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5 Hanukkah Lessons for People Who Don’t Celebrate Hanukkah

You know what the greatest advantage of not celebrating holidays in “the holiday season” is?

Perspective.

It’s like this: while you’ll go about celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah this year, knee deep in latkes or wrapping paper, and having fun, I will watch. If I’m lucky, I’ll be invited to your parties and get to eat something. Since I’m a glass half full lady, I’ll be happy for you and simultaneously thinking of all of the ways your holidays are reinforcing what I believe to be ultimate truths about the world we live in.

This Saturday evening, the minor Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (or Chanukkah) will be celebrated by Jews all over the world. For non-Jews, the general response to Hanukkah is some iteration of, Neat, candles and dreidels. Wait, can I still send them a ‘Happy Holidays’ card next week because, I mean, isn’t their holiday over by then? Where did I put those stamps? On the other hand, there’s a rare and beautiful opportunity in being near to a celebration, but not part of it. It’s, as I said, the opportunity of perspective. It’s a time to draw out meanings, differences, and similarities through the lens of smiles, joy and celebration.

By watching my Jewish friends observe Hanukkah and learning the story behind the holiday, I, as a Muslim, have had the opportunity to remember some key aspects of who I am and who I strive to be.

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  • Lesson #1: Work with what youve got and maybe you can meet them halfway. 1 of 5
    Lesson #1: Work with what youve got and maybe you can meet them halfway.
    Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday that has gained currency due to the celebration of Christmas, which occurs around the same time of year. The prevalence of Hanukkah in recent years is an opportunity to explore how globalism, communication and, yes, commercialism, can create connectedness. You got lights? We got lights, too. Mazel Tov. Or something.
    Photo Credit: flickr.com
  • Lesson #2: An admirable life must have at least one thing in it thats worth fighting for. 2 of 5
    Lesson #2: An admirable life must have at least one thing in it thats worth fighting for.
    In a nutshell, the story of Hanukkah goes like this: a long time ago in Judah, the Greco-Syrians ruled the land, but Jews were allowed to practice their faith in peace. Then the old king died and his son was a big, fat jerk face and made it illegal to be a Jew. In fact, he not only outlawed being a Jew, he sent soldiers all over the land to make sure that Jews were worshipping Zeus and eating bacon and stuff. (Okay, it was pork). A lot of Jewish people complied, but a handful were all, "I don't think so, you schmutz." This handful of Jews, who became known as the Maccabees, engaged in a lengthy resistance. They eventually reclaimed their temple in Jerusalem. As someone who doesn't celebrate the holiday, the perspective I gain from this holiday is questioning the terms of resistance and knowing how to fight or if one should fight, at all. Also, I will never eat bacon. Never!
    Photo Credit: flickr
  • Lesson #3: Just because it looks like it won’t work, that doesn’t mean that you shouldnt try. 3 of 5
    Lesson #3: Just because it looks like it won't work, that doesn't mean that you shouldnt try.
    The menorah for Hanukkah is called a hannukiah and is differentiated from a regular menorah by the number of candle holders and the presence of a shamash, which is the candle in the center. When the Maccabees took the Holy Temple at Jerusalem back from the Greco-Syrians, they had to rededicate it. Most of their oil had been used to worship Zeus and was thus unfit for worship. All they had left was one day's worth of oil, but this oil lasted seven days and thus the temple was rededicated. Despite limited resources, they succeeded. With a little help, I presume.
    Photo Credit: flickr
  • Lesson #4: For tradition to live, children must participate – not just observe. 4 of 5
    Lesson #4:  For tradition to live, children must participate - not just observe.
    So, the other day I was reading up on dreidels and realized that it's a lot like gambling, except the children play with chocolate instead of money. And, really, the only thing money is really good for is buying chocolate. When children spin the dreidel, a certain letter shows up and tells them what to do with the chocolate (I.e., add to the pot, take some, etc). The letters also form an acronym for the Hebrew sentence, "A great miracle happened there." In summary, there is a game, some treats, and a reminder of an important lesson.
    Photo Credit: flickr
  • Lesson #5: Jewish friends = latkes and doughnuts. Whats not to love? 5 of 5
    Lesson #5: Jewish friends = latkes and doughnuts. Whats not to love?
    Foods eaten during Hanukkah are traditionally fried in oil to symbolize the oil that lasted for eight days instead of one. Latkes are deep fried potato pancakes and there are also these amazing powdered, jelly filled doughnuts served as well. I like food. I like it when my friends make good food and teach me stuff about their religion, too. That way my brain enjoys itself as much as my mouth.
    Photo Credit: flickr
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