Those raised in a Christian tradition know that Christmas comes on the same date every year, but Hanukkah is more of a moving target. It can happen anytime between late November and late December. In the Hebrew calendar, Hanukkah occurs on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. However, that Hebrew calendar is based on a lunisolar cycle so that instead of the same number of days in every year, a Hebrew year can have anywhere from 353 to 385 days. The holidays and months move accordingly. Confused, yet?
For Sarah, whose teaching schedule did not take the Hebrew calendar under consideration, Hanukkah celebrations changed from year to year. In her first year at Smoky Mountain, Hanukkah and Christmas vacation coincided, so she was able to visit her parents in New York. But in her second year, Hanukkah came during final exams and the deadline for submitting final grades. She would be staying in Birch Falls and celebrating with her boyfriend's family. One of her colleagues asked how she was going to manage the celebration of Hanukkah in the midst of grading chaos. She explained:
“The religious requirements come every day at sundown, when we light one more candle on our menorah, read the story of the miracle of the oil, and recite the ritual prayers. That only takes about half an hour, but then everyone gathers for a festive dinner each night. The children receive small token gifts, and much visiting goes on from house to house. My days will be my own, but unless I stay home to light my solitary menorah, the evenings will be hectic.” "What Marks Your Path?", p. 173.