One thing that gets me through finals season is decorating for the holidays. I absolutely love the day after Thanksgiving, not because it’s Black Friday, but because it is the day I can begin decorating for my favorite time of the year. This year when I was discussing my plans for my dorm with friends, I was asked the question “why not keep them separate?” “Them” being Christmas and Hanukkah. See, not only was I planning on putting up my adorable pink Christmas tree, but I was planning on purchasing an adorable pink menorah. That question inspired me to write this piece.
“Why not keep them separate?”
For me, Christmas and Hanukkah have never been separate. I am Jewish, but I’ve always had a Christmas Tree — affectionately referred to as our Hanukkah Bush. This has never been anything strange to me, it was how my mom was raised and how my family chose to raise me. My dad wasn’t raised with a tree, so when my parents lived together, it was my dad’s first time living with one. One night, my mom found him sitting up, just entranced by the tree. He was in awe, and since then, he has embraced the tradition.
WhyChristmas.com says that “The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. The Romans used Fir Trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia. Christians use it as a sign of everlasting life with God.”
Trees mean different things to every religion. However for me, trees aren’t religious at all. Everywhere you look during the holiday, you see beautifully decorated trees. There are limitless opportunities for expression, and they are an amazing way to participate in the holiday spirit. For me, I don’t want to shut myself off from opportunities to express myself and enjoy two months of themed parties and merchandise because of my religious affiliation. Yes, I recognize the religious significance of Christmas, but it becoming so commercialized doesn’t need to be negative. I love the inclusivity of decoration. Of course, it is people’s right to choose to put up trees in accordance with their beliefs. Though I am Jewish, I think Christmas trees are beautiful, and I love all of the sparkly, glittery, tacky decorations that come with the overtly-materialistic holiday season.
So, I refuse to keep them separate. I think that there are a lot of terrible things going on in the world, and I want to cling to the things that are beautiful and simple and happy. I will always respect people’s choice to not do a tree, but it is an enriching experience to learn about different religion’s holidays and embrace traditions. So, yes I am Jewish. Yes, I have a Christmas tree. I wouldn’t have it any other way.