Hanukkah traditions change over time


In more recent years, the spirit of Christmas has been celebrated over a period of three months, beginning in November and lasting until New Year’s Day. According to sophomore Brooke Schwartz, a consequence of this Christmas invasion is that other holidays, such as Hanukkah, have evolved to become more Christmas-esque and are losing their true meanings.

“Hanukkah is the time to spend with family in honor of the troubles our ancestors had been through,” Schwartz said. “In my opinion, the holiday does differ now. People think of Hanukkah as eight days that they’ll be receiving gifts from family members rather than thinking of the hardships their ancestors went through.”

When Schwartz was younger, she said she was taught that Hanukkah was established to celebrate the Festival of Lights, not to receive presents.

“As I’ve grown older, I’ve focused less on receiving gifts and more on the meaning behind the holiday,” Schwartz said. “When I was younger, I didn’t care as much about the holiday. I cared more about getting the gifts that I wanted.”

Senior Darrah Schaffer said one relatively new tradition that has extended from Christmas to Hanukkah is the Hanukkah bush.

“[A Hanukkah bush] is like a blue Christmas tree made especially for people celebrating Hanukkah to decorate,” Schaffer said. “I actually do have a Hanukkah bush this year and I’m absolutely in love with it.”

Although Schaffer said she values many Hanukkah traditions, she said she believes a Hanukkah bush is an interesting new ritual that should be added to the holiday.

“Before discovering the Hanukkah bush, I had always felt left out that I couldn’t decorate a tree during the holidays,” Schaffer said. “Now I can decorate a tree of my creation in any way I want.”

Unlike Schaffer, senior Danielle Kraut said she doesn’t think a Hanukkah bush is an extension of a Christmas tree.

“A Christmas tree is accustomed with the tradition that on Christmas morning, families sit around it and open the presents placed underneath it,” Kraut said. “A Hanukkah bush, in my opinion, is just for decoration.”

Schwartz said another tradition rooted from Christmas is Hanukkah Harry, which is a spin-off of Secret Santa.

“I think [Hanukkah Harry] is a cute name, and it’s another spin of how people can turn a holiday like Christmas into something they can celebrate,” Schwartz said. “Like I said, I think it was made for people who wish they had something like Secret Santa, but to celebrate something else.”

Despite knowing what Hanukkah Harry is, Schwartz said she has never participated in the event.

“I just do Secret Santa with my friends,” Schwartz said. “I still think the concept of Hanukkah Harry is cute because it allows people celebrating Hanukkah to feel included in the holiday spirit.”

Although Kraut said she does not believe that Hanukkah is losing some of its meaning, she said she recognizes that not everybody feels this way.

“For the Jewish teens, such as myself, the holiday isn’t really losing its meaning because it’s all we’ve grown up with and all we know Hanukkah to be,” Kraut said. “However, to other people, the holiday may be losing its meaning because holiday time is no longer called holiday time, it’s referred to as Christmas time, which completely excludes other holidays from being titular during the season.”

Regardless of a person’s belief, Kraut said the way Hanukkah and other holidays should be celebrated is up to interpretation of that person and does not need to follow a strict guideline.

“If everyone celebrated the same way, it does not make the holiday special,” Kraut said. “For example, I have a Hanukkah bush because I think it is a fun decoration to have. Other people may not because it deters from their beliefs. Everyone is free to celebrate the way they want.”


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