This time of year is always unique and magical. The entire country seems to be taken over by the sight of twinkling lights, the wafting aroma of both evergreen trees and frying latkes and the sounds of holiday music piped through the sound system of every store, office building and elevator. Many Jewish parents have come to me over the years concerned that their child might be “missing out” on all the excitement and wonder that comes with Christmas, and how Hanukkah seems to “pale in comparison.”
The question is “What do children really need? Do they need trees dripping in tinsel, stockings hung by the chimney with care, and an elf on a shelf?” Those traditions are lovely, but they are not ours. As Sarah Shapiro wrote in her article, “A Jewish Child on Christmas”, ”Children need to know that there is magic in the world-something invisible and transcendent, beyond the mundane. Magical? Yes, but more than magical. Something real. For the ideal is real. L’havdil bain kodesh l’chol. “Blessed are You who distinguishes between sacred and secular, between light and darkness.”
Children look for a sense of belonging, tradition, inclusion and togetherness to boost their self-esteem and feel a part of some-thing bigger than themselves. So, make your own special Hanukkah traditions…a latke baking night, an annual dreidel tournament, a gift exchange with friends or family. And if you are really missing that elf, consider picking up a “Mensch on a Bench” and starting a tradition of performing mitzvot. That said, there is nothing more inclusive and special than helping a friend who does celebrate Christmas to decorate their tree, and in turn inviting them over to make sufganyot. It is through the sharing of our traditions, that we value them and value each other, no matter what color paper we wrap our gifts in.
However you choose to mark the holiday, may your Hanukkah be filled with wonder, amazement and joy!
In gratitude for all of you, Hillary Posner, Director of Early Childhood
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