Hanukkah is not a Jewish Christmas.
It’s that time of year, everything is Christmas. Christmas lights, Christmas trees, Santa, Christmas music, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. We live in the Bay Area, one of the more diverse areas in our country, and Christmas still engulfs us all. Don’t get me wrong, we love celebrating the holiday and I get very excited for it. It was always such a magical time during my childhood and I want my boys to have that too, but I also want to teach my kids that even though it’s all around us, there’s a lot more going on during the winter season than Christmas.
I’m pretty sure I believed for quite a long time that Hanukkah was a Jewish Christmas. And I can see why I believed that as a child- when Christmas is all you see and you hear a little bit about Hanukkah at the same time. You hear they have gift and candles. Must be a Jewish Christmas. But it’s not. At all. And I want my kids to know that.
Being Sensitive to Others’ Beliefs
We have Jewish friends and Muslim friends and Pagan friends. I want my boys to have an understanding that everyone has their own traditions and beliefs. I imagine that the holiday season can be quite odd and isolating for someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, especially for children. And, I want to make sure that my children are at least aware of and sensitive to this. A friend of mine shared an article (https://www.jweekly.com/2017/11/23/doesnt-jewish-girlfriend-like-christmas-wrong/) that talked about how a Jewish woman may feel during the holidays and I thought the author described it well, “Christmas may be the epitome of her otherness.”
I want to teach by boys not only about various religious holidays, but also about being sensitive to other’s traditions- understanding that not everyone believes what they believe. And, that that’s not only okay, but it’s good for our world to have diversity in thoughts and opinions and beliefs. And my first step in doing this is really just showing them what other families do.
Children’s Books about Hanukkah
Bodhi and I have been reading some children’s books about Hanukkah and I’ve been doing a little more studying as well to make sure I really understand. We’re actually both learning a lot. One of Bodhi’s best friends is Jewish so he’s extra interested in the holiday. We were lucky enough to be invited to their house for dinner on the 7th night of Hanukkah so Bodhi got to see his friend light the candles on the menorah and he even got a taste of gelt. Of course the food and the menorah seem to be the highlights for him right now but I’m guessing yummy treats and pretty lights would be the highlights for just about any holiday at this age. Hoping that with each year, we can grow and learn more.
Below are some of the Hanukkah books we’ve been enjoying. I particularly liked these three because they taught us a lot about the traditions of Hanukkah rather than the history behind it. I do eventually want to teach Bodhi about the history of it. But for now, we’re really focusing on family traditions rather than religious beliefs. We’ll dive a little deeper into it next year.
Hanukkah Books (affiliate links)
Latke the Lucky Dog by Ellen Fischer
Chanukah Lights Everywhere by Michael J. Rosen
How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? by Jane Yolen
Check out some other books that help teach children about DIVERSITY here.