Hanukkah, a Festival of Light™, began at sundown, and it would have passed me by if I hadn’t noticed the unusual emptiness of the lab corridors this evening. I must confess an atheist’s ignorance in not noticing religious holidays come and go. There were so many while I was growing up in a multicultural, multi-religious country. As far as I was concerned, the only ones worth joining in were the ones of benefit to my grubby little self. Food has always been the sole draw to any religious gathering1. Nodding my head along to whatever sermon, hymn or prayer was on offer, I conned many a church out of countless biscuits and cups of tea. Christmas Eve, which I think of as their Festival of Light™, was another such time, with non-alcoholic mulled “wine” and fancy German kuchen replacing the bog-standard biscuits.

When I was a child, the Festival of Light™ in our country was Deepavali. As with all Festivals of Light, it celebrated the triumph of good over evil, light over dark. And there were melas. And at the mela, you could gorge yourself senseless on the pure goodness that is sweet dough, deep-fried, and then caked in even more sugar. I refer, of course, to gulab jamuns.

And while Hari Raya Puasa, the local name for Eid, was not strictly known as a Festival of Light™, it might as well have been for all the strings of multi-coloured light bulbs all over the city. That was indeed a celebratory time of ketupat and satay. Ah, ketupat… Its sole purpose in my life was as a medium of transferring more satay sauce into my mouth after the satay was done.

And now that I am living in a city with a fair number of Jewish folk, I’m kind of hoping someone will show up to work tomorrow with some sufganiyot. I’m not fussy; Krispy Kremes or Dunkin Donuts will do.

Update: Having asked my one outwardly Jewish friend about sufganiyots, I was informed that American Jews don’t have doughnuts at Hanukkah, preferring latkes instead. So. Now I know…

1 I am clearly not a dyed-in-the-wool, rock-hard atheist. Unlike Christopher Hitchens, I have no scruples about playing along the religious folk to get at their baked goods. Baked goods…


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