Chanukah is here and with it, the misunderstandings, lack of knowledge… and this year for my older daughter with a son in 2nd grade; sheer stupidity. She may go in and talk about Chanukah to her son’s class, but she may not discuss any religious aspects of the holiday. Chanukah is not about gifts, or chocolate coins, or eating things cooked in oil. Chanukah is about the fight against oppression over 2,000 years ago. A fight to pray, express our beliefs and teach our children about Judaism. And Chanukah keeps reoccurring, needing us to remember- to BE Jews- and to be kind in the reflection that we all have our battles to brave and win in life.
It IS a religious holiday. It’s about religious persecution and religious freedom, my daughter said. The reply; No way, take it or leave it. And so my best advice having dealt with all this through 5 children in schools… ask my grandson if he would like to present. Then if he agrees help him make a list with 5 or 6 points about Chanukah. How we celebrate at home… What’s special about Chanukah… And so on. Then with list in hand, a Menorah [candle holder for Chanukah] and some Chanukah paper napkins and/or Chanukah cards he will be prepared to “show and tell.”
Santa will be visiting my grandson’s school. They told her Santa is not a religious symbol, though Santa does not visit Jewish homes and has nothing to do with Chanukah, Kwanza, Chinese New Year, or any other religious or cultural holidays that occur in December/January. My daughter may offer the name of a Jewish song for the “holiday” assembly, but cannot hand it in with translations of words like menorah, hora- a dance, because they want to observe copyright laws and obtain the music officially and legally. Yet if she does not provide the information she believes it will not be sought out.
Christmas is a legal holiday in the United States. So while a Christian will tell you that Santa is not a religious symbol, it is part of the decorations, family observances, stories, photographs and events surrounding the holiday. A tree is also not of religious significance, yet my childhood home never had a “Chanukah bush” and neither did the home I made for my children.
And as far as Thanksgivvukah goes– don’t insult me with such a crude and meaningless made up word that can only confuse the many people who know nothing of Jewish holidays. Chanukah is 8 nights and days long. It begins each day at sunset because our learned leaders deduced from the book of Genesis which says; God created night and day, meaning a 24 hour period begins as night begins. And by the way we enjoy eating our foods cooked in oil [as unhealthy as that may be] for 8 nights because when the small band of Jews fighting the larger army of Greeks were triumphant and went to rededicate the holy Temple, only enough sacred oil was left to burn for one night, but it burned for 8 nights, hence 8 days of holiday.
And so, A Great Miracle Happened There. What do I want for Chanukah? I want humanity to respect each person’s rights and not allow anyone to be hungry, cold, treated as less than any other person, and allowed the dignity of each one’s life choices and innate paths through their lives. And – I – want – peace.
** Two cards, top one recent, bottom one from 2008; both celebrating the uniqueness of Judaism and Chanukah.