Being Jewish Over the Holidays

You can’t deny the magic energy that comes with the winter season. The weather's colder, the malls are packed, and everyone seems a bit more at peace. It’s almost like there is a great divide with December from the other months. And yes, I recognize that the first thing that comes to many’s minds when thinking about this time of the year is Christmas but I think it’s important to point out that most of the people in the world don’t anticipate Santa Clause. Nonetheless, the holiday repeatedly dominates December culture in America, making it hard for people like me to not feel a little out of place. Being Jewish over the holidays comes with mixed emotions to say the least.

 

 

We have our own traditions of Hanukkah like lighting the Menorah, playing dreidel, and eating latkes and jelly donuts. I wouldn’t trade my Hanukkah memories for even a thousand Christmases! Hanukkah is my favorite holiday, so it breaks my heart to see its representation decrease. My whole life Christmas has dominated on every aspect. By the time December rolls around everything is decorated and the stores are filled with everything a Christmas shopper would ever want. Yet over time, the one aisle that was reserved for Hanukkah has continued to shrink to the point that I would be surprised if I actually saw anything Hanukkah related in stores.

 

 

As an informed consumer I know that the reason Hanukkah sections decrease is that companies can make much more selling Christmas goods as people start buying and decorating earlier and early every year. But I can’t help but be a little disappointed, especially knowing the history of Hanukkah in America. To many people’s surprise, Hanukkah is not the most important Jewish holiday in the year. Hanukkah became such a well-known event to non-Jewish people because it is oftentimes celebrated in December (Hanukkah’s dates change depending on the Jewish calendar). The markets capitalized off this by making the eight nights of Hanukkah feel like Christmas, leading to people buying gifts and inflating shopping rates. Historically, Jewish people would give loved one's money each night or even chocolate money/coins called gelt. The concept of getting a gift eight straight nights is relatively new and mainly only practiced in America.

 

 

This means that the Hanukkah I have come to know is the product of Christmas adaption. And in all honesty, I’m not complaining. I love getting and giving gifts and even own multiple Hanukkah sweaters. One year, my sister and I went to the trouble of buying a blue mini Christmas tree and called it a Hanukkah bush. Nonetheless, I still feel left out sometimes. While many Jewish families choose to celebrate both holidays, my Christmas always consisted of going to the movies and eating Chinese food. My mom even made a point to tell me not to ruin the secret of Santa Clause to my schoolmates.

 

 

While people are always shocked when I don’t remember what day Christmas is or that I haven’t seen certain movies (I’ve heard all the songs, those are impossible to escape just from going outside), it should be acknowledged that not everyone celebrates Christmas. I’m grateful that the holiday is even recognized at all, even if the best known Hanukkah movie is from the TV show Rugrats and there are only about two well know Hanukkah songs. I’ll always look forward to this time of the year; a time to celebrate the light of life, be with loved ones, and eat lots of latkes with applesauce (or sour cream, I won’t judge).

All images via giphy