Hannukah & Christmas

Last year, on Christmas, I wrote the following on the student feed (SJSU Sammy):

“hmm…. a little food for thought. Hanukkah is not Jewish Christmas. Hannukah predates Christmas by 160 years. But is Christmas a Christian Hannukah? Let’s see. “Hannukah” from Hebrew meaning “dedication” (or, in the Jewish holiday sense, the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple, a kind of ritual homecoming, after it was made impure from Syrian Greek takeover – anyway, a long story). In Christianity, Jesus came to replace the Temple – be the new Temple… hmmmm.”

This year, Hannukah in the Hebrew calendar overlaps with Christmas, so I understand the confusion. In fact, in the comments section, one student wrote: “Christmas is also nonreligious in a way. for many people at least.” Another student wrote in response, “that only really works that way when you live in a country where Christianity is the dominant religion… Christian holidays are not the default for secular life…” The main take away from this exchange, I think, is the following: secular or religious, Christmas is the dominant frame of reference in American society for Hannukah. The holiday that was relatively minor in importance on the Jewish calendar became one of the more nationally commemorated Jewish holidays in the United States.

This year, history student, Paloma Urciouli, curated the small Hannukah exhibit next to my office.