The People Christmas Leaves Out: Non-Christians feel removed from the holiday spirit

Chloe Baker, Web Opinions Editor

There are no fuzzy socks with a dreidel embroidered on them or blue and white Hanukkah Harry shortbread cookies being sold at the Fresh Market. On ABC Family, there is no “8 Nights of Hanukkah” and Target does not have an entire section devoted to the holiday.

As December break approaches, local grocery stories have an endless supply of Santa-shaped chocolate and cookies ,and an entire section of Target is now devoted to Christmas, with a whole aisle set aside for stockings.

With Christmas being the sole focus of the month, Jews and other non-Christians feel excluded from the festivities. In Westport where a significant proportion of the population is Jewish, the story is no different.

Sam Jones ’13 is among these people. “I absolutely hate Christmas time. It’s just not fair that I don’t get to celebrate the better holiday. There have been times that I’ve wished I were Christian because of it. No one even cares about Hanukkah, especially since its name is impossible to spell correctly,” Jones said.

A number of Jewish students feel similar to Jones in that they wish they could celebrate the holiday and feel that Hanukkah is not as fun as Christmas. Some believe that Christians rub Christmas in their faces.

“The entire month of December Christians just talk about how excited they are for Christmas, and they pay no attention to Hanukkah,” said Andrew Cohen ’13. “At school, rather than asking us what we received as a Hanukkah gift the night before, they work on their Christmas wishlists. Businesses do the same thing. All they do is focus on Christmas.”

Hanukkah, also referred to as the Festival of Lights, is a holiday aimed at recognizing the recapturing of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem due to the Maccabees rebellion.

Jewish religious leaders feel that the holiday has lost its true meaning because of its proximity to Christmas.

“Hanukkah is a very minor holiday in Judaism and is only made a big deal because it is around the same time as Christmas. The tradition of giving gifts was adopted from Christmas,” Rabbi Robert Orkand of Temple Israel said.

Some Christians try to include those of other religions by doing “Secret Santa” within their groups of friends.

They believe that non-Christians are not excluded and that Christians do, in fact, make an effort to include them in the festivities.

“Secret Santa is a great way to include people who don’t celebrate Christmas. It keeps up the spirit and lets them join in on all the fun,” Riley MacDonald ’12 said. “They definitely aren’t excluded on purpose, but I feel bad that they don’t get to do all the different Christmas activities.”

In order to have fun during the holidays, some non-Christians adopt different Christmas traditions. Amereen Anand ’13, a follower of the Sikhism religion, used to decorate a tree, receive presents, and believe in Santa Claus so that she could feel included in the holiday.

“Some Jews have taken on the ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’ mentality in inappropriate ways. There is no such thing as a Hanukkah bush,” said Orkand. “Hanukkah should serve to remind us of the fact that we are different and that this holiday is in place to remind us of how we fought for the right to be different. That’s what it’s all about.”