TITLE: The Light of Hanukkah
AUTHOR: Mara Greengrass
AUTHOR'S E-MAIL: fishfolk@...
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PERMISSION TO ARCHIVE: Yes, just let me know.
WARNING: Holiday bashing ahead, as well as some minor dissing of
deities. If this bothers you, stop reading now. All flames and flamers
will be chopped into little pieces and fed to the Invisible Pink
SUMMARY: "I don't believe in the whole deity and miracle thing, but
the being hounded through the woods for being born the wrong way,
yeah, I can get into that."
DISCLAIMER: The X-Men and the X-Men movieverse belong to Marvel and
Twentieth-Century Fox and other entities with expensive lawyers. I am
making no profit from this story.
NOTES: Kitty's prayer and discussion of Hanukkah are adapted from
materials on the website of the Society for Humanistic Judaism, but
the categories of Jewish holidays are mine. Thanks to J. Marie (aka
Askani'daughter) for the beta, and <hugs> to Eiluned for offering to
read it from her sickbed.
Christmas was everywhere, and it was making Kitty sick. She peered
cautiously through the library door. The darn holiday was still two
weeks away, but it was evident in the smell of baking gingerbread, the
tinsel Jubilee had strung haphazardly on every surface, and the crunch
of the candy cane bits Bobby kept dropping underfoot.
The library looked safe from Christmas cheer. As Kitty phased through
the oak door, she heard the off-key carols recede into the distance.
She sank gratefully into her favorite chair, slipping her long legs
under her body to curl up in the embrace of its worn green chenille.
The Professor's library relaxed her, with its eclectic mix of the
Encyclopedia Britannica, Plutarch, and Agatha Christie.
She idly picked up the calculus textbook she'd brought as cover in
case anyone found her, but as she flipped through the pages, her mind
returned to her Christmas lament.
//It sucks to be Jewish in the month of December, where I'm constantly
reminded I'm an outsider. Wow, mutant *and* Jewish, if I could just
become a lesbian, I could round out my "most-hated" status,// she
She leaned back in her chair, wrapped her arms around her body and
enjoyed a good bout of self-pity. Then the door slammed open, followed
by the energetic entry of Jubilee, trademark yellow jacket replaced
with a blindingly red blouse and green skirt. Rogue leaned in moments
later, her dark bodysuit livened with a sprig of greenery.
"There you are, girl!" Jubilee said, perching on one arm of the chair
while Rogue leaned against the nearest bookshelf. "What are you doing
holed up in here? It's Friday night, let's party!"
Kitty groaned. "Go away and let me be miserable by myself."
"What's up?" Jubilee asked.
Rogue made shooing motions with her hands. "Jubes, go away for a sec,
and let me talk to her." Jubes patted Kitty's shoulder and bounced her
way out of the room, humming "I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus."
Rogue settled on the rug and propped her chin in her hands. "Well?"
"Well, what crawled up your ass and died?" Rogue tried to growl like
Logan, but it didn't quite work.
Kitty managed a weak smile. "The Christmas stuff is just a bit much,
and I feel left out. I'll get over it."
"You're welcome to join in."
"But I don't *want* to." Kitty wanted to pound her head against the
wall. Didn't anyone *get* it? "It's not my holiday and I don't *want*
to celebrate it. I don't care about the baby Jesus. I don't believe in
God at all. And if you ask me how I can be Jewish and not believe in
God, I'll smack you."
Rogue sensibly ignored most of the outburst. "Honey, it's not really
about being Christian."
"That's easy for you to say, but you know it is. It's not my holiday,
and it's a reminder that I'm not like everybody else."
"You know we don't mean that," Rogue said, her brows furrowed.
"I know." Kitty curled up in a tighter ball in the chair, and before
she could say anything else, Rogue slid onto the corner of the seat
and carefully put her arms around her. Kitty was touched that her
normally skittish friend would do this for her. She rested her head on
Rogue's shoulder and breathed in her vanilla shampoo.
"You're our friend and we love you," Rogue said.
Rogue squeezed her. "Feel a little better?"
"Yeah, but I don't think I'm ready to handle Jubes yet."
"I'll try and keep her busy if you try and cheer up," Rogue said.
She closed her eyes, leaned back in the chair, and contemplated her
next move. She was startled by the sound of a footstep on the oriental
rug. "Jubes, if that's you, go away," she said.
