Christmas, Hanukkah overlap allows for unique holiday perspective

posted in: 2016-2017, Opinion | 0
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By Jacqueline Hyman
Editor-in-chief
@jacqbh58

jacqueline-2

A few years ago, Hanukkah, an eight-day holiday, overlapped with Thanksgiving. It was an interesting experience, having latkes along with a big turkey and stuffing. But this year, the first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve, and the last night is on New Year’s Day.

Usually, Hanukkah is between late November and mid December, but it is different every year because the Jewish calendar follows the lunar calendar. This is true for all Jewish holidays. Although Hanukkah has been built up with presents and festivities to match the hype of Christmas, it still doesn’t receive as much attention from the general public, and there’s always a big difference in representation of the two holidays.

In general, this overlap may be inconsequential. The Christmas consumer rush before the holidays is so huge that consumers buying Hanukkah presents may not create a big impact – and most Jews probably won’t notice much of a difference on the Christmas side of the holiday, because they don’t celebrate Christmas.

But for people who come from mixed families and celebrate both holidays, it will be interesting to see how they can balance the two. Even though Hanukkah is eight days long, Christmas tends to take over the holiday season, which is why it’s helpful when the Jewish holiday is earlier. Many families take Christmas Eve more seriously than Christmas itself and attend midnight mass to commemorate the birth of Jesus. Some just want to wake up on Christmas morning to see a tree with a full line of presents underneath. Christmas often brings the smell of gingerbread and peppermint, getting people excited about festive treats.

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

I truly look forward to Hanukkah, because it is so much fun to celebrate. I love lighting the menorah and watching the candles burn in the window. I love eating latkes made three different ways by different people, and hearing my family explain the story of the Maccabees or the background of the dreidel to my little sister.

Keeping this in mind, there are some consequences to the late timing. For example, because Hanukkah is so late this year, this university’s Chabad won’t be hosting its annual menorah lighting on Hornbake Plaza.

The overlap may be a little hard to deal with, but overall it will be fun to have an abundance of holiday cheer. In many cases, both holidays have just become cultural fundamentals, without which the winter would seem a little bland.

Hopefully, families with mixed religious backgrounds will find a way to balance the Hanukkah with the Christmas. Saying the bruchas over the candles can be a nice break from all the Christmas music that starts playing after Thanksgiving ends. Ideally, everyone will have a good time mixing the traditions from both parts of their families. The presents will get mixed between both holidays, and the CD player will switch from Christmas music to lesser-known Hanukkah music that is still important to our childhoods.

Another thing to consider is that Hanukkah is going to extend into 2017. We’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve during Hanukkah, and probably keep menorah candles lit while the ball drops. While Jews do have their own new year, Rosh Hashana, most people still celebrate the new year on the Gregorian calendar. This is less of an interruption and more of a cool fact. It means that in 2017, there will be two different Hanukkah celebrations. The one ending from this year’s holiday, and next year’s own Hanukkah.

Those who celebrate with family on the last day of Hanukkah will get a true taste of holiday spirit twice next year. Obviously, we can’t change the way the Jewish calendar works. It’s actually a little bit exciting to wonder which days each holiday will fall on. And while the overlap of some holidays, like Passover and Easter, is more common, this year’s exact first and last nights of Hanukkah are both on major holidays, making the mix more prominent.

No matter how people observe the holidays this (and next) year, they should remember that we are lucky to be celebrating at all. Keep the latkes and the peppermint hot chocolate coming, and don’t forget to just enjoy with the people you care about the most.

Jacqueline is a junior journalism and English major. She can be contacted at jbhyman@terpmail.umd.edu.

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