Happy Hanukkah from BINA! To commemorate the second night, BINA External Relations Associate Emma Lillianthal shares her experience growing up in a small town in the United States and how she made Hanukkah a memorable and meaningful holiday amidst other holidays that coincide. Read on to find out more!
Hanukkah is the time of year for us to come together with family and friends, light the menorah, exchange gifts, spin the dreidel, and eat lots of latkes and sufganiyot. During the holiday season in some areas, though, it can become apparent that Hanukkah can often get overshadowed by other coincidental holidays. Growing up in a small town in America, I remember not being able to help but feel a sense of sadness when I would go to stores, go to school, watch commercials on TV, and see decorations that didn’t reflect the holiday I was celebrating. As a kid, I remember saying to myself, “I wish I celebrated Christmas so I could join in the holiday spirit too!” I looked around at a world that didn’t have the same excitement for Hanukkah I had every year.
Of course, growing up, I always loved Hanukkah because I always knew it was that special time when I got tons of gifts from my family. However, once I got a little bit older and developed a stronger connection to Judaism, I realized just how amazing Hanukkah really is. I had this insanely special and unique holiday that I was able to celebrate with my family each and every year. I could make it just as special as other holidays, even if those around me didn’t share that same spirit. So, I became proud of my one-of-a-kind holiday (and bragged to my classmates that I got eight nights of presents instead of one!) I realized that while Hanukkah may have a different level of commercialization and widespread recognition than holidays like Christmas, that doesn’t mean it isn’t just as special.
Some of the ways I learned to appreciate and spread the spirit of Hanukkah is by focusing on the traditions, values, and history that are unique to the holiday. Each year, I celebrated Hanukkah to the fullest extent, even spreading the holiday spirit to my friends who didn’t celebrate it. After spreading the joy and excitement of Hanukkah, my friends developed an immense appreciation and love for it. I was also able to connect deeper to the holiday by understanding the history of Hanukkah. The Hanukkah miracle and the Maccabees’ victory inspired me to celebrate and appreciate it even more. I felt myself carrying the light and gift of the holiday with me even after it was over, and I felt a deep connection to my heritage. It reminded me to believe in myself, stay strong, and find small miracles within each new year.
Shining a light on Hanukkah during the holiday season is about finding meaning and joy in the traditions and values of the holiday. By focusing on what makes Hanukkah special and continuing to celebrate its unique traditions, we can celebrate the Festival of Lights in a meaningful and authentic way, spread the excitement and joy for the holiday with the world around us, and carry the light of Hanukkah with us as we venture into a new year.
Emma Lillianthal, BINA External Relations Associate