Holiday seasons

Happy Holiday Season!

(Noah quickly equips riot gear for the people who are offended by that saying… or for when any of his basketball teams commit another careless turnover.)

With Thanksgiving happening last week, חנוכה (Hanukkah) just four nights away, 23 days until Christmas, 24 until Kwanzaa begins, and 30 until New Year’s Day, I figured that I would talk about some of my experiences with the holiday seasons.

Being an American Jew is great, because there are really two holiday seasons! There’s the month of תשרי (Tishrei), where ראש השנה, יום כיפור, סוכות, שמיני עצרת, ושמחת תורה (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Sh’mini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah) occur. Then, there’s November-through-January, with the traditional American holiday season… and maybe Halloween if you count that as part of holiday season too!

When I was younger, my favorite holidays were (in chronological order) Passover, Halloween, and חנוכה. The common thread of all of these are food, and materialism in the latter two (costumes and gifts with the Americanized trend of חנוכה). But, as I would later find out, only Passover was really a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Halloween has become completely commercialized, and I think it’s lost its meaning completely among the general public (heck, I don’t know its original meaning!)

Based on my understanding of the Jewish faith, חנוכה is a minor holiday because it is post-Biblical. In some sense, there is a smattering of post-Biblical holidays that happen to fall between Passover and שבועות too. That’s another topic for another day. Still, it talks about the triumph of the few over the many, the weak over the strong. Yet, I haven’t had the same anticipation for it as I used to when I thought of it as the time of gifts. It must be my new perspective of my Judaism! (Another thing is that I haven’t independently lived in a place where I’ve been allowed to light candles… and am pyrophobic when using matches!)

As I have grown older, my favorite holidays have become Thanksgiving, Passover, the High Holidays, and עשרים ואחת ביולי (the 21st of July). Each of these mean, to me, Jewish friends and family, good food, and togetherness.  Or, for the latter, a smattering of good memories associated with that day. Yes, I realize that singling out the Jewish aspect of my life makes me seem insular, but I am not intending that to be the reason. The holidays are more about community for me than gifts. With the Jewish holidays, it is also about spirited singing and specialized foods (or lack thereof!)

To boil down this post, when considering holidays as time to spend with family and friends: “Your presence is the only present I need.”

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חנוכה: ארבעה לילות

Finals Week: 14 days.

Joint Mathematics Meetings: 34 days.

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