Christmas vs. Hanukkah, Round 2

I am proud to say that my 5-year-old appreciates the beauty of Christmas lights and at the same time understands, in her own way, why we don’t decorate our own home. “These people must celebrate Christmas,” she invariably remarks when she sees a house decked out to her liking. It’s an observation without judgment or envy, a sorting of the world to make sense of it. We have Hanukkah. Candles, presents, latkes, dreidels, and not trees, Santa, flashing lights, or nativity scenes.

Last year, I wrote about my concerns over how to raise children who can embrace and celebrate and love what we are without dismissing or diminishing those who are different. In the black-and-white way we tend to speak to our children, other people can too often be painted as wrongheaded rather than just different. I try to instill in my children an appreciation for and understanding of the complexities and diversity of life; in the words of my friend Brad Hirschfield (who wrote a book with this title), “You don’t have to be wrong for me to be right.”

At least in this regard, Adira seems to have gotten the message. It helps that Hanukkah and Christmas are close to each other this year and that for the first time she understands Hanukkah enough to be truly excited for it. Still, it makes me proud to walk around our neighborhood and discuss the holidays, admire Christmas decorations, and plan for our Hanukkah celebration. She even told me that one particular nativity scene near our house reminded her of a scene from her Passover book. Sharp girl I’ve got.

Adira has also thoroughly interrogated Sara, her nanny, about her holiday observances. She knows that Sara celebrates Chirstmas and not Hanukkah and asked whether any of the kids she previously babysat for were Jewish. Hearing that they were not, Adira understood and got excited for Sara’s first Hanukkah. She told her all about our customs and how we light the candles and give presents, and asked my wife for a $1 bill. Why? To give to Sara as a present. “Is it ok to draw on money?” Adira asked, wanting her present to be fancy and worthy of the occasion. Instead, she wisely decided to make Sara a present that didn’t involve a dollar bill. I guess my next lesson should be about understanding money, but for now, I will celebrate Hanukkah proudly with my family.

Image: Hanukkah menorah, donuts, and coins via Shutterstock.

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  2. by sharon

    On December 23, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Check out what Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz has to say on the topic: