"What is the Jewish holiday Hanukkah and what does it celebrate?"--Rafi ponet, 6th grade
Hanukkah is an important Jewish holiday but despite what many people think, it’s not the most important Jewish holiday. That title belongs to either Passover, a holiday celebrating the Jews escape from Egypt, Rosh Hashanah, the new year, or Yome Kipor, a time when Jews fast to make up for the mistakes they made the previous year. But The Jerusalem Post says that 68% of American Jews think that Hanukkah is one of the three biggest holidays, whereas in Israel only 38% agree.
This is most likely because of Christmas. Hanukkah is normally around the same time as Christmas (this year it is much earlier) so many people celebrating Christmas think everyone is celebrating it. But no, around 3% of them are celebrating Hanukkah, says Rasmussen Reports. Hanukkah is basically the same thing as Christmas but Jewish right?
Wrong. Hanukkah doesn’t have much in common with Christmas other than the timing. Hanukkah in Israel, for example, is very different then Hanukkah in the US. Hanukkah in the U.S. is much more commercialized than it is in Israel, also “winter break” is more like Christmas break while in Israel “winter break” is a time off for Hanukkah, says Kveller.
One of, if not the biggest part of Christmas (for families) is presents. Some kids get so many presents that it seems like they could fill the ocean on Christmas so when they hear about Hanukkah they immediately ask: “what did you get for Hanukkah?” Yes, you get presents on Hanukkah but not as many as you do for Christmas, so you kind of have no response.
Ethen Hajduk is a 6th grader at Oakland School For The Arts. When asked about Hanukkah he said, “I’ve heard about it but I don’t really know the full story of what it’s celebrating.” When Hajduk was asked if he knew any other Jewish holidays he said: “No. I don't really know about or celebrate any other Jewish holidays.”
This is a common example of someone knowing what Hanukkah is, but not knowing any other Jewish holidays. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it demonstrates the lack of awareness of one of the US’s major religions.
Elana Ponet shares a story about how on Yom Kippur she had left her car parked in a two hour parking spot when she went to services, she found a ticket on her car. She went to the judge and said that she couldn't move her car because it was a big Jewish holiday. And the judge responded by asking, “It's Hanukkah?”
You might have heard of the game Dreidel but not actually know what the Hebrew letters on it are representing. They mean: a great miracle happened there, referring to the miracle when a little bit of oil lit a fire for eight nights in Jerusalem.
One thing that represents Hanukkah is the menorah, a candle holder which has nine candles one for each night of Hanukkah and a helper candle at the top. Most people at least recognize a menorah or have heard of one but do not know what for example, Matza is (like challah but, is cooked less and is kind of like a mix between a cracker and bread).
The truth is if Hanukkah wasn’t at the same time as Christmas, it would have been as well known as Passover is to non-Jewish people. Have you ever heard of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, or Passover? People should learn more about Hanukkah aside from Christmas. It’s not just Hanukkah, what about Kwanzaa? The holiday that helps African Americans reconnect to their African roots, which also takes place around the same time as Christmas. Do you think anyone would know about it if it wasn’t near the same time as Christmas? Maybe not.
Here are some resources where you can learn more about Jewish holidays: