Reflecting on Hanukkah Amidst Covid: What’s New and What Remains?

By Arianna Tabankin

Tradition is an important principle of Judaism, and certainly many people who observed Hanukkah this year conducted their annual practices for the event. For example, my family and I light the menorah every night for eight nights, adding a new candle for each subsequent day. We also received eight gifts, one per night, ate potato latkes and jelly donuts, and sung prayers gathered around the menorah. This looked no different than in years past, and it was extremely comforting to experience this continuity while we were surrounded by instability. 

However, the challenges of Coronavirus forced many people, myself included, to celebrate Hanukkah differently than they typically would. As with most other holidays since March, video calling was widely used for separated families to connect and enjoy the holiday together. Arielle Goldman, a BHHS junior stated, “my extended family FaceTimed [us] as well, which was very special since, in past years, the only time we lit the candles together was during Hanukkah parties.” This warming remark highlights the unexpected interconnectedness that ensued from the pandemic; with technology so widely accessible, speaking with relatives virtually became extremely common. 

Also, Coronavirus pushed people to focus less on material goods and more on important values. As economies were hurting and travel was not plausible during this time, the more “commercial” aspect of the holiday season was diminished. With less focus on vacation and gifts, Hanukkah could be focused more on family. Hallie Gordon said, “it was so nice to spend time with my family and do our favorite Hanukkah traditions.” Because people did not travel and spent more time at home, they were able to strengthen their connections with other family members, which really is what this time of year is all about. 

This year’s Hanukkah was different from years past, and there is no denying that. There were some unfortunate drawbacks, like being unable to see relatives in person or celebrate with friends. However, people connected with their immediate family and distant relatives more than ever before, and a new sense of what is truly important was rediscovered. We adapted, we made the best of an unfortunate situation, and we succeeded. That is, after all, what Hanukkah stands for. When your temple has been destroyed and all seems hopeless, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel (if you are lucky enough, eight days worth of light!).