Saturday, December 26, 2009

Solstice, Etc.: Light One Candle

Peter, Paul and Mary: Light One Candle


Hanukkah, from a purely Jewish point of view, is a minor holiday. I don’t think much is made of it in Israel. But, here in the United States, its importance is inflated. Hanukkah becomes a statement of Jewish identity in the face of competition with Christmas. There has always been, it seems to me, the fear on the part of Jewish parents that their children would convert to Christianity to get more presents.

But Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary remembers the true meaning of Hanukkah in his song Light One Candle. Hanukkah celebrates the freedom to practice one’s religion in the face of adversity, and the passing on of knowledge from one generation to the next is an essential element of any Jewish holiday. The holiday also recalls God’s promise to look after His children. And, oh yes, there was also some sort of military victory. That’s enough for any holiday to have to do.

For me, the rhythm of Yarrow’s song also recalls the touching of the shammas to the other eight candles to light each in turn. So Yarrow has perfectly captured the spirit of Hanukkah in a mere three minutes. No wonder any number of Jewish musicians have covered this for Hanukkah collections.

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