I’ll be home for Christmas/Hanukkah if only in my
dreams letters. I’ve been writing Christmas letters to enclose in my holiday cards for over 20 years now. I hope the grandchildren pictured will read all of them. This year, no doubt, I’ll mention a few letters from the battlefield of WWII.
In like manner, Howard Wilkinson of The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote about Ray Wissel, a 19-year-old soldier who sent a letter home on Christmas night 1944. From Italy, on a typewriter that he routinely pecked out the names for the lengthy casualty list, he wrote words of comfort to send to his family. No mention of the horrors and intensity of the front lines. He wasn’t going to be home for Christmas, but he did the next best thing.
I’m participating in a similar exercise now. I won’t be in Iowa for Christmas, but I’m sending this post. I’ve included an except from Foxtrots and Foxholes. The novel’s Jewish protagonist, Jacob Zimmerman is featured:
“Tunisia, Africa—Sunday, December 14, 1941, one week exactly after the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, the first day of the Feast of Lights holiday marked Jacob’s third Hanukkah since he had joined the Army. A US Army chaplain, Corporal Ira Harel placed an eight-branched menorah on a folding table makeshift altar outside the barracks at a base in Tunisia, Africa. A prayer shawl was used as a table covering. Small Torah scrolls lay next to pamphlets and prayer books.
Three Jewish men, including Jacob Zimmerman, in the 34th Infantry Division took turns with the center shamas candle each day at sundown, lighting the corresponding number of candles for each of the eight days.
Hitler became Supreme Commander-in Chief of the German Army during Hanukkah, on December 19, 1941. None of the Allies celebrated Hitler’s event.”
That portion was taken from page 126 of my novel. Back to the present. So many parallels exist between Christmas and Hanukkah:
- Messiah Jesus is Light/Festival of Lights
- Both are celebrated in December
- A Miraculous Birth/A Great Miracle of Cleansing the Temple
- Jesus Celebrated Hanukkah (John 10)
Today, many people send Hanukkah cards or write Christmas letters, but they are not as welcome as the soldier’s V-mail or personal correspondence. Why is that? Answer: Some find the annual holiday mail to be an excuse for “bragging rights” while others seem to like the friendly up-date.
For me, I write Christmas letters, because I want to share my life with my family and friends. Mostly, the informal writing is on special stationery as a historical record of sorts…okay, maybe I am a historian…if only in my dreams.
P.S. For a complete read of the above mentioned article by Wilkinson, visit http://www.armytimes.com/news/2010/12/gannett-army-soldier-letter-at-christmas-122410/