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A Time to Reflect

dreidel hanukkah

“It can be difficult not being part of the majority.”

I know it’s a cliché, but to me, the holidays are the best time of the year. Houses decorated with lights, streetlamps draped tinsel, snowflakes swirling in the night—everything just feels so magical.  

As a Jewish person, my holiday traditions are already outside of the norm. There’s a tough push and pull between loving and wanting to participate in certain aspects of Christmas, but feeling guilty because they’re not part of my culture. I have a menorah, not a Christmas tree. I also have a Christmas pyramid (also known as a Weihnachtspyramide) I found in a garbage can when I was a kid. It has a baby Jesus in it, but I don’t really mind. I appreciate the details in the wood carvings and tiny figurines. 

It can be difficult not being part of the majority. I can’t relate to people when they discuss waking up as a child to see what Santa brought for them. I nod awkwardly as my religious friends tell me that their Christmas tradition is going to church to celebrate Christ’s birth. I roll my eyes whenever I hear somebody complain about having to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Yes, I have a holiday tradition of my own that love, but most people don’t really understand what it even is. I’ve heard Hanukkah often referred to as “Jewish Christmas,” which it really isn’t.

menorah candles hanukkah

I can see where people come from when they call Hanukkah the “Jewish Christmas.” Both happen in December, involve gift giving and spending time with loved ones. But I dislike the fact that we have to explain our own tradition through the lens of Christmas. I hope those of us who celebrate non-Christmas holiday celebrations will have more recognition and validation in the future. Even if we don’t participate in the same traditions, many of us just want to take this time of year to enjoy ourselves, accept joy where we can find it amidst work stresses and freezing weather. 

I think that’s the true spirit of the holidays. They give us all the chance to pause and appreciate everythingbreathe in the small moments. Normally on the bus ride home from work I will just play on my phone. Now I look out the window at the twinkling decorations, imagining how excited the homeowners must have been to finally get to put out the boxes labeled “Christmas” they had been storing since last year. I often feel guilty about buying gifts for myself, but the holidays give me the opportunity to indulge in self care and acknowledge how far I’ve come since last year. There is no time like the holidays to reflect on how we have triumphed and take comfort in how we will continue to grow as the New Year comes closer.

sara schwartz

Sara Schwartz

A few words about me

Sara is a recent college graduate from New York. When she’s not writing pen pal letters, she’s listening to podcasts or working as a web designer.