It’s beginning to look a lot like Hanukkah

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

By Phoebe Suy | Staff Writer

It was the night before finals and all through the campus … everyone was stressed and dreaming about Christmas break. While some students will go home to Christmas trees and lights, others will light a menorah or simply enjoy time with family until the next holiday.

For one Baylor family, the 12 Days of Christmas is more than just a song. Taylor sophomore Dayton Volek said as long as he could remember, his family has always gone “all-out” for Christmas.

“We have 12 Christmas trees, which is one in every room pretty much, and growing up like that, we all just kind of assumed, ‘Oh, everyone is this crazy about Christmas,’ but apparently not,” Volek said.

Volek is the youngest of four siblings, but he said he knows the 12 Christmas tree tradition began with one or two, but then grew to what it is now. He said his dad is even thinking about adding a thirteenth tree to the back porch this year.

Because all of his siblings are now out of the house, Volek said Christmas is a special time that brings them all together.

“To me, Christmas is just a time where we as followers of Christ can come together and celebrate the joy and hope we were given through the birth of Jesus,” Volek said. “Whether we celebrate by giving gifts, decorating, or just spending time with loved ones, it’s such a sweet time to rejoice in the beauty of the Gospel.”

As far as continuing the tradition, Volek said he wants to try to make Christmas a big deal in his future family as well.

“I already know my older siblings have multiple trees at their homes and so I’m definitely probably going to do the same thing,” Volek said.

A few years ago, the Volek’s home was featured on a historic Christmas home tour, Volek said. Their house was built in 1916.

While Gastonia, NC sophomore Allison Overpeck comes from a Christian background, she said her and her family celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.

Overpeck said when she was 12, her family began researching about Hanukkah and the history behind it. She said it was interesting to see the ties between Judaism and Christianity, especially as Christianity stemmed from Judaism.

“My mom had the idea that we should celebrate Hanukkah as well because Jesus didn’t stop being Jewish, he grew up Jewish,” Overpeck said. “He celebrated their traditions and their holidays, and I mean, Hanukkah didn’t come around until after Jesus, but it’s still a very good time of the year. We liked how it showed God’s faithful to his people, not just by sending Jesus; he’s faithful to us the rest of the time and not just when he sent his son to die for us.”

Overpeck said her mother felt it was important to consider the roots of Christianity. Even the first Christians weren’t originally Christians, Overpeck said, and Hanukkah is a part of the story leading to where Christianity is today.

The story of Hanukkah comes from the time of the Maccabean Revolt, when the Maccabees only had enough oil to light the lamp for one night, Overpeck recounted.

“They thought they wouldn’t last that long, and the story goes that God provided enough oil to light the lamp for eight days and nights, not just the one that they were expecting.”

Traditionally, people receive gifts every night of Hanukkah, according to Overpeck, but her family doesn’t do gifts. Instead, she said they focus on celebrating one another and spending time together.

“We’ll light the candles, talk about the story, pray together, and then…some nights we make latkes, potato pancakes, other nights we’ll play a dreidel. It’s just a time to spend together and not worry about the rest of what’s going on,” Overpeck said.

As far as celebrating both Christmas and Hannukah, the Overpeck family tries to keep them as separate holidays. Overpeck said they will have their menorah out at the same time as the advent wreath, for example, but don’t try to combine them in any way.

“Hanukkah’s much more for reflection, I suppose,” Overpeck said. “I like to just sit and stare at the candles sometimes and have my personal time with God. And Christmas Eve, traditionally you go to the candlelight service and that has always spoken to me, too. It’s very reverent and introspective for me.”

In contrast, Christmas day is somewhat of a less reflective experience, Overpeck said, mainly because of the food and the presents. She said the days leading up to Christmas in the celebration of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve give her time “to sit and really reflect on what God has done.”

The eight-day celebration of Hanukkah begins this year on Dec. 15.

Houston senior Sundus Ahmed said being at Baylor as a student of the Muslim faith has in turn grounded her own beliefs. Hearing voices from different religious backgrounds in her World Religions class was a good experience, Ahmed said, and allowed her to see things from different points of view while still appreciating tenants of Islam.

Major Muslim holidays include Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Eid al-Fitr is celebrated at the end of the Ramadan, a holy month of fasting. While the exact dates of Ramadan change according to the lunar calendar, in 2018 it will begin in the United States on May 15 and end June 14. Contrary to some misconceptions, Ramadan does not take place during the Christmas holiday season.

Although Ahmed said she doesn’t celebrate the religious aspects of Christmas, she said her and her family enjoy the community elements. She said they attend Christmas festivals, go ice-skating and enjoy events such as Christmas on Fifth.

The Ahmed family doesn’t decorate their home for Christmas, but on Christmas day they get together since many family members are off work. Ahmed said they usually have a barbeque and enjoy time together.

The spirit and culture of Christmas is almost unavoidable, Ahmed said, but she said when she has her own family she will consider decorating and putting up a tree to celebrate some of the other things Christmas stands for, like peace, joy and love.

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