Happy Holidays: Celebrating All Religions and Cultures Within the Grand Valley Community

Posted on December 9, 2020
Written by Andreas Fields

At GV, we have lots of students from different backgrounds, religions, and cultures. Now that it’s December, we’re seeing a lot of Christmas advertisements, Christmas music, and Christmas traditions everywhere we look. This is wonderful for those who celebrate, but it’s also important to acknowledge other religions and cultures that might feel forgotten this time of year. Hanukkah is just one example of the many different holidays celebrated during December.

Keep reading to learn more about Hanukkah and also how it’s celebrated at Grand Valley!

Fellow Laker Sarah Krishef details the importance of Hanukkah in the Jewish community. According to Sarah, Hanukkah celebrates “a time when a small group of Jewish rebels managed to take back their temple from the Syrian-Greek empire.” The Jewish people found out that the Syrian-Greeks had desecrated a temple, and a candelabra, or menorah, that was supposed to stay lit had gone out. The Jewish people only had a little bit of oil left, but miraculously, they were able to relight the menorah and keep it burning for eight days, long enough for them to rebuild the temple. It’s this miracle that’s remembered and celebrated each year on Hanukkah.

Hanukkah has many different traditions, including dreidel, a popular gambling game played using a four-sided top with Hebrew letters on each side denoting how much of a player’s bet they have to give up or take from someone else. Menorahs are lit in houses on each night of Hanukkah to symbolize the 8 nights the original menorah burned in the temple. Traditional Hanukkah foods include latkes (potato pancakes), gelt (chocolate coins), and sufganiyot, which are essentially jelly donuts.

Menorah candle

Sarah appreciates Hanukkah because it’s an opportunity to “celebrate a bright and beautiful holiday in the middle of a dark winter.” She does recognize that Hanukkah isn’t talked about in the media nearly as much as Christmas, and she wishes the general public were more aware of Hanukkah and had a better understanding of its significance.

Hanukkah themed cookies and card

“I definitely wish more Hanukkah decorations were found in stores, and I wish winter break accommodated Hanukkah so I could spend the holidays with my family,” Sarah expresses. However, she also feels that Hanukkah shouldn’t become a holiday for people to celebrate without fully understanding the significance of the holiday. On campus, Sarah has gone to “Shabbrunch” with Hillel, a Jewish student organization at Grand Valley. “Shabbrunch”, a combination of Shabbat and brunch, is a brunch celebrated on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest during the Hanukkah season. This year, because of COVID-19 restrictions, Hillel delivered special celebratory care packages to its members instead.

There are a wide variety of other faith-based organizations on campus including the Muslim Student Association, Center for Inquiry, Campus Ministry, Catholic Student Ministries, and many more. Spend some time learning about religions and cultures different from your own; do some research and get to know different people within the Laker community. No matter what you celebrate this year, remember to be respectful and stay safe!

Happy Holidays Lakers!

Page last modified October 13, 2021