A voice much deeper than Jubes', with just a little Canadian accent on
the vowels spoke. "What's up, kid?"
Kitty opened her eyes to see Logan settling into the chair opposite
her. "Nothing," she said quietly. The last person she wanted to admit
she was being emotional and weepy to was the big, bad Wolverine.
"Yeah, 'nothing' always has you hiding out in here sending your
friends away. Do I *look* stupid?" He crossed his arms, and looked (in
fact) immovable. "Tell me about it. I'm not as mean as I'm cracked up
to be. Not outside the Danger Room, at least."
"It's just all this Christmas stuff," Kitty said, wrapping her arms
around her and staring at the book in her lap. Maybe if she ignored
him, he'd go away.
"Yeah, all this enforced cheeriness gets to be a bit much, doesn't
it?" Logan said.
Her eyebrows shot up, but all she could manage was, "Uh huh." They sat
in silence for a few minutes, and she flipped a few pages.
"It's tough, this time of year," Logan said finally. "Everybody's got
these happy holiday memories I haven't got. Hell, for all I know, I'm
Jewish. Or Buddhist."
She dared a look at his face, but he wasn't looking at her, he was
looking up at the ceiling, his face tight. He absently rubbed the
knuckles on his right hand.
"I'm sorry," she said, unsure what else to say. She'd never thought
about what it was like to not remember your past, to lose the good
bits as well as the bad.
"Not your fault. Just wanted you to know you're not the only one
feeling left out." He shook his head and stood up. "Don't just sit
here being depressed. Go talk to Ororo."
"Yeah." He paused. "And if you feel the need to get further away from
Christmas, you can hide out in my room any time."
"Thank you. I...maybe I'll take you up on that."
Logan nodded once and padded out of the room. She sat a little longer
in her chair, savoring the gift he'd given her.
She was feeling a little better, so she ventured out of the library.
But when she got to her bedroom, between the miniature tree with
flashing red lights and the talking Santa doll, she realized she
couldn't stand to be in there. Every room seemed to contain someone
singing or decorating or wanting to talk to her.
The dining room contained some of the younger kids practicing
Christmas songs, overseen from one corner of the room by Mr. Summers.
He looked up from the papers he was grading long enough to wave.
She wandered into the rec room, thinking perhaps she could convince
the gang to put on some harmless sitcom for a while. Bobby waylaid her
as soon as she entered the room.
"Kit-Kat, where've you been?" he asked.
"Around," she said absently, craning her neck to see what was on the
"We were looking for you earlier. John and I were gonna go see the
midnight showing of _Miracle on 34th Street_ and we thought you might
want to come along."
Kitty stopped looking at the television and turned slowly to look at
Bobby. "Um, work with me here." She pointed at herself. "Jewish? Not
"Oh, c'mon Kitty, it's just a movie. I don't see them making Hanukkah
movies. Hey, maybe you should make one. You can sing that song about
making things out of clay." Bobby was laughing hard.
Tears sprang to her eyes as she said, "Bobby, you're a jerk," and ran
out of the room.
//Damn that boy, maybe his real mutant power is being annoying,// she
thought as she stomped away. He called out after her, but she slid
through a few walls to get away, startling Ms. Grey reading a romance
novel in front of a fireplace and Dr. McCoy juggling oranges in the
kitchen. As she phased through the pantry, she looked back and saw him
drop five of them. She winced. She'd owe him an apology later for
For now, her improved mood was shot.
She could go to Logan's room, but she wasn't quite ready to take him
up on that offer. Well, he'd told her to talk to Ms. Munroe; maybe he
knew something about the other teacher she didn't. So, she skirted the
main areas of the mansion and slid up to the attic garden where the
plant-loving teacher was most likely to be found during the winter.
As she ascended the polished stairs, the tinsel petered out, as
apparently even Jubilee gave up. By the time she reached Ms. Munroe's
isolated level, the walls were back to normal, festooned only with the
occasional landscape or priceless vase in a nook. She felt better
As she reached to knock on the door, she heard music from within and
froze. She relaxed when she realized it was classical but *not* the
After a few calming breaths, she knocked tentatively on the door. She
waited a few moments, sticking her hands in her pockets before Ms.
