Different reasons for the seasons

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Photo by Amy McCoy

Story by Ashley Tyson, Staff Writer

Down in these parts, it’s rare to straggle from the ugly Christmas sweaters and pre-lit trees, much less leaving behind the birth of baby Jesus. But what if in your religion, aforementioned baby Jesus ISN’T the reason for the season?

In Judaism, instead of celebrating Christmas, the Jewish community celebrates the festival of Hanukkah. Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple, following Judah Maccabee’s victory over the Seleucids.

According to Rabbinic tradition, the victorious Maccabees could only find a small jug of oil that had remained uncontaminated, and although it only contained enough oil to sustain the Menorah for one day, it miraculously lasted for eight days, by which time more oil could be found.

The celebration itself is not much different than Christmas; Jewish people eat, play games, and sing traditional songs.

Where those celebrating Christmas eat the traditional turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie, those celebrating Hanukkah enjoy varieties of foods that are fried and/or loaded with cheeses. Donuts, pancakes and latkes are staples that play along with the oil theme.

The Dreidel game is also a staple during the Hanukkah holiday. The dreidel is a clay, four sided spinning top, with the hebrew letters shin, gimel, nun, and hei painted on the sides. The game is much like roulette. Along with the dreidel game, there is a dreidel song.

Rather than having one or two days crammed with creepy uncles and weird cousins, those celebrating Hanukkah have eight glorious days to eat and party. Each night, one candle on the menorah is lit, representing a day that the oil remained burning in the temple.

Jewish children don’t get to hear the reindeer hooves and ho ho ho’s clomping around on the roof either. Instead of the jolly old Saint Nick shimmying his overweight self down the tunnel of bricks to drop off toys and gobble up some cookies, younger kids receive one small gift from their parents each night.

Hanukkah may not have the same motives as Christmas, but the celebrations aren’t so different after all. Happy Hanukkah to all and to all a good light!