The December Dilemma

Brenna McNamara

A Season of Tolerance

Credit: Dan Kloock

In this time of Christmas trees and carols, non-Christians on campus think of the holidays as a season of religious tolerance in an effort to combat the consumer-fueled aspects of Christmas.

Although Hanukkah, compared to the Shabbats and Rosh Hashanah, is not a major holiday in the Jewish tradition, it is the most celebrated because Christmas is celebrated at the same time.

“There is a lot of irony surrounding this holiday season for the Jewish community,” said Jennifer Chestnut, Kent State’s Hillel executive director. “The holiday celebrates the Jewish people overcoming assimilation. Although the holiday celebrates this, much of the way it’s celebrated comes from our living in a Christian-dominated society.”

Chestnut points out that for many Christians, the true meaning of Christmas is exploited by a consumer-gaining mindset.

“Most Jewish kids get presents because you can’t tell a 5-year-old that the season is consumer-dominated,” she said. “The season can be celebratory and joyous with integrity, while recognizing other holidays as well.”

Chestnut said, depending on the home in which one grows up, many young Jews misunderstand the holiday during this time. For many Jews, they consider this confusion the “December Dilemma.”

Mallory Kaplan, sophomore early childhood education major, remembers her friends not understanding why she had candles instead of a Christmas tree during the holidays.

“I don’t remember being confused, personally, about the holidays,” she said. “But I know my sister believed in Santa for a long time.”

Kaplan’s parents did not want their children to be the ones to tell fellow classmates that Santa Claus didn’t exist, upsetting parents. Therefore they allowed their children to believe in Santa Claus, putting a book out on the fireplace Christmas morning that said “from Santa.”

“I don’t get mad when there is a Christmas tree out in public,” said Kaplan, an advocate for separation of church and state. “I think all major religions should be represented, or everything should be non-denominational. I like things like Frosty the Snowman. When a manger with baby Jesus shows up in public places, that’s when I get offended.”

Ola Hassanein, junior biology major and Egypt-born Muslim, does not celebrate Christmas, but finds other ways to enjoy the season.

“We still like to enjoy some festivities, such as sometimes we exchange gifts,” he said.

Chestnut said she would like to stress how much it is appreciated when someone wishes her a Happy Hanukkah instead of a Merry Christmas.

“People need to broaden their minds,” she said. “Everything doesn’t have to be red and green; but it doesn’t have to be all blue either.”

Contact features reporter Brenna McNamara at [email protected].