By Maddy Lewis
As the holiday season rolls around, young children and spirited teens begin to show their excitement at spending time with loved ones, stuffing their faces with delicious food and finally receiving that one gift they’ve been waiting for all year.
However, even in a country with public schools and a policy of separation of church and state, the majority Christian religion still prevails over the less familiar beliefs. Christian holidays easily dominate the appreciation during this time of the year as several other holidays are overlooked in the process.
It has become apparent that schools tend to revolve Winter Break and other school-wide recesses around Christmas celebrations with little to no recognition of other religions or cultures.
Growing up a part of the Jewish faith, I have encountered the lack of acknowledgment towards my family’s beliefs. Often times, in order to attend a high-holiday service, I am required to skip school as it remains in session for the majority of students who are not Jewish. It comes down to choosing between school and religion occasionally–quite an unfair dilemma in a free nation like the U.S.
A potential reason schools and people express little recognition of Jewish holidays is simply because they are unaware of their importance considering that the Jewish population in California is a minority.
In the general public, Christmas has become a commercial holiday more than a religious one. Non-religious families tend to get lured into the advertisements in order to feel a part of the holiday spirit. Whether it be decorating a Christmas tree, receiving gifts or gathering with company, most families just strive to make use of the time off from school and work.
Because society has followed this trend for decades, the calendar is unlikely to change anytime soon. With December holidays approaching, I hope others understand that Hanukkah is far from a similar festivity to Christmas which people often mix up. Every year my family celebrates The Festival of Lights by chanting multiple prayers and lighting the menorah to honor the Maccabees who fought for the Second Temple in Jerusalem. We always play dreidel, competing against each other by betting chocolate covered gelt while waiting to eat oily, pan fried potato latkes. Most of these traditions take place to point out the miraculous oil that lasted eight straight nights for the ancient Jews long ago. Receiving gifts is actually just a bonus.
In the end, I can only wish for wider acknowledgement of religious holidays that are not Christian. There is a lot more to other religions that most of the world is oblivious to.