Jewish Students Highlight upcoming Hanukkah

Christmas is approaching, and along with it is the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah. Many have heard of this holiday for years, yet still do not have an understanding of it. Senior Sam Schillinger celebrates Hanukkah with his family due to his Jewish mother and tells of the similarities each holiday holds.

“Well, in terms of celebrating them, both holidays involve gift giving. Similar to Christmas, on Hanukkah the kids get very excited about receiving gifts, but just like xmas, parents also receive gifts as well. Another thing is that Hanukkah usually falls around the same time as Christmas, taking place in mid to late December. Again, similar to Christmas carols, there are various Jewish tunes that families sing together during Hanukkah.”

Jewish sophomore Maya Gabriele clarified the dates of this holiday and the name. “Well, Hanukkah and Christmas begin on the same day this year. The Jewish calendar (the Gregorian calendar) is different, so the starting date of Hanukkah changes every year. Hanukkah is basically called the Festival of Lights, which is accurate.”

Hanukkah and Christmas are very different in many ways. Schillinger said, “One notable difference is that Hanukkah is celebrated for eight nights rather than just one day. The eight nights are symbolic of the oil that was only supposed to last one night but lasted eight nights, miraculously. Another significant difference is that Hanukkah does not celebrate the birth of someone but rather to commemorate religious freedom for the Jewish community when Judah Macabee’s Jewish army defeated the Greeks. Having said this, like Christmas for Christians, Hanukkah is one of the most important celebrations of the year for the Jewish community.”

Explaining one of the most symbolic pieces of the holiday, Gabriele said, “On Hanukkah we have something called a menorah, which is a stand that holds nine candles. We light another candle for each day of Hanukkah, while singing a Hebrew song. Yes, there are only eight days of Hanukkah, but there are nine candles because the one in the middle, called the Shabbos candle, is used to light the other eight.”

These rituals are very meaningful to Schillinger, especially the menorah. He said, “Personally, my favorite part of Hanukkah is lighting the menorah with my family. This is a ritual that takes place every night during Hanukkah and is a very special time. Prayers are read before and after lighting the menorah. Songs are sung to celebrate, and the candles are left burning until they burn out by themselves to signify that the religious freedom never ends. I also like that my family takes turns lighting the candles each night so that everyone gets a chance to partake in the ceremony.”

Gabriele also has favorite moments of this season. “I think my favorite part is the food because it’s hella good, and we only have it around Hanukkah. I also enjoy getting together with friends/family and having a good time. Hanukkah is the biggest (by biggest I mean most celebrated, not necessarily considered the most important) Jewish holiday. There are lots of other holidays throughout the year, like how Christians have Easter, but they are not celebrated in the same way Hanukkah is.”

Some Jewish families are very strict to just celebrating this holiday like Gabrieles.

“My family doesn’t celebrate Christmas at all. A lot of my Jewish friends do. That’s usually because one of their parents is Jewish, and one is not. Both of my parents are Jewish, so we only celebrate Hanukkah.”

Schillinger, however, has a Catholic father and a Jewish mother. Best of both worlds. He said, “My family honors the traditions of both religions and we take part in the celebration of both Christmas and Hanukkah. I am very grateful for this, because it gives me the opportunity to learn the meaning behind both holidays and to experience traditions of multiple faiths while sharing these experiences with others and helping them grow as well.”

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