“What are you doing for Christmas?’ an acquaintance will ask me. It’s an appropriate question at this time of year.
If I’m in a hurry, I’ll give a vague but honest answer: “I’ll be up the coast over Christmas. What about you?”
If I have time for a chat, I’ll offer the more truthful story.
“I’ll be up the coast over the holidays,” I’ll explain. “But I don’t actually celebrate Christmas. I’m Jewish.”
At this point, many people will just smile and nod. Others, however, will ask me what we Jewish people do “instead”.
“You’ve got that other festival, right? The one with the lights?”
“Hanukkah,” I’ll say. Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights that falls around this time of year. But Hanukkah isn’t at all like Christmas. It is actually a minor festival that gets a lot of attention simply because it occurs in December, the festive season.
I love that many people have heard of Hanukkah, and I love inclusive holiday greetings. Still, Hanukkah is not a “Jewish Christmas”. Jewish people – along with Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and others – do not celebrate Christmas. And this fact is confusing to many people who have been raised in a society in which Christmas is a national holiday.