I am Jewish. I celebrate Hanukkah. Many know I’m Jewish, yet still ask, “What are you doing for Christmas this year?”
When I worked at a publishing company in Boston, people asked me this question a lot. I always replied, “I am Jewish, and I celebrate Hanukkah.”
One woman’s response was, “Well, some Jews celebrate Christmas.” She told me this two years in a row.
Having grown up in a Christmas-centered culture, I can tell you that the “holiday” in holiday season does not refer to my holiday. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon with holiday parties, holiday cards, and holiday music. I participated in holiday concerts throughout grade school; I recall the lyrics to nearly every Christmas carol and Christmas-related song 20 years later. I have forgotten many of the words to the Hanukkah songs I grew up singing with my family. I hum along at Hanukkah sing-alongs.
I can’t stomach the predominance of Christmas. I can’t stomach latkes, either (too greasy). I celebrate Hanukkah in my own special way. I enjoy going to Hanukkah parties at friends’ homes, watching the lighting of menorahs and the flickering of the lights. I also immerse myself in Jewish music. The lively melodies of “Al HaNissim,” “Yemey Hanukkah,” “Sevivon,” and “HaNerot Dolkim BaRom,” uplift my spirit. And every year I listen to Joel ben Izzy tell his fabulous stories.
I feel revived when I honor my holiday in this way. I feel honored when others observe and acknowledge the passing of my holiday. How refreshing to hear “Happy Hanukkah!” or “You’re invited to my Hanukkah party.” Such words I hold dear to my heart.
What will you do to celebrate Hanukkah this year?