In case you’ve lost track of your candle-lighting, tonight’s the sixth night of Hanukkah—a.k.a. the Festival of Lights, a.k.a. the Jewish Christmas, a.k.a. an excuse to eat oily, fried foods. Hanukkah sometimes felt like a hard holiday to get into as a kid. I loved the eight days of presents and the chocolate coins, but I didn’t understand the whole Maccabees story and not-so-secretly coveted our neighbors’ Christmas tree. There was, of course, no Charlie Brown Hanukkah special, with a misshapen menorah in place of that scraggly bush. Even in my elementary school choir, we were forced to sing “We wish you a happy Hanukkah” to the tune of “We wish you a merry Christmas,” trading figgy pudding for potato latkes. Honestly.
Not to be outdone, the wonderful Idelsohn Society (your source for reissues of the Barry Sisters and offensive “Jewface” recordings) has their own Hanukkah mix, with tracks by Milton Berle and Woody Guthrie. You can see the full album listing here (scroll down…) and listen below.
I don’t know about you, but I vastly preferred board games as a child over the more dangerous (and potentially embarrassing) pursuits of the athletics field. Still I can’t help but think all of those hours spent on the living room rug must have prepared me in some way for adulthood. “Monopoly” taught me about finance; “Sorry” introduced me to the art of passive-aggressive apologies; “Candyland” revealed the dangers of psychotropic drugs; “The Game of Life,” taught me about forming a heterosexual family—not that I’ve followed all of their instructions.
If that leaves you wondering about the history of board games past, try digging through the rich archives of Lifemagazine, now available (and searchable by keyword) on Google Books. In 1970, the great glossy pointed readers towards some socially conscious board games perfect for readers of the Moynihan Report. In “Black and White,” for instance, every “black” player starts off with $10,000, and every “white” player starts out with a cool million. How’s that for disparity! And in the classroom-friendly “Ghetto,” your kids can learn what it’s like to live as a “typical slum dweller.”
Or why not commemorate the Civil War with a board game specially designed for Life. In “1863,” “everyone gets a chance to fight it over again. “
And last but not least, some diversions from Parker Brothers. Sure, you can still find “Clue,” but what about “Fat Boy’s Game,” perfect for Christmas 1951! Read more about it, and the bestseller on which it was based here, courtesy of the blog “Isn’t Life Terrible?” (From the same Life issue, don’t miss the article, “Doll For Negro Children,” across from a cigarette ad with the tagline “Discriminating People Prefer…”).
That’s all for today, dear readers! Until next time.