When most people think of the winter season, they think of festive decorations, cold weather and spending time with family. Many students at Petaluma High School and across the nation celebrate holidays in the winter, such as the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Hanukkah has been celebrated for over 2,000 years and is also known as the Festival of Lights.
Hanukkah lasts eight days because of the Hanukkah miracle that occurred around 200 B.C.E. when the oil in the Temple on the menorah burned for eight whole days, though it was only supposed to last for one. A menorah is a candelabrum with nine branches; starting with lighting two candles on the first night, one is lit nightly until all nine are lit. There is a candle for each day and the ninth candle is called the shamus, which means helper candle.
Another traditional festivity is a game called dreidel; a dreidel is a four-sided spinning top, each side with a Hebrew letter on it. The letter the spinning dreidel lands on determines how much gelt (typically chocolate coins) you receive or give away. In addition, Hanukkah also often involves traditional Jewish cuisine such as grated potato pancakes called latkes and jelly donuts.
Freshman Max Bloom, who celebrates Hanukkah, said, “I don’t really care that everyone celebrates Christmas, but it would be nice if they were a little more inclusive.” There are more people in this region that celebrate Christmas than those that don’t, so that can sometimes be disruptive to Jews being included.
Since Hanukkah is eight days long, it is also typical for kids to get a present each night.
Bloom said, “I celebrate by being with family, exchanging gifts and lighting the menorah.” While there are activities typically associated with Hanukkah, the holiday is celebrated in many ways. It is a wide-spread holiday, with there being over 14 million Jews in the world. There are many people that have no idea what Hanukkah is, or know it simply as the ‘Jewish Christmas.’
Hanukkah has its own history; the more educated people are, the better. Although Hanukkah is put side-by-side with Christmas, it really is its own holiday. As the new decade approaches, it should be normalized to practice a different religion and to not celebrate Christmas.