Senior Sydney Silverstein’s family celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah and has even started a new tradition for their neighborhood. Photo: Sydney Silverstein

As the winter holiday season quickly approaches, celebrations may not be happening as they typically would. However, families and the Pace community are working hard to maintain their holiday traditions. And while many families celebrate only one holiday, several upper school students celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. 

This year, Hanukkah begins on Dec. 10 and goes through Friday, Dec. 18. The eight-day celebration originates from the story of the Hanukkah miracle, which followed the Jewish revolt against Syrian King Antiochus IV in 166 BCE, who had invaded Judea and looted and desecrated the Second Temple. The Jews drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem, and liberated and rededicated the temple.

When the liberators set about lighting the menorah in the temple, they could only find one night’s worth of oil. enough to last for one night. But instead, the oil burned in the menorah for eight nights. Over time, the celebration of this miracle, often known as the Festival of Lights, has evolved into a holiday of nightly celebrations, with Jewish people lighting menorahs and exchanging a gift each night for the eight nights. 

Christmas, which takes place every year on Dec. 25, is a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus. However, many of today’s Christmas traditions are secular, with Santa Claus acting as a major figurehead of the holiday. St. Nicholas, a Turkish monk in the 3rd century BCE, first was celebrated in the late 18th century by Dutch families living in New York and later began to evolve into today’s Santa. 

“My mom converted [to Judaism], so in my house we celebrate Hanukkah, but every Christmas Eve we go over to my grandmother’s house and do fondue and presents,” said senior Sydney Silverstein. She added that her family also visits her great aunt, who is known for going all out with decorations the Sunday before Christmas to see more of her family.

This year, her immediate family, who also loves to decorate for holidays, has a new tradition for the season: letters from Santa. A giant inflatable decoration sits in the front of their yard and includes a “mailbox” where children can drop off letters for Santa. They have decided to respond to each and every letter that they receive, which is undoubtedly a major task for any family.

“I get to embrace the cultures of all of my family members, despite their religions,” said sophomore Ella Berman, who also celebrates both holidays. “They are also both similar yet different in many ways and it’s fun to compare the two.”

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