From The Grio – Contrary to what most would want to believe, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah does not carry the same weight as Christmas does for Christians.
A minor holiday on the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah is actually very different from Christmas, said Sandra Lawson, a rabbinic student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia.
One difference between the two is that Hanukkah can be considered a floating holiday.
“Hanukkah moves around a lot so it can actually show up in November,” Lawson said.
Because the Jewish calendar is lunar based, Hanukkah can land anywhere between late November and late December. In addition, Jewish holidays begin the night before. So for example, while Hanukkah appears on the calendar for December 21, 2011, it actually began the night before.
Jewish days begin at sunset, Lawson informs.
Another difference is that for other major Jewish holidays, like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, working during those holidays are not permitted. But for Hanukkah, there is no prohibition of working.
Jews with children are much more likely to celebrate Hanukkah, Lawson points out.
“All we are required to do is light a candle each night, say a blessing and place the candle near a window so that the light may be shown,” she adds.
For adults, it really doesn’t matter, said Robin Washington, editor in chief of the Duluth News Tribune, and co-founder of the National Alliance of Black Jews.
Washington said recently he was at a Christmas party where it turned out a majority of the attendees were Jewish; the host was Christian, however.
“The adults all had to double-check when Hanukkah was,” he said. “It simply goes off your radar screen when your kids are older or grown.”
When there are young people involved, however, Washington said Jewish parents can’t help but keep up with Christmas. He calls it “good parental preservation.”
“If you want to keep the peace, you’d better have Hanukkah Harry stop by to put presents around the menorah,” he added.
Do black Jews celebrate Hanukkah differently than other Jews? Lawson suggests there are some cultural differences, but overall everything is the same.
Jews all over the world are lighting the candle and saying their blessings, she said. The outline is the same.
“Black Jews are still Jewish. Our texts are very clear about how we celebrate the holidays,” she said. “I can walk into any synagogue and follow along because the text will be in Hebrew. If you are a religious Jew, you are going to celebrate it the same.”