Monday, December 14, 2009

Cultural Practices, the triquel

I have often joked with my wife about religion and market shares.  Well, it turns out that other folks, most notably Adam Smith, beat me to it.  All American Jews know that Hanukkah is a minor holiday that got played up so that Jewish kids would not feel ripped off as the gentiles raked in the loot.  So, the stats in this article are not surprising either.
If Hanukkah celebrations are indeed a bulwark against Christian religious imperialism, then the most active observers of the "Jewish Christmas" should be those who are vulnerable. The authors of the study (parents all of them) hypothesize that children are most susceptible to Christmas envy, and, indeed, households with children were half as likely to skip Hanukkah candle-lighting as households with no children.
Of course, it's possible that people with kids may use just about anything as an excuse to have a party—birthdays, Valentine's Day, Halloween. So the authors compare Hanukkah with Passover, the springtime festival when Jewish parents face more modest competition from the Easter Bunny. It turns out that having children has no effect on the likelihood of attending a Seder, the traditional meal eaten on the first two nights of Passover. So it seems it is competition from Christmas, not just the presence of children, that makes families more likely to celebrate Hanukkah. (The authors parse the data in a number of other ways to further validate their Christmas hypothesis.)
Yum.  Hypothesis testing warms my social scientist heart.

1 comment:

Bill Ayres said...

I grew up in a heavily Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh, where about half of my Jewish friends not only did Hannukah, but also had Christmas trees!