Munroe opened the door. Would she be upset at a student bothering her
in the evening?
Ms. Munroe opened the door, and Kitty could see she wore a swirling
green robe. "Please come in," she said. As Kitty crossed the
threshold, she was shocked by a rush of warm, scented air. It washed
over her like a wave of floral perfume.
Ms. Munroe moved through a maze of plants, from a humble philodendron
to a spiky flower Kitty didn't recognize, but thought looked like
something out of a Star Trek episode.
Underneath a row of African violets was a low couch, and Ms. Munroe
led her to it. "Would you like some tea?" she asked before sitting
down. "I believe I may even have some shortbread."
"That'd be nice," Kitty said, relaxing as her teacher swept to a small
kitchenette to put on water for tea.
Moments later, they were both settled with tea and cookies. Ms. Munroe
asked, "Now, please tell me, what is bothering you?"
How to phrase it? The words leapt out of her mouth before she could
censor them. "I despise Christmas!" Kitty said.
"As do I," Ms. Munroe said. Kitty looked at her in surprise. "Perhaps
I would not have used quite that word, but I agree with the sentiment.
Didn't you know that I am not a Christian either?"
"No, I guess I didn't. I'm sorry."
"No need to be sorry, it is an easy assumption to make in this
country. But it is not easy to be one of the few people not
celebrating, is it?"
Emboldened by the understanding, the words poured out of Kitty. "Every
time I sit in front of the television, someone puts on 'Rudolph, the
Red-Nosed Reindeer.' Radio stations keep playing 'Rock Around the
Christmas Tree' or whatever that darn song is. I can't even go to the
"It is overwhelming, but you are not alone in this. And, of course,
you have your own holiday."
Kitty groaned. "If one more person equates Hanukkah with Christmas, or
asks me to sing the dreidel song, I'm going to scream."
"I do not believe I know very much about Hanukkah, other than the
basic story: The Jews, led by Judah Maccabee, defeated the Greek king
of the Syrian empire, and then entered the defiled temple to light the
"Oh, the story," Kitty waved her hands, nearly leaping out of her seat
in exasperation, "that's got nothing to do with it. Most of it's not
even true, anyway. The rabbi explained that to me years ago."
"That took some of the magic away for you, didn't it?"
"Sort of, but I'd rather know the truth any day. The bit about the oil
lasting eight days rather than one? Added a long time later. All that
stuff about religious freedom? The Maccabees would have happily made
the Greeks worship God just like the Jews."
"Then what does the holiday mean to you?"
"It's not even that important a holiday, you know? But it's all about
people standing up for themselves. I don't believe in the whole deity
and miracle thing, but the being hounded through the woods for being
born the wrong way, yeah, I can get into that."
Ororo smiled. "I suppose there is a rather obvious link to modern
"There always is. You know, I knew a girl who said there were three
kinds of Jewish holidays: harvest holidays, religious ones, and
'somebody tried to kill us, we kicked their butts, let's eat.'"
Ororo made a noise suspiciously like a snort. "Oh dear. I suppose
Hanukkah is one of the latter."
"Yup. I've been so busy complaining about Christmas, I hadn't really
thought about it, but I guess Hanukkah's about not letting people push
you around, about standing up for what you believe in, about heroes."
"That is certainly relevant. Perhaps," Ororo paused, "perhaps you
would be interested in doing a small celebration with me? I know I am
not Jewish, but whatever you think is an appropriate celebration."
"Maybe I could light the candles? That would be nice. Could I ask
"If you wish. I think he might appreciate that."
Sunday night, with the sun setting behind the trees, Kitty looked at
her small gathering in Ororo's room, waiting to eat latkes and
sufganyot. She smiled at them, and said, "Hanukkah isn't about any
particular deity, it's about courage, it's about freedom, and it's
about hope. These things are as important now as they were 2000 years
ago. The candles on this chanukiyah stand for values I believe in:
action, courage, human dignity, freedom, justice, identity, choice,
strength, and ingenuity."
As she lit the first candle, she said, "I know the traditional
prayers, but I found one on the Net that I like better. Baruch ha'or
ba'olam. Baruch ha'or ba'adam. Baruch ha'or ba'Hanukkah. Blessed is
the light of the world. Blessed is the light of humanity. Blessed is
the light of Hanukkah."