Lancers celebrate more than Christmas in December


courtesy of Taylor Lefkowitz

Junior Taylor Lefkowitz lights the third candle in her Menorah. Menorahs held nine candles, and each night, during Hanukkah, a new candle got lit.

Mateo LaMar, Staff Reporter

During the winter season, stores begin to put together their holiday displays and TV programs play holiday movies on air. While the main focus of the season is on Christmas, there are other holidays celebrated by Lafayette students.

Junior Taylor Lefkowitz is Jewish so her family celebrates Hanukkah. Because the beginning of the holiday is celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar which is slightly different than the Gregorian or solar calendar, the date changes each year as that calendar is 11 days shorter than the standard calendar.

Therefore, the first night of the eight-day observance begins on the 25th day of Kislev, so the holiday sometimes overlaps with Christmas or Thanksgiving. This year, it began at sundown on Dec. 18.

“I like the Christmas vibe. For me, Hanukkah is most special when it’s around Christmas,” Lefkowitz said.

Hanukkah, though not one of the major Jewish holidays, celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem more than 2.000 years ago when a group of Jewish warriors defeated the occupying armies. After the Temple was reclaimed, they believed there was only enough oil to re-light the Menorah (candelabra) for one day, but it remained lit for eight days. Therefore the “Festival of Lights” celebrates those eight days and families light one candle on a Menorah each day to commemorate each day the oil lasted.

The Lefkowitz family has several traditions for their celebration of the Festival of Lights.

On the first night of Hanukkah, she meets her extended family at her grandmother’s house, where they have a big dinner, exchange gifts, pray and light the Menorah. Her grandparents put up some decorations for the holiday, such as gel window clings and lights on the banister. However, she said the number of available Hanukkah decorations is much smaller compared to the shelves stocked with Christmas décor.

“You see Mensch on the Bench in Target, but that’s pretty much it. Sometimes they have pillows, but they usually say weird things.” Lefkowitz said. 

When Christmas day rolls around, most public places close in order for families to be together on that holiday, but, Lefkowitz’s family uses that opportunity to have a family outing

“Everything’s closed on Christmas Day, and since we don’t celebrate, as our family tradition we go to a movie and then get Chinese food after because that’s the only thing that’s open,” Lefkowitz said.

Growing up with Hanukkah as her major winter holiday, Lefkowitz didn’t pay much attention to the contrast between Hanukkah’s popularity in the United States compared to Christmas. 

“I actually didn’t know what Christmas was until 1st Grade,” she said.

Lefkowitz said she doesn’t feel affected by the difference in celebrations and feels as though people are very nice and respectful regarding the holiday.

Along with Christmas and Hanukkah, there are other major holidays observed in December.

Kwanzaa, a holiday celebration of African American culture, begins Dec. 26 and ends Jan. 1. During the celebration, seven basic values are observed: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics (building and supporting African American-owned businesses), purpose, creativity and faith.  Traditions of the observance include assembling the display of symbols to represent the seven values, lighting the Kinara candles, feasting, discussing the value of the day, giving gifts to the children and honoring ancestors.

Yule is a historic German holiday centered around the Norse god Odin. The holiday begins Dec. 21 and ends Jan. 1, and is primarily celebrated with feasts and gift-giving. 

The Winter Solstice is another observance, commonly celebrated by Pagan religions. The Solstice marks the shortest period of daylight in the year, and this year it falls on Dec. 21. Because the holiday overlaps with most religions and cultures in one way or another, there are many different ways to celebrate. Most commonly people make or take note of their New Year’s resolutions on this day, though there are some able to visit Stonehenge and observe the sunrise coming over the heel.

With many different holidays being celebrated in December, keeping track of the dates and history behind them can be done by looking online and asking questions of friends that celebrate different holidays.