Orthodox Jews celebrate Thanksgiving

Limmattal - Christmas: For some, a day like any other

Christmas: a day like any other for some

Christmas decorations light up the sky, the scent of cinnamon tea and mulled wine hangs in the air and Christmas carols ring out in the streets. The shops will soon be closed and almost everyone is enjoying the days off with the family at Christmas. But how do followers of other religions spend the festive season?

Actually, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. «It depends entirely on the religiosity of the person. An Orthodox Jew would very likely never appear at a Christmas party. But a Jew who is in a relationship with a Christian, for example, celebrates the festival with her family, ”says Joschija Cardoso from the Jewish Messianic Community of Beit Moriyah in Schlieren.

Messianic Jews, like Christians, believe in Jesus as the Messiah of the Jewish people, but otherwise agree with the Jewish faith and also celebrate the Jewish festivals. Accordingly, Christmas is just as little part of their faith as it is with other Jews. Cardoso would personally decline an invitation to a Christmas party. He spends December 25th and 26th at home with his family. “For me, Christmas is a completely normal Sunday. Maybe we'll go for a walk with the family or make popcorn and watch a movie, ”he says.

Christmas without a fir tree

Bernardino Peres, on the other hand, also a member of the Jewish Messianic Congregation Schlieren, gladly accepts Christmas invitations and also celebrates with his loved ones. «Of course we don't have a traditional Christmas party. It's just about being together and partying with the whole family. Basically, it's a completely normal family celebration, ”says Peres. The children also get small presents, but at Peres they are not under a decorated Christmas tree.

The Jews would often adapt to the traditions of their place of residence, says Cardoso. In the USA they also celebrate Thanksgiving, which is the same with Christmas. Jews who celebrate on December 25th do not see the religious background, i.e. the birth of Jesus, but simply the traditional customs of the predominantly Christian Switzerland and the general Christmas cult as an occasion for the festival.

The Jewish woman Elizaveta Novik, for example, also finds Christmas lights to be a beautiful custom. “I am a fan of light, even if Christmas has no deeper meaning for me,” she says. The days off come in handy for her too. “Everyone is then free and you can finally do something nice with friends and family again. This year I will definitely go to my parents' home in Basel, »says Novik, who has only recently lived in Wallisellen and who visits the Jewish Messianic Synagogue in Schlieren. Otherwise, the holidays are two completely normal days for you, on which you can do some sport and relax from everyday work.

Tanja Stoll, mother of four children and also a member of the Jewish Messianic Congregation in Schlieren, also uses the holidays to relax. This year, from December 3rd to 10th, the Jews celebrated Hanukkah, the festival of light for the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem in 164 BC. The children receive a small present every day. “Now I'm looking forward to the two days off at home with my children. I don't do anything special at Christmas, ”says Stoll. She couldn't go to a Christmas party because of her feelings either. “If I know that the birth of Jesus will be celebrated there, but I don't believe that he was born on Christmas, then I cannot celebrate the feast with a pure heart. I rather try to avoid Christmas, ”says Stoll.

Hanukkah, the festival of light

Because the Jewish calendar uses a different calendar, Hanukkah falls on a different date each year in November and December. This year the Jews celebrated their festival of lights from December 3rd to 10th. It commemorates the rededication of a temple in Jerusalem that had been desecrated by the Greeks in 164 BC. Hanukkah is therefore a Jewish festival that is not in the Torah, but was added later.

The celebration lasts for a whole eight days. According to tradition, the Jews desecrated the sacred olive oil that lights up the menorah in the temple. The priest found a jug of oil that should have lasted for a day. However, miraculously, the menorah continued to burn for eight days until the new sacred oil was made.

The candlelight is still at the center of the festival today. Every evening during Hanukkah, the whole family comes together at sunset to light another Hanukkah candle, an eight-armed candlestick. Everyone is encouraged to light their own Hanukkiah. Since kosher oil is required for this, it is common to eat food for Hanukkah that is baked or fried in oil. A sweet pastry that looks like a Berliner and is called "Sufganijot" in Hebrew is particularly typical.

As at Christmas with Christians, the Jewish family is served a solemn menu on Hanukkah and the children usually receive gifts. In addition, both children and adults play with a dreidel, the so-called "Sevivon", for chocolate money. (LEF)

Time for religious education

Muslims spend the Christmas season in a similar way to Jews: many visit friends and relatives. Not because it is Christmas, but because they will finally have time. “Visiting the family is almost a duty in Islam, a kind of religious task. You should keep checking how the others are doing, so that you can occasionally help each other, ”says Ersin Tan, President of the Islamic Community in Dietikon. He has just made an appointment with his cousin for the upcoming festive season.

Tan also uses the Christmas season to commemorate Jesus and Mary. «Jesus also has a high status in the Koran, but not as the Son of God, but as a prophet. To be reminded of him by Christmas does not harm us Muslims at all ”, says Tan. The feast of his birth is not celebrated. "Children often hear the story of Jesus and Mary at school or on television and wonder why it is told this way by Christians and differently by us."

Islamic communities and associations therefore also use the Christmas holidays for religious instruction. This is offered in holiday camps over Christmas. “The children spend two weeks at home, so many parents are happy when they find something meaningful to do,” says Tan. "The children should be able to enjoy their vacation too." Various activities are undertaken in such camps: visits to swimming pools in a closed circle are part of it, but also days of skiing, sleigh rides and other excursions. Conversation, however, is always combined with religious teaching. About three hours a day, the boys and girls, who are mostly of primary school age, are given separate information about Islam.

But there are also Muslims who have adopted the Christmas tradition in terms of migration. "For example, the house is decorated or people give each other gifts," says Adem Kujovic from Dietikon. However, this is not widely practiced in his circle of friends. Personally, he just gives his brothers presents from time to time during Advent. Kujovic also thinks the Christmas dinner with the office is a good thing. “I always appreciate that very much. It's fun together as a team and you get to know each other better. " The team event comes first and not the celebration of the birth of Jesus. In the same way, Kujovic is at school for Christmas singing. “Such occasions strengthen the feeling of togetherness. The children are then still free to decide whether they want to leave out a part. "