Jewish Holidays Fight for Rank

In studies on Jewish identity in the United States during the 1960s, Jewish sociologists discovered that American Jews were becoming rather selective in which holidays they celebrated and which rituals they observed. (see for example Marshall Sklare’s “Lakeville study”)* Fast forward to 2013 and the digital age; you can instantly look at the trending search term use of various Jewish holidays and learn a lot about how America’s Jews are celebrating Jewish holidays.Holidays

What’s your favorite Jewish holiday? Oh, wait. Don’t tell me. I’ll tell you!

– A Google Trend Geek

Take a look at the image above (if you want a better look, try the link here). It displays the Google Trends data for the top 5 Jewish holidays (that is, in their most popular spellings in Google). What first jumps out at you is that the search terms sharply rise and fall over time. And this means that people tend to search these keywords only around the time of that holiday. That much is obvious. But what about ranking? Which holiday scores highest on Google Trends? And the winner is… Passover?!?!?! The holiday celebrating the Jewish People’s liberation from Egypt beats Hanukkah at the rate of 1.6 to 1. Does that mean American Jews choose digging into their matza and marror over receiving presents and gelt from granny? Or perhaps the appeal is “the four questions” (after all, who doesn’t like asking questions, even those you’ve heard a dozen times before)?

Well, in short, this Google Trend means that Passover is more widely searched, but does not necessarily celebrated. This may become obvious when we think about the concerns surrounding the holiday of Passover. What are Google users around Passover time?How about “how do I celebrate Passover?”, “where can I find a Passover Seder?”. In comparison to the Passover Seder,  the lighting of the Hanukkah Menorah (& it’s blessings and other details) is a walk in the park.

Either way, these results are interesting to explore, especially if one compares keyword use in various states, and the search trends for different holidays per state. For example, in Montana, Rosh Hashanah does not show up at all as trending, while Yom Kippur does.

There’s so much to explore. Check it out sometime. Happy Trending!

*Learn more about Marshall Sklare, the “founding father of Jewish Sociology” at

P.S. Happy Birthday, Franz Kafka!!!

Franz Kafka was born July 3, 1883. He would be 130 years old today.

Franz Kafka’s writings, notably The Trial and The Castle, have much to tell us about sociological concepts such as Max Weber’s “iron cage” and bureaucratic forms of organization, according to University of Minnesota’s Professor Joachim Savelsberg.

According to Savelsberg, “social scientists use fiction as a source of illustrations for sociological arguments; as empirical evidence… where solid social scientific evidence is missing; finally, as an analytical description and interpretation of social conditions”.

In short, Kafka’s stories illustrate the tension people in the U.S feel or associate with interacting with the DMV. Government systems and procedures can sometimes feel like an “iron cage” (borrowing Max Weber’s term describing the rational nature of modern social forms), devoid of personal meaning.

References: Web Search interest: rosh hashanah, yom kippur, hanukkah, purim, passover. United States, 2004 – present. Google Trends. (n.d.). Retrieved on June 30, 2013.

Savelsberg Joachim J. “Franz Kafka: Bureaucracy, Law, and Abuses of the Iron Cage”. Edling, Christofer, and Jens Rydgren, (eds). Sociological insights of great thinkers: sociology through literature, philosophy, and science. ABC-CLIO, (2011): 45-53.

Sklare, Marshall, Joseph Greenblum, and Benjamin Bernard Ringer. Not Quite at Home: How an American Jewish Community Lives with Itself and Its Neighbors. No. 11. Institute of Human Relations Press, American Jewish Committee, 1969.


2 thoughts on “Jewish Holidays Fight for Rank

  1. An obvious point is that chanuka suffers from a multitude of spellings, and due to the attendant confusion I imagine may also be more prone to being misspelled altogether; so the method advanced here may prove entirely unscientific.


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