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Letter: Relating Hanukkah

January 3, 2019

I write in regards to David Rafferty’s (Dec. 23 column, “Finding Christmas within Hanukkah.”

As a Jew, I never knew that I thought of Hanukkah’s early or lateness in relationship to Christmas. So thank you, Mr. Rafferty, for teaching me that. I always thought about Hanukkah’s appearance in relationship to my birthday. You see, my birthday is Dec.17 and some years my birthday would come before or after Hanukkah and sometimes my birthday and the holiday would coincide. If my birthday and Hanukkah were independent of each other it meant I got eight presents and then a separate birthday present. However, if the two events coincided it meant that on my birthday I would get the dreaded, “this is your combination Hanukkah and birthday present.” Gypped out of nine gifts again.

Why does this happen? Because Jewish holidays are based on the lunisolar Jewish calendar. The calendar has 12 months of 28 days each except when it has the “leap” month of Adar II (a second month of Adar to even things up). We also say, Mr. Rafferty, that the high holidays are early or late. Do we mean in relation to Christmas here, too? No, we do not. It all depends on when they fall in September. Also, if Passover starts at the end of March, we say that Passover is maddeningly early.

When a loved one dies, we remember them on their day of death by lighting a candle, saying a prayer and going to services. Sadly, six years ago, my father died ... on Dec. 17 — my birthday. Before Dec. 17, 2012, my birthday had happy significance. A little recognition, some presents, a chocolate birthday cake. Since he died, my birthday is tinged with the sadness of losing him and although I remember him every day, I think about him more on the day I lost his physical presence. But since our Jewish life is guided by the Jewish calendar the day I remember my father is actually the fourth day of Tevet and not Dec. 17. So this year his Yahrzeit came early (in relation to my birthday) and I lit the candle on Dec. 12.

So no, Mr. Rafferty, we do not think about Hanukkah’s early or lateness based on Christmas. Christmas doesn’t come into it at all.

Marilyn Wolpin, Stamford

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