Although many of Ball State’s students celebrate Christmas, this is not true for everyone, as the university is home to a diverse population of religions. 

“Sometimes it’s annoying that everyone thinks everyone celebrates Christmas,” said Adina Stuhlman, a senior dance major who is Jewish. 

Students of different religions gathered in the multicultural center on Dec. 3 to attend a Hanukkah party hosted by Hillel, a Jewish campus organization.

Stuhlman, the Hillel president, lit the candles of the menorah while party-goers chatted over the pulse of traditional music and snacked on refreshments.

“I think it’s kind of nice just to have some light in the winter, with the menorah,” Stuhlman said. “It’s really nice, it brings the community together. It’s a good time for parties.”

Stuhlman is Jewish, as is her family and the community in which she grew up back home. She didn’t realize that most people celebrate Christmas, not Hanukkah, until she was in high school.

Although she did not attend the Hanukkah party, Molly O’Connor, a freshman marketing major, is no stranger to Judaism, even though she is Catholic.

“My family raised my brother and I Catholic, but we have always celebrated both (Christmas and Hanukkah), even though my mom is the only person in my family who celebrates Hanukkah,” O’Connor said. “My mom wanted to do it, and I’m happy that we get to support her and her religion because she’s been so supportive of my brother and I being raised in a religion other than hers.”

Although she feels that Ball State is inclusive, O’Connor said that she sees the challenge of accommodating for religious minorities.

“I was kind of worried that I wasn’t going to be home from school for Hanukkah, but I will be,” O’Connor said.

Unlike Christmas, the eight days of Hanukkah do not always fall on the same days of the year. For Jewish students, the holiday begins on the evening of Dec. 24 and ends the evening of Jan. 1 this year.

“It’s nice when it’s on a break because we can be home and we can be with our families,” Stuhlman said.

However, Stuhlman pointed out the cultural normativity of Christmas.

“One thing I noticed when I went home for Thanksgiving and I was telling people ‘I’ll be home for break,’ and I kept wanting to say Christmas break and wait, no, it’s not Christmas break. It’s winter break. And even the people I was talking to were Jewish and Orthodox,” Stuhlman said. “I think it’s just so ingrained in our culture that it’s Christmas break and not just a time we have off of school.”

Ben McIntosh, a senior philosophy and religious studies dual major, was raised in a “conservative Christian” household but converted to atheism when he started attending Ball State as a freshman.

“I think it’s important to realize that Christmas is not the only holiday that is celebrated in December,” McIntosh said.

McIntosh celebrates Christmas non-religiously by buying gifts and being with family, much as many people celebrate Thanksgiving, he said. He also believes that the controversy surrounding the question of saying “happy holidays” or “merry Christmas” is “ridiculous.”

“I say happy holidays, but if someone says merry Christmas to me I’ll say merry Christmas back. If someone says happy Hanukkah to me, I’ll say happy Hanukkah back," McIntosh said. "It’s really no big deal.”

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