also a variety of classes given by some of the most reknown speakers such as Rabbi Shmuley (who had an hourly slot at noon), Janis Ian. There's Jewish comedy too! And you can't forget Carlebach... a Jewish music essential!

Not bad for a group of people who only make up about 1% of the world's population.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday, whatever you were celebrating!

Click here if you want to know more about the station:

I'm not purely responsible for this work of art. My friend put it together in yeshiva and I took a picture of it. But yes, it's a menorah made of beer bottles, entirely kosher. (no need for Manishevitz)

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