Hanukkah on campus: What do you mean you don’t celebrate Christmas?

By Marisa Hoffman

“So you’ve never had a Christmas tree? Or a big Christmas dinner? You never had that feeling on Christmas morning where everything was happy, and it was the best day of the year? You never believed in Santa Claus?”

For 18 years, I was asked these and similar questions every year around the holidays. Now that I’m in college, the questions have become more profound – more educationally inspired.

I get asked, “What exactly are you celebrating? What do latkes taste like? Am I pronouncing that correctly? How did the oil burn for eight nights?”

I like these questions. On campus, I’ve noticed that people are much more open to learning about my culture, instead of just pointing out the things I was “missing out on.” In high school, I felt ostracized by fellow classmates and left out of the festivities. In college, I feel unique. I feel special knowing that I celebrate a holiday with a rich history and a shared heritage with my fellow Jews.

I no longer feel left out or pushed away, I feel happy. I am excited to be a Jew during the holidays. I welcome the questions and “yes” – latkes are different than hash browns!

Marisa Hoffman is a junior at the University of Arizona.

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