It's no secret that Christmas dominates the winter holiday season in America. Wherever you go from mid-November through December, you're bound to see Santa Clauses and Christmas trees, and popular Christmas jingles like Deck the Halls are bound to be the soundtrack to your holiday shopping. However, December isn't just for Christmas, a fact that many adults are well aware of, but most Christian children don't realize. Even if you celebrate Christmas in your household, you can broaden your children's perspective by teaching them about other winter holidays like Hanukkah.
As an adult, you likely know a bit about Hanukkah, but you might be fuzzy on the details if you don't celebrate this holiday yourself. Hanukkah, sometimes spelled "Chanukah" and referred to as the Festival of Lights, lasts for eight days every December. This Jewish holiday begins at sundown on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. Characterized by the lighting of the Menorah candles, this celebratory holiday is all about renewing dedication to faith. Like Christmas, celebrating Hanukkah involves prayers, family, rich foods, gifts, games and other time-honored traditions.
One Hanukkah tradition you may want to teach your children about is the dreidel. A well recognized symbol of the Hanukkah holiday, the dreidel was first introduced as a special treat for children. Historically, Jewish children played a dreidel game during the holiday's long winter nights, which was no doubt a welcomed respite from their studies. This toy, called a s'vivon in Hebrew, is a four-sided spinning top with letters on each side that display a Hanukkah message. It was meant to be both a fun game and a reminder of what the holiday is really all about: renewing dedication to the Creator.
If you would like to teach your children about other winter holidays, like Hanukkah, many books and websites are available to help you in your efforts. Entering "the story of Hanukkah for kids" in your Internet search bar, brings up a long list of helpful results. The information you'll find on such websites is designed to be easy for parents to relay and for kids to digest. You can also find many activity pages and coloring sheets online, as well as recipes and games that you can explore with your children to teach them about Hanukkah in a fun way. Of course, if you prefer, your local bookstore is also likely to offer children's books about Hanukkah, especially during the holiday season.
Teaching your children about other holidays is one way to mold them into more educated, well-rounded individuals who are tolerant of people of different religions and cultures. You may even learn something new yourself! And, of course, teaching your children about Hanukkah can also be a fun way to come together as a family during the holiday season, even if you do so under the glow of Christmas lights and to the tune of Jingle Bells.
Along with the most commonly celebrated holidays of Christmas and Chanukah, parents and older family members might find themselves besieged with questions from kids about the story of Chanukah and Christmas. Here's a quick guide to fielding those questions.
In different places in the world, specific cultural flavor has been added to Chanukah traditions. Chanukah's theme celebrates Jewish survival against great odds. Chanukah is eight days long and is mostly celebrated in the home, with candle lighting, special holiday foods, songs and playing dreidel.