One thing I hope my children will learn in life is that there is wisdom and beauty in all the world’s religions. Just because we don’t share a common set of beliefs doesn’t mean we don’t share common values with people of other religions. We live in a diverse area of New Jersey and encounter people of various faiths daily. I think most of our neighbors are tolerant of other religions, but I want my family to go beyond tolerance. While tolerance is a positive word, it implies acceptance from a distance. Understanding comes from learning more about a religion and getting a bit closer to it. That is exactly what we tried as we completed New Experience #49: Celebrated Hanukkah.
We are not Jewish, so Hanukkah is a holiday we have never celebrated. Before I told the kids we were going to celebrate a holiday from a different religion, I did a little research. Hanukkah is one of the less important Jewish holidays, but because of its proximity to Christmas, it has become very popular and festive. The traditions surrounding Hanukkah are more religious than many of the secular Christmas traditions, so by celebrating Hanukkah my kids would learn a little bit of Jewish history and religion.
The kids were excited about New Experience #49. They were curious about what their Jewish friends believe, so I started our celebration by reading The Story of Hanukkah by David Adler to the kids. Luke was extremely interested in the story because it details the battles between the Maccabees and the Greeks. Any time Luke can hear stories of war or battles, he is hooked. In fact, he looked over the fight scenes several times after we read the story and said, “Wow, I’m impressed.” He couldn’t believe the outnumbered Maccabees won the fight without guns or grenades.
After we read the story, we ate latkes and homemade applesauce, a traditional Hanukkah meal. The latkes are fried in oil to remind everyone of the oil that the Maccabees burned in the temple for 8 nights. I am totally in favor of celebrating any holiday in which fried potatoes are part of the tradition! Leah did not share my opinion. She ate one latke and a boatload of applesauce. Luke, who is usually the picky one, ate 4 latkes and asked me to make them more often.
We don’t own a menorah, and I felt it might be sacrilegious to light the candle for Hanukkah because we don’t know the prayers. So, instead, we looked at the paper menorah Luke brought home from school and talked about its significance. The kids played a memory game about Hanukkah that Luke made in school while I cleaned up after dinner.
The best part of our night was playing the Dreidel game. I bought chocolate coins (called gelt) and we used a dreidel a Jewish friend gave us last year. We had fun spinning the Dreidel, so we played a few times. We all liked how the symbols on the Dreidel stand for “A Great Miracle Happened There” to remind us of the Hanukkah story.
The kids had fun celebrating Hanukkah. They liked the Dreidel game so much that I am sure we will play it again this Hanukkah season.
Luke, Leah, and I wish all of our Jewish readers a very happy Hanukkah!