Warning: This Article is not about Christmas!


Cassie Volkin, Writer, Digital Artist

Santa Claus, gingerbread houses, Carol of the Bells on electric guitar: Christmas dominates the holiday season in every conceivable way. Ever hear a Kwanzaa song on the radio? Ya, me neither. What, have you never heard of Kwanzaa? How about Hanukkah? Maybe you have heard of these holidays, but seeing that over 75% of the school exclusively celebrates Christmas, you don’t know much about them. Have no fear, for I have assembled a mighty collection of holiday insight from those in the cultural minority! Ho ho h- wait, that’s wrong. Um…dreidel dreidel dreidel!

Hanukkah (or Chanukah, if you like the letter C) is a Jewish holiday celebrating the miracle of the oil. Long ago, the Greeks, who were ruling Jerusalem at the time, tried purging Jewish religion and culture from society. The Jews weren’t okay with this for obvious reasons, and lead by Judah the Maccabee, they took back their land and drove out the Greeks (yay!). They then went to rededicate their Holy Temple by lighting its menorah, a seven prong candle holder, but alas! Only one day’s worth of oil had escaped the hands of the Greeks. The Jews lit the menorah anyway, and astonishingly, the oil lasted eight days (the time it took to get a fresh supply).

Hanukkah will be celebrated from December 12 through December 20 this year and will be observed in many of the traditional ways. “Each day, gifts are given and one candle is lit. On the last day of hanukkah, the biggest gifts are given,” explained Jewish student Malachi Battle, “There are a also few parties during the whole of the celebration. During these parties we sing songs, eat, talk about the story of the MaccAbees and play dreidel!” Customary Hanukkah foods include latkes, which are fried potato pancakes, doughnuts, and more often than not the chocolate coins won from a game of dreidel, a classic spinning top game with a touch of gambling.

The fasting spreading holiday without question is Kwanzaa, a non religious celebration of African heritage started by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. The concept behind Kwanzaa, which begins a day after Christmas and continues until New Year’s Day, is to unite families around the world, who were long ago separated from their roots, in rediscovering their cultural history. The festival draws from multiple sources, as evident by the Hanukkah-like candles, but the principles of Kwanzaa are all its own: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith). Each day is centered around a different principle, with the ultimate goal of bringing a people that has for centuries been divided together again, at least in spirit.

“We need to remember that there are other cultures here in the states, and they need to be represented as well,” said Mr. Congo, the Interfaith Club sponsor. Having other holidays to celebrate during what is generally considered as the Christmas season brings us together in different ways and enriches the holiday culture in ways that Rudolph can’t. So if your Jewish friend asks you to play dreidel with them, say yes! Just be prepared to lose some chocolate coins.