No matter how you spell it, Chanukah shows us the most important part of the holiday is the people you spend it with.
A friend of mine, Mark Mulder, said to me: “I love the old advertisements in the JN. Why don’t you write about holiday ads?” Mark had a good idea, so I decided to explore Chanukah ads in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History.
I soon realized I had to research four spellings; each gave various results in the number of citations in the Archive. The age-old question arose: Is it Chanukah or Hanukah or Channukah or Hannukah? The debate began in the pages of the Jewish Chronicle and the JN beginning in 1916. The final results are that Chanukah, cited 8,974 times, is the clear winner, followed by Hanukah with 2,999 appearances. Hannukah (88) and Channukah (41) lagged way behind the single N spellings.
In her essay from Dec. 11, 2014, Rochel Burstyn asked the same question: “Is it Chanukah or Hanukah?” She concluded, “That’s why we need to eat latkes — they remind us of the song lyric, ‘you say potato, I say potahto…’” Rochel makes a good point. It’s not the spelling; it’s the holiday that matters. And, I’m always for eating potato/potahto latkes, just to make a point, of course.
There are some great Chanukah advertisements in the Chronicle and JN. The JN, by the way, made an editorial decision some time ago to use Chanukah.
I like the Chanukah ad from Esther’s in the Dec. 11, 1998, JN: “Jaws Drop, Eyes Pop, One Stop Chanukah Shop.” Indeed, the list of items one can purchase at Esther’s ranged from silverware and wine, to menorahs, dreidels, books and computer games, to name a few. You can also find plenty of ads from restaurants and delis that would be happy to provide food for your holiday or, in the case of Chinese places, reminders that they would be open on Christmas Day.
Speaking of the Christian holiday, often around the same time as Chanukah, the Chronicle and JN have never discriminated against those who wish to offer Christmas gift ideas. For example, in the Dec. 12, 1941, issue of the Chronicle, there is an ad citing Chesterfield cigarettes as a perfect gift; or better yet, in another, Santa himself suggests “There’s a Gift She’ll Open Every Day,” a GE Refrigerator from Rosenfeld Radio on Dexter Avenue in Detroit.
Now, I don’t know about the other married men out there, but if I bought my wife a refrigerator as a gift, I think I would be in serious trouble. Greis Jewelers provided better advice to “Light the Candles and her Heart This Hannukah with Earrings, Bracelets or Watches.” Good advice.
There are also advertisements with a more serious intent. For example, a full-page ad in the Nov. 23, 1989, issue of the JN is all about helping Jewish families in need who live in our sister city of Minsk.
Finally, you can find further gift ideas in special Chanukah gift guides in the JN over the few past decades. And, of course, one can always give a subscription to the JN!
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at djnfoundation.org.