Sunday, December 2, 2012

Researching the role of cats in Hanukkah

Clem decided she'd better do her own work to get into the holiday spirit, as the yarn lady didn't seem to be doing too well in her holiday endeavors and therefore wouldn't be an inspiration for Clem.  Today was day five of the yarn lady's cookie project, and the Thumbprint Jammie cookies didn't turn out too well.  It was a new recipe, and the yarn lady had thought there seemed to be a large amount of butter in relationship to the flour in the recipe.  Well there was.  The cookies spread out way too much and although they were tasty, they didn't survive the journey from cookie sheet to cooling spot, much less any attempt to store them or even transport them somewhere to be eaten.  The yarn lady dumped them in the trash and gave the garbage can a harsh glare.  There was no joy in Christmas Cookieville tonight.  

After dumping the cookies, the yarn lady grabbed her coat, kissed Clem and said she'd be gone for a couple of hours.  As soon as Clem was sure she was alone, she powered up the iPad.  Just because she hadn't seen any stories about cats and the December holidays, it didn't mean there weren't any.  If she tailored her search to the specific holidays she'd probably find lots of information about how cats had helped along holiday traditions.  Hopefully some of them would even be historically based, and she could try a time-travel experiment if she felt particularly brave.  

The first place to look was a calendar to determine when Hanukkah was this year.  Sometimes it was earlier in the month and sometimes later, as had been explained last year.  Well, it was early - and it started in less than a week, so that was the place to start.  There had to be stories about how the Maccabees had cats who had found the oil, or maybe the cats had protected the oil.  

A dedicated search found nothing to connect cats to the holiday at all, at least not in a positive way.  One story did say something about people who were about to eat their cats and dogs, but Clem quickly closed that site when she saw it.  There was one recent story about a cat who had all its fur on one side burned off by a menorah and how each of the children in the family had written about it for the same teacher when asked to write about a holiday memory.  When, years later the teacher who had read all these stories came to the house for Hanukkah, she wanted to know when they were going to light the cat, as though it were a yearly occurrence.  Clem thought that was mildly amusing, but not an event she'd want to actually visit.  Who knows, they might decide to torch her....

There was a story book for small children that described how a cat and a dog had helped save a family from starvation during a Hanukkah snow storm.  The dog had dug up some buried potatoes so the family could make latkes and the cat had found apples in a tree (even though it was long after apple harvest time) to make applesauce for the latkes.  That was a sweet story, but obviously fiction, and Clem wasn't about to risk getting stuck somewhere again.  

Other than that, all the search results seemed to be about things like costumes you could buy for your cat, cat toys for those inclined to give eight days of presents to their cats or cat-themed Hanukkah merchandise.  Clem wondered if perhaps the Maccabees had something against cats, but as she read a little further, it seemed they had enough trouble keeping themselves fed, and pets were the last thing they wanted to worry about.  

The more Clem thought about it, the more she felt it likely that there had been a cat guarding the supply of oil that was found, but the cat would have melted into the shadows, knowing the satisfaction of a job well done was more important than being memorialized for history. Although, Clem thought, there were a lot of awfully cute cat menorahs, so maybe someone had an idea of the role cats had played in the historical origins of the holiday.


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