The Magic from Within: Finding Joy in Jewish Holiday Traditions

June 23, 2023
Kylee Garfield

Redondo Beach, California, United States

Class of 2026

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Growing up, I always wanted Santa Claus to come down my chimney. All the boys and girls at my school would relish their memories on Christmas day, what presents they were asking Santa for this year, if they were on the naughty or the nice list. I yearned for a morning of Christmas, getting to run down the stairs and open presents. I would see kids lined up, down my street to sit on Santa's lap and I so badly wanted to be one of them. So, despite my Jewish roots, I would wait in those lines, wishing every year that Santa would come to my house and give me presents.  

But, as a Jewish girl, I got none of those things. Instead, I got a holiday called Chanukkah, a holiday embedded with stories of Jewish triumph and survival. A holiday with 8 days, 8 nights of presents. I didn't want to seem ungrateful for my presents, I loved the presents I got. But all I wanted was to fulfill my childhood dreams of meeting the man who works at the north pole.

Chanukkah, just like Christmas, has many of its own unique traditions and celebrations. The stories we tell our kids aren't embellished with magic but with realism. These stories truly happened, and we survived. Chanukkah is a celebration of light, that beyond all the darkness there is something out there. Now, I appreciate what our people went through to get us here. Yet, my internal conflict caused me to feel a guilt I couldn't shy away from. I just wanted to be included.

Despite being unwritten, Jewish people going to movies on Christmas was sort of our national holiday of our own. It seems on Christmas, December 25, the whole world shuts down. Well, everywhere except Chinese restaurants and the movies. Whatever is on at the movies, my family will watch. With a concoction of fried rice and movie popcorn, the theater is my arena. The smell of buttery goodness, and the sounds of kernels popping, was my Christmas in a nutshell. Having Chinese food on Christmas has somewhat turned into a tradition of our own, one without the glamor from the north pole, but with the magic from within. Despite never being able to have a Christmas of my own, I have grown to love our traditions more and more every year.

Kylee Garfield is a BBG living in Redondo Beach and has never been stung by a bee.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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