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The holiday of Chanukah starts tonight. Usually, around this time of year, I post something to remind people that Chanukah is really a minor festival, and I point people at my Amazon Wish List. :-) Last year's post, The Holiday Season, can be found at the link for anyone who wants to read it again. For today, I want to talk about something else, which is Chanukah and the kids.

A few people have asked me how we plan to celebrate the holiday tonight for the kids. My answer is that we'll light the first candle, and that's about it. :-) The kids still aren't old enough to really understand the holidays, although they do seem to have learned that shabbat is special. (When we give them their blessings, they will sometimes anticipate us by putting their own hands on their heads. Once, Squeaker even put her hands on my head.) Family have given us some presents for the kids, and we'll probably give them the soft presents so they can enjoy unwrapping them, if they can figure it out. (One of Muffin's favorite games is to take a lot of newspaper pages, rip them up, and then hand me each piece as she rips it. Very important to hand me the pieces, of course. Then she cackles.) But I doubt they're at a point yet when they'll understand the significance of the holiday. Given the clothes and toys they get on a regular basis from family and friends, as far as they're concerned, every day is Chanukah.

So Nomi and I will light the candles this week, sing the songs, and maybe feed the kids some potato pancakes. Next year, I imagine they'll have a better idea of what everything means.


Wishing you all a very Happy Chanukah. Teaching the kids, and watching them grow in appreciate for holidays is one of the great joys of parenthood.
Chanukah's not that minor a holiday. Sure, it's not as major as Shavuos or Yom Kippur. But a minor holiday is Tu Bishvat, or Lag Baomer. A really minor holiday is Shushan Purim Katan (the 15th of Adar Rishon), or "G-d's Name" (the Day After Yom Kippur). Chanukah is a medium-to-large holiday, ranking equal with Purim.
The problem as I see it is that here in the US people who don't know any better equate the significance of Christmas and the significance of Chanukah (due to their falling at approximately the same time of year), and Chanukah is a much less important holiday in our calendar than Christmas is in the Christian calendar. When explaining to (usually non-Jewish) friends and acquaintances the importance of Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur, I say that they, like Christmas and Easter, are holidays that people who are not observant during the rest of the year acknowledge in some way. (Pesach falls into this category too, in some ways, but I don't believe as universally as R"H and Y"K).
Ah, but Easter is enormously more important than Xmas. By comparison Xmas isn't that major.
Easter is more important than Christmas, but Christmas is #2. (Culturally #1, it appears.) They're both first-tier holidays for Christians. Chanukah is second-tier, falling behind all the chagim, RH, and YK. If it weren't in December it probably wouldn't be such a big deal.

My parents used to refer to Catholics who only show up to Mass during the big holidays as "A&P Catholics" because they only come to Mass when it is like going to the supermarket, and they can leave with something tangible to take home: "Ashes" (distributed at the start of Lent) and "Palms" (distributed at the end of Lent). I took to calling such folks (of which I was one during college) as "CHEAPs" -- for CHristmas, Easter, Ashes and Palms -- since they clearly don't contribute to the collection basket the rest of the year.

Try as I might, I can't come up with a workable acronym for Rosh HaShannah, Yom Kippur and Peshach. Maybe it would work better in Hebrew? :)
PS: Nitpicking. It's a Jewish thing. :-)

Happy Chanukah.
next year, they'll be able to say Happy Channukah, candles, norah, and dreidel, in their own special way. Beyond that, they'll just want to blow out the candles :)

December 2016

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