The following is an excerpt from a chapter on world religions from John McCain’s upcoming book: “I Spent Five and a Half Years in a Vietnamese Prison Camp and My Mind is as Sharp as a…Ooh, look, a Birdie!” Published by Harper Collins.
Purim. The Jewish version of Halloween, in which children dress up in costumes and go door to door, though instead of saying “trick or treat” and receiving candy they say “we are your only ally in the region, give us money and guns and support in the U.N.” In this ritual they often employ a ceremonial noisemaker called a grogger which, when twirled in the air, simulates the sound of machine gun fire. This is done every time someone utters the name of Haman, a traditional Purim hobgoblin.
Easter. Christian Ground Hog Day. A holiday commemorating the time when Jesus came out of his grave and saw his shadow, which meant six more weeks of lent, a traditional period of self-denial in which Christians are forbidden from drinking Scotch, playing golf at restricted clubs, wearing plaid pants, or attending pancake breakfasts. Instead they must send all their money and pancakes to the fattest religious leader who, like the traditional sin-eater, takes on all their impurities and because of his heightened spiritual awareness can get rich and fat without his soul being tainted. (See Rev. John Hagee.)
The Burning Bush. A traditional Jewish sports ritual similar to our Super Bowl. When Moses saw the burning bush, it was not a mystical revelation, but a bonfire celebrating the First Annual Desert Classic Inter-Tribe Football Championship. Written on two stone tablets were the lineups of the two finalists. The golden calf was their equivalent of the Lombardi Trophy.
Ji-had. The Islamic version of the American expression “Yee-Ha!” often heard at rodeos by cowboys riding Brahma bulls and waving hats in the air. Only in the Islamic tradition the expression is used when someone drives an old Mercedes into a lunchtime crowd and blows everyone up. This is followed a week later by a holiday similar to our Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, called Orphans’ Day, sort of a “those without Mothers or Fathers Day.” All children are given Hershey Bars. If they save 15 wrappers they can be turned in for a free trip to Disneyworld.
Ramadan. A month-long fast and purification ritual in which devout Muslims often make a pilgrimage to Mecca called a Hajj, in which they circumambulate a large square block, until the music stops at which point they must sit down immediately, much like in our game of musical chairs, where whoever is left standing is out. Though instead of having to move to the side and have a cookie, the loser is decapitated. Traditionally, this is played with two teams – Sunni and Shi’a – a rivalry similar to our Yankees/Red Sox match-ups, only with less animosity.
Passover. A holiday commemorating the Jews’ escape from Egypt, beginning their 40-year trek in the desert in search of the Holy Land. This is celebrated by a traditional dinner called a shwarma, in which a large slab of pressed meat referred to as Charlton Heston is slow roasted, signifying the suffering of the Jews under the oppressive heat of the desert sun. Fortunately, like in Phoenix, it was a dry heat.
Yom Kippur. The Jewish Day of Atonement. The High Holy Day, in which Jews fast as a way of apologizing to the world for not being perfected Christians.