Saturday, December 24, 2016

On this Christmas Eve, here comes Hanukkah

December 24

Hanukkah and Christmas Eve coincide for first time in nearly 40 years

Christina Tatu
Contact ReporterOf The Morning Call
Celebrate Chrismukkah this Saturday
You might want to make room for potato latkes and brisket at Saturday's holiday dinner table, because for the first time in nearly 40 years, the first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve.
Local Jewish leaders attribute "Chrismukkah" to the Jewish lunar calendar, in which the months correspond to the 29 1/2-day lunar cycle. Hanukkah typically falls in early to mid-December, though in this case, it will run into the new year. In 2013, the celebration coincided with Thanksgiving, spawning "Thanksgivukkah."
Sharing the day with other holidays doesn't technically give additional significance to Hanukkah, but Rabbi Melody Davis of Temple Covenant of Peace in Easton thinks the combined celebrations can unite people of different faiths and backgrounds.
Hanukkah is known as the "festival of lights." The last time it began on Christmas Eve was in 1978.
"Both of these holidays have light motifs in them, and they happen at the darkest time of year. Our ancestors felt the need to put more light into their lives and into the world, and that of course is the hope of any person who believes in a higher being," she said.
Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah) is celebrated over eight days with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods.
The Hebrew word hanukkah means "dedication," and the holiday celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following a victory by the ancient Jews over an occupying enemy.
When the Jews sought to light the Temple's menorah, they found only enough olive oil to last one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity, according to the website
"Does it add a feeling of 'We are all together and not so alone?' I think it does," Davis said of co-celebrating.
Rabbi Yaacov Halperin of Chabad Lubavitch of the Lehigh Valley in South Whitehall Township says the combined holiday sends a strong message of unity.
"There is no better time for us to be celebrating all together with everything that's going on in this world," Halperin said. "What an opportunity to celebrate all together."
As far as Jewish holidays go, Hanukkah is one of the less significant celebrations, said Davis, noting many Jews go to work and school during Hanukkah. This year, because of the proximity to Christmas and New Year's Day, children at the Jewish Day School of the Lehigh Valley in Allentown will have off for for Hanukkah, said Amy Golding, head of the school.
"Our school will be closed over Hanukkah, which is not always the case, but because our winter break happens now, our children will be off and celebrating with their families," she said.
Golding doesn't think "Chrismukkah" changes either holiday.
"Hanukkah and Christmas are both special holidays," she said. "I think Hanukkah is already filled with such excitement, light and brightness."
Golding, a graduate of the school, can't remember the last time Hanukkah coincided with Christmas. Because students will be off this year, celebrations were held this week for the school community.
Festivities included a play by the middle school students, a schoolwide concert and "Hanukkah Palooza" last Saturday, which featured a "make your own latke and falafel tasting bar." It culminated in a "lock-in," with middle school students sleeping over at the school.
"There is tremendous excitement as we wait for the big holiday to come this weekend," she said.
Excitement also is building for the Ebert family of Easton, which celebrates both holidays. The family has a Christmas tree and also will be lighting the menorah, said Nancy Ebert. Her daughter, Samantha, 15, will make a holiday dinner.
Nancy is Jewish, while her husband Brion is Lutheran. Samantha is exposed to traditions from both faiths, Nancy said.
While Nancy is excited about the festive time with family, she prefers when Hanukkah doesn't coincide with other holidays.
"I think it makes it a little harder on your pocketbook," she said, since a small present is usually given on each of Hanukkah's eight nights.
This year, that will be in addition to Christmas gifts.
Also, Ebert said, each holiday has its own backstory.
"You can't really get into what each holiday is about when they are squished together. It's hard to give them each the respect they deserve" she said.
She still looks forward to the season and what it means, no matter one's beliefs.
"I love when you go down the neighborhood streets and you look into people's homes and they have their trees lit up," Nancy said. "To me, as a Jewish woman, I don't see the tree as a Christmas symbol. To me, it's a symbol of warmth, home and welcoming, and I love it."

No comments:

Post a Comment