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Celebrating the Holiday Season - Interfaith Style

March 16, 2020

San Jose, California, United States

Not many teens can say that they light their hanukkiah surrounded by the backdrop of a Christmas tree. Still, for the Kupor family, the holiday season entails a diverse blend of traditions and identities.

My earliest childhood memories are filled with Christmas morning celebrations, stocking hanging, and images of technicolor lights quite literally decking the halls. However, I often find that the presence of Hanukkah was missing, overpowered by the cultural influence of Christian holidays on American society and daily life. Additionally, my utter embarrassment at lacking knowledge and experience with Hanukkah customs often prevented me from immersing myself fully. It wasn’t until my deep involvement in BBYO that Judaism began to play a more significant role in the celebration-filled whirlwind that is the month of December. 

Soon, I became the one gathering my family to light the hanukkiah each night, leading the blessings myself as the soft candle glow illuminated the Christmas tchotchkes that line our home throughout the holiday season. As my connection with and knowledge of Judaism grew through my experience with BBYO, celebrating Hanukkah in conjunction with Christmas transformed from an obligation to a personal initiative; the busy lives that my family leads would no longer serve as a hindrance to fulfilling these unique traditions. 

This year, I gathered with family friends and relatives to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah. As my little sister stood in front of the room to light the candle on the decades-old hanukkiah we recently pulled out of the dusty attic, I grew confident that this tradition would live on. Our voices joined as one as we sang of the heroic Judah Maccabee and munched on homemade latkes. When we returned home, our Christmas dinner later that week met the soft hum of “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in the background, but this year, Peter Yarrow’s “Don’t Let the Light Go Out” joined the mix.

I often hide the fact that I attend a Christmas Eve church service, a tradition relevant to the Christian side of my family. While often uncomfortable surrounded by foreign hymns, prayers, and traditions, I find that this experience does not pull me further away from my Jewish identity, but rather enriches it with this widespread knowledge of the world’s many religions and customs. Indeed, experiencing this service serves to remind me of the numerous intersections of Judaism and Christianity, as well as the importance of individuals of all ancestries and faiths joining as one to support the diversity of tradition and identity in this turbulent era.

Lexi Kupor is a proud member of Neshikot BBG #2536 of Central Region West.

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