Britt: Remember to acknowledge the holidays that aren’t Christmas

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Britt's white Christmas tree featuring a Star of David ornament. - Staff Writer / Paige Britt.

‘Tis the season for Christmas trees, Christmas lights, and Christmas music. Santa Claus, reindeer, and elves can be found displayed throughout homes and retail stores. Twinkling red and green lights are adorned on houses, people are saying, “Merry Christmas, and all is well!”

While it is easy to look at December through red and green colored glasses, Christmas is not the only holiday that is celebrated in December. I know this is not new information, and I like to think we have come further as a society to acknowledge holidays that aren’t Christmas. As someone who celebrates Hanukkah, it feels like I’m reminding people that it exists. 

For those who do not know, Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days and eight nights. The menorah holds nine candles, one in the middle to light the other eight, and a candle is lit each night. Small gifts are exchanged, Jewish food is eaten, prayers are said, and dreidels are played with. 

My mom is Jewish and my dad is Catholic, so I’ve always celebrated both holidays. But even growing up, it felt like we briefly acknowledged Hanukkah’s existence, like a distant relative we were told to be polite to. While I do not consider myself a religious person, it’s been very important to me to recognize my Jewish heritage as I’ve gotten older. Even though my mom and I consider ourselves to be “bad at Hanukkah,” as we sometimes forget to light the candles, fumble through the prayers, and sometimes forget gifts altogether, it doesn’t make it any less of a holiday, or any less important to us. 

Hillel is an international Jewish campus organization with a student-run chapter at Rowan. Rowan Hillel is hosting their own Hanukkah celebration on Dec. 11, as well as a Hanukkah Gift Exchange on Dec. 8. While these events are open to all students and promoted via their social media, @rowanhillel on Instagram, I would personally like to see more acknowledgment from the university. 

According to hillel.org, Rowan has a very small Jewish student population. They report that 1.6% of students are Jewish, out of 16,011 students. They also report that there are zero Jewish students enrolled in graduate programs at Rowan. I know that this statistic does not reflect on Rowan and is just the way it is. However, I don’t think it matters how small the Jewish student population is. Jewish holidays, in this case Hanukkah, should be widely recognized. It’s the same matter of saying “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas.” While I am not offended when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas instead of saying Happy Holidays, there are plenty of people who do not celebrate Christmas at all, and that is something that should be acknowledged, especially on a diverse college campus. 

The next time you’re tempted to say “Merry Christmas!” to someone you don’t know very well, hold back. “Happy Holidays” covers all your bases, and may make a difference to someone this holiday season. And if you have Jewish friends, Hanukkah starts Dec. 7. Wish them a happy Hanukkah! Here’s an insider tip: if you really want to impress them, buy them chocolate coins. Chocolate goes a long way, no matter what you celebrate.

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