Friday, December 3, 2010

Helping Kids Appreciate, Understand Hanukkah

Last night and tonight after picking Sarah up from school, we drove around our new neighborhood to look at all the holiday decorations.

I was bummed not to see any menorahs for the Hanukkah holiday in windows at least as far as where we drove around. :(

We did indeed; however, see many homes bedazzled with lights some white and others including various colors of the rainbow. We also saw one home with the big blow up balloons featuring Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger including a lit up choo choo train.

This certainly was enjoyable to see compared to what I have been used to seeing for the last twenty years in NYC where most homes are apartments with few windows and the decorations were not as grand.

During the drives I did my very best to explain to Sarah how these colorful lights are for people who celebrate the Christmas holiday and remind her that we celebrate Chanukah.

It also brought back memories of when my mom and stepfather drove my sister and I around our hometown at night looking at some of the elaborate home decorations some including menorahs and most others with lights of all different colors and decorations of various kinds. Nonetheless, I was always appreciative of Hanukkah growing up thanks to my parents helping by teaching me the significance of this holiday.

I then started to realize that at Sarah's new school the decorations on the walls included paper wreaths, snowmen and trees looking very Christmas like. There was little to no representation of the Hanukkah holiday and I was disappointed. I then approached a teacher who told me that the trees were not for Christmas and that they were just pine trees. For the snowmen she said they were not Christmas-specific despite their green and red hats. She tried to explain to me too that the wreaths were not for Christmas either regardless of them being wrapped with red paper bows.

In that moment I decided that instead of getting upset I would instead take action. It was my job to help bring Hanukkah for Sarah to her school to help her be excited for the holiday and for her to also be proud of who she is and her religion. Therefore, I was sure to send Sarah to school the following day with a child-safe felt fabric Hanukkah menorah to share as show and tell. I was told by Sarah's teachers that the kids liked the discussion and Sarah was excited talking about it. One of the teachers even decided to pull out her Hanukkah books and bring them to school to share with the kids.

After bringing some Jewish tradition to Sarah's school her teachers said that they really appreciated it and that I can continue to do stuff like this moving forward. They like it very much when parents get involved and for us to feel free to do as we hope to keep this important education present in our children's lives. They even encouraged me to bring in dreidels for the kids to play with too. I plan to do that for early next week. I'm excited.

As a Jewish parent raising a Jewish child I know I have a big responsibility to help my child see past all the glitz and glamour of Christmas. It will be my job, along with her daddy, to help her understand the appreciation and importance of what Hanukkah is all about and why we celebrate this occasion called the festival of lights for eight nights and days and celebrate life as Jewish people.

Happy Hanukkah!!!

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