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Let the Holidays Come ‘Right on Time’

The cycle of the year is something to marvel at. So what are we really saying when holidays “sneak up” on us? 

Season of light during the holidays
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Hanukkah starts Thursday, December 10 this year.

Some will hear this and exclaim, “Oh, so early!”

But really, Hanukkah arrives like all dates on the calendar—right on time.

The Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycles, which means holidays float slightly from one year to the next when compared to the 365-day Gregorian calendar, which is based on the solar cycle.

“To everything there is a season,” goes the famous verse from the Book of Ecclesiastes. This is literally true of many Jewish festivals and holy days—it’s important to keep the harvest holidays, spring celebrations and Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, at their relevant times of the year.

The Jewish calendar contains a “leap month” 7 times over every 19 years to correct for this issue. Other non-Western calendars, such as the Muslim calendar (also lunar), do not make this adjustment, so festivals like Ramadan migrate through the seasons over years-long cycles.

But though they differ from each other, all calendars share certain qualities. They are each the product of great thought, invested with deep meaning and are profoundly important to those who adhere to them. Each is its own intentional cycle.

And each one returns to days of celebration, days of remembrance or days of renewal in exactly the same way—right on time.

Those who would lament the “earliness” of Hanukkah or any other annual observance are really commenting on something else. They are concerned they forgot to pick up candles to light the menorah or worried they are running out of time to select gifts for loved ones. In other words, they feel they lost track of time.

Time is an awe-inspiring thing, really. Like the sun, moon and stars, it moves forward regardless of whether we are paying attention to it at all. Feeling “snuck up on” by the holiday season or a birthday or the anniversary of a loss—that’s really just a reminder that we should stop to marvel at the passage of time, which brings so many gifts, so many emotions and so many opportunities to bring light into dark times, which we do when we kindle Hanukkah candles. 

Let’s never forget to show up to each day as it comes. Because it will come. Right on time.

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