Growing up, my sister and I were the only two Jewish kids living in our small Mississippi town. All of our Gentile friends had Christmas trees, so we thought it would be a good idea to have a Hanukkah Bush, so as not to feel left out. I know, I know, don’t tell me: there’s no such thing as a Hanukkah Bush. I get it, alright? Still, Christmas can be a lonely time for poor Jewish boys. My sister and I were not going to let ourselves be outdone by anybody. So I devised a story to one-up my goyish friends.
“You know, Christmas trees aren’t so special. We Jews had our own holiday tree way before the Christians did.”
“Nu uh!” My friends Barton and Cooter gasped in disbelief.
“Oh, it’s true all right.” I said, getting into lecture mode. “You see guys, when the good Lord first appeared to Moses as the burning bush in Exodus, that was actually the very first Hanukkah Bush!”
My friends were impressed to say the least.
“Wow! I ain’t never thought of it like that before!” Barton said, his eyes full of wonder.
“Gosh JR, how’d you get to be so darn smart?” Cooter asked in earnest.
Barton reared back and slapped Cooter upside the head, and then stated,
“Idiot! Don’t you know that JR’s one of God’s chosen people? They all have big minds. Look at that Einstein guy.”
“Oh, that’s right.” Cooter responded, seemingly unaffected by the wallop he had just received.
I guess you could say my friends weren’t the two brightest bulbs in the box. The fact that the burning bush in Exodus occurred more than 1,000 years before Hanukkah was apparently lost on them. No matter. This was only a minor inconvenience given that the entire story of the Burning Hanukkah Bush was a fabrication of my sick mind. But what can I say? Christmas can be a lonely time for poor Jewish boys.
I soon realized that a story would not be enough to satisfy my friends’ Judaic curiosity. I was going to need to show them an actual Burning Hanukkah Bush. So we went to Jackson, and bought a nice little white tree with blue balls, just like the Israeli flag. We placed a silver Star of David on top and used dreidels as ornaments. Our Hanukkah Bush was almost perfect, but it was missing just one final ingredient: fire. I figured this was going to be impossible to pull off until I noticed two fake wooden logs sitting in my grandparent’s fireplace in their “show” living room. I knew they wouldn’t miss them, because they hardly even came in this room, it was just for show or some big event that never occurred. These fake logs came with a rotating light to create the appearance that the logs were perpetually burning but never consumed. I realized they would be perfect for my burning bush! I waited until my grandparents were at work at “the store” and then borrowed the fake wooden logs. I scurried home and threw the logs underneath my Hanukkah Bush. As the flames flickered, it looked like the burning bush from the Torah.
The Gentile kids loved it and went home to tell their parents! The next thing we knew, the local newspaper came out to photograph our creation. It made the front page of the paper with the caption, “Jews have Burning Hanukkah Bush!”