What do Star Wars, Hanukkah and Christmas have in common? A place before Berlin’s iconic Brandenburger Tor.
The Brandenburger Tor draws competing costumed characters that try to make a buck from tourists. Note the East German soldier and the Berlin Bear in the background. Equally popular though, was Darth Vader, a chubby Spaniard who proudly said he had made the costume himself. How did I know he was chubby? When it was my turn to pose with him, he held me so close I had no choice but to hang on to his love handles.
The menorah has been a fixture at the Brandenburger Tor at Hanukkah since 2004. The first bulb comes on on the first day of the Jewish festival and an additional one is lit each subsequent day. This menorah is the largest public menorah in the continent. In Jewish homes, candles and oil lamps tend to be used rather than bulbs and blessings are recited during the lighting process followed by a hymn.
Because of Hanukkah’s proximity to Christmas, 19th century German Jews started celebrating ‘Weihnukka’, a term drawn from Weihnachten and Hanukka. Adopting Christmas traditions such as erecting Christmas trees and giving gifts was viewed as culturally German rather than Christian. Today that is a controversial view, but it always warmed my heart to see the menorah and twinkling Weihnachtsbaum sharing the space. ω