What It Feels Like When Someone Wishes Me ‘Happy Hanukkah’

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. This was taken from outside my home, looking into the front window.

I grew up in a conservative, Christian state where most people say Merry Christmas. And that’s fine.

I usually say Happy Holidays. I never take offense to a greeting of the season, regardless of how it’s spoken. But something warm and precious emerges when someone wishes me Happy Hanukkah.

Let me paint a picture for a moment:

When you grow up as a religious minority, you’re used to society overlooking your holiday. It’s nothing that bothers or insults you. Therefore, you never think twice when someone gives you a Christmas card, or a Santa hat, or an ornament. You appreciate it.

Yet, I’ve never forgotten the boss who bought me a Hanukkah card my first year on the job—accompanied by a bottle of wine—or the friend who texts me the first night of Hanukkah every year. Precisely because I don’t expect it, when someone wishes me Happy Hanukkah, they enter a special place in my heart and mind.

For me, those two simple words permeate deeper than the typical holiday greeting.

They say, “I see you. I recognize you. I understand this is your holiday, and I want to acknowledge that.” They say, “I accept you. I welcome you. And I hope you have a lovely Festival of Lights.”

I make it my mission to wish people whatever holiday they celebrate. For most of my friends or colleagues, I say Merry Christmas. I’ve wished a Happy Kwanza. And I say Happy Holidays when I don’t know someone’s religion.

Rarely, however, do I receive a Happy Hanukkah. When I do, it makes my heart dance. I rejoice in sharing the miracle and delight of my holiday with others, just as so many spread Christmas cheer wherever they go.

I know people do not say Happy Hanukkah for a variety of reasons: they’re shy, or they’re unsure of the correct greeting, or they think I also celebrate Christmas. Some people just don’t know. That’s okay.

But for the occasional person who acknowledges my holiday directly, thank you for making my smile glow just a little brighter.

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4 responses to “What It Feels Like When Someone Wishes Me ‘Happy Hanukkah’”

  1. I blogged about holiday greetings a bit, too.

    Our family is Jewish. Living in a diverse part of the Northeast, that gets remembered more often, but I’ve had friends add me to their Christmas card list after they’ve visited my home and seen that I display them. I’m grateful for every warm wish sent by a well meaning person, no matter what holiday may be featured in the printed text!

    There is something special about the friend who bothers to buy a special card acknowledging what they know *I* believe in, however. The Hanukkah cards make it to the front of the display. 🙂

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts as well, Willo! It does warm your heart. 😊 Happy Hanukkah to you!

  2. Happy Hanukkah Shari!

    Thank you for your post. I appreciate the perspective you bring to the holiday greetings “debate”. Greeting friends and family with their holiday greeting is a more personal way to connect.

    1. Thank you! That is very sweet. 😊 I agree, I think it’s more personal as well. I hope you have a wonderful, warm Holiday Season!

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