Celebrating Hanukkah with Kids

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Being Jewish is part of who I am.

My Jewishness has not always looked the same, but it was and is always there. Since having children, I have felt more connected to the Jewish community and felt drawn to observing more holidays and traditions.

I’ve also felt compelled to share these with others.

Our traditions are beautiful and meaningful, and I love sharing them with friends and loved ones who, in turn, share their traditions with me.

My children’s introduction to Judaism was largely through holiday celebrations and, not surprisingly, their favorite holiday is Hanukkah.

Recently I have been asked about Hanukkah- as it relates to Christmas and just what it is, in general. For Jewish children, Hanukkah is the counterpart to Christmas. They get gifts for eight nights at some point during the holiday season and spend time with family. They get to eat good food and celebrate.

But Hanukkah is not a particularly holy holiday.

While meaningful in its own way, it does not hold the religious significance of our High Holy Days. It is the Festival of Lights. Celebrating a miracle of oil for candles, which should have only lasted for one night, lasted for eight nights.

It’s a fun celebration where children play games (dreidel), get candy (gelt), eat donuts and fried food (sufganiyot and latkes), and spend time with loved ones.

I was always disappointed that my parents didn’t want to cover our home in lights to celebrate the Festival of Lights, but the decorations were for Christmas. If we put lights up on our Jewish home, it signaled a celebration of a holiday we didn’t observe.

Perhaps because of the forbidden nature of Christmas, and with the utmost respect for the holiday’s sanctity, I have developed a love of the season.

I watch Hallmark movies from October to New Years and anxiously await the new releases.

I plan secret Santa’s and gift exchanges; I love the kindness and community felt during this time of year.

This year, for the first time really, I plan to decorate for Hanukkah.

I have grand plans to cover my house with white and blue sparkling lights with lighted snowmen and glittery snowflakes. I might even get an inflatable menorah or dreidel since my kids love those.

And in the spirit of the season, Santa might make a quick stop at my house to bring my kids a little something.

Because who am I to deny them any magic, wherever they can find it.

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