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Wilton Rabbi, Priest Help Find Holidays' Meaning

WILTON, Conn. — Wilton's religious leaders, Christian and Jewish, admit that appreciating the true meaning of the holidays can be hard. 

Christmas and Hanukkah have been celebrated almost side by side since the earliest days of Christianity. And in recent years, the materialization of the holidays has tended to overshadow the religious meaning of both holidays.

Father Michael Palmer has been pastor of Wilton’s Our Lady of Fatima Church for 35 years and for him, the way to move beyond the gifts is by teaching children that it isn’t just about getting, but about giving also.

“We want them to understand that this is not just a holiday,” Palmer said. “And they gradually understand that it is better, or at least as good, to give and not just receive, and I don’t think they have to be too old before they understand that.”

Rabbi Leah Cohen of Temple B'nai Chaim in Georgetown feels that because Hanukkah often falls around the same time as Christmas, the message sometimes has been lost. For her, the holiday isn’t meant to compete with Christmas.

When the story of Hanukkah is told, she says, it’s meant to teach “being proud of your own identity and not needing to feel like we have to give in to the ruling power in our life.” It also stresses the “potential for bringing light into darkness.”

Gifts have become an important part of each holiday, a way for people to celebrate. But both Palmer and Cohen feel that aspect has been overdone. 

“The commercialization of Christmas has also lead to the commercialization of Hanukkah,” Cohen said, adding that that is regretful.

What do you think of the holidays? Email Alissa Smith at asmith@thedailywilton.com

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