A coincidence of the calendar has caused many Americans to mistake a minor holiday for the Jewish equivalent of Christmas, said Dr. Anne Eliades, president of the congregation at the Temple Beth El. Hanukkah is actually one of the minor holidays on the Jewish calendar, she said.
While Christian religions celebrate their largest holidays of the year in December, those practicing the Jewish faith celebrate one of the minor holiday of Hanukkah.
"Hanukkah is not a holiday like Christmas," Eliades said. "Our high holidays are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur."
Eliades said the Temple Beth El will be hosting some Hanukkah celebrations for the holiday.
"We are having a Hanukkah party at the temple with a dinner and games for the children," Eliades said.
Yair Robinson, the student Rabbi at Temple Beth El said a youth-oriented celebration will be held on the seventh night of Hanukkah, Dec. 16.
Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration beginning at sundown on Dec. 10 and ending on sundown of Dec. 17, according to Amy Pollard, president of Hillel, Ball State's Jewish student organization.
Foods cooked in oil play a major role in these celebrations.
"The use of oil is symbolic for the miracle of the light that burned for eight days," Pollard said.
Potato pancakes called latkes are often served at Hanukkah dinners, as well as fried foods such as jelly doughnuts, according to Eliades.
Pollard said Hillel will be participating in the Temple Beth El celebration,as well as holding a celebration of its own. Hillel will be observing such traditions as lighting a menorah and playing with a dreidel.
"A dreidel is a top that is used in a gambling game in which you bet chocolate coins called gelt," Pollard said. Pollard added that this is a very popular game for children during Hanukkah.
Pollard said a more recent tradition is the giving of gifts. This is not an original practice but is oriented more toward children as well.
"The Christian tradition of giving gifts has been taken into our culture," Pollard said. "Presents are not necessary but add to the celebration."
Eliades said that giving is one of the three pillars of the Jewish faith and is stressed as more of a year-round practice.
"We celebrate giving all year," Eliades said. "We do not associate charity with a particular holiday."