Sunday, Dec. 2 was the first day of Hanukkah. This year Hanukkah’s last night will be on Dec. 10th.
My daughter had a Jewish friend over for a playdate who was enthusiastically telling us that Hanukkah is the best holiday ever because you get gifts every day for 8 days! Kids always know what’s most important. 😉
I first learned about Hanukkah in my junior high school’s glee class. Mrs. Cowdrey made sure we sang songs from different faith traditions and for many different holidays. We weren’t quite as good as the kids on Glee the TV show, but we were definitely legends in our own minds. My daughter asked me what was Hanukkah was about and I could recite from glee, “when the Macabees won the fight/the lamp burned 8 full nights”.
Around 200 B.C. Jews were living in Judea worshipping as they pleased. In 168 B.C., a Seleucid king named Antiochus IV Epiphanes banned the Jewish religion and demanded that the Jews worship the gods of the Greeks. His troops killed thousands of Jews and desecrated the Second Temple by erecting a statue of Zeus and sacrificing pigs inside. War ensued. Jewish leader, Judah Maccabee led his troops to victory over the Syrians. The first order of business was to cleanse and rededicate the defiled Temple. Part of the sanctification process was to light the menorah. The Macabees only had enough oil to light the menorah for one night, but it remained lit for 8 nights, giving rise to the miracle of Hanukkah.
Families light a candle of the menorah every night for 8 nights while reciting prayers and eat foods fried in oil like (delicious) potato latkes to commemorate the Hanukkah miracle. Gift-giving and playing with toys like dreidels are also a part of traditional celebrations. Hanukkah is not as major as some other holidays on the Jewish calendar like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but its close proximity to Christmas has increased its profile particularly among Jews living in countries where Christmas is broadly celebrated.
Lest you think there aren’t any Hanukkah books that feature children of color, check out this list of books that break the mold. HT to www.whatdowedoallday.com for the books on this list.
Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas In this story featuring an Indian mom and Jewish dad, a pesky little sister saves the day
Hanukkah Moon by Deborah Da Costa, illustrated by Gosia Mosz. How to celebrate family traditions in a new place?
Elijah’s Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson. This story offers readers a glimpse into friendship across religious, age and racial lines