Yes, you read that correctly. Contrary to popular belief, Hanukkah is not a Jewish Christmas. In fact, it has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas at all. Yet in a few short weeks, many well-meaning teachers will start teaching about Christmas Around the World and include Hanukkah in the mix. Why?
There are many reasons why these teachers do this. Some do it because they want to be all inclusive. They have Jewish children in their classrooms and they don’t want them to feel left out or slighted. Sometimes Hanukkah and Christmas fall at the same time of year and teachers will teach both holidays at once. Unfortunately, there are some teachers out there who just don’t understand what Hanukkah is and honestly believe that Hanukkah is a type of Christmas celebration. They just don’t know any better.
So, what is Hanukkah about?
Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration that dates to the 2nd century, BC. It goes back to a time in which the Greek and Jewish armies were fighting against each other and the Jewish army won.
I recently had the opportunity to talk about Hanukkah with two Rabbis (Rabbi Shanowitz and Rabbi Munitz) from the Ohr Temimim Day School in New York state. When asked to describe what Hanukkah is, Rabbi Shanowitz replied:
Hanukah is when the Jewish people miraculously overpowered the large Greek army and were able to worship freely again in their temple. When they rededicated the temple, they did not have enough oil for their menorah. A one day’s supply of oil lasted for seven extra days. We celebrate it by lighting candles for eight days and remembering G-d’s miracles.
When asked the same question, Rabbi Munitz (also from Ohr Temimim Day School) replied:
Hanukkah is a celebration of light over darkness. The Jews who were small and few defeated the mighty Greeks who sought to destroy our unique Jewish identity and connection to G-d. When they [the Jews] returned from Jerusalem, they cleaned up the temple that had been desecrated [by the Greeks]. There was only enough oil to burn for one night, but miraculously it burned for eight nights. We celebrate by lighting a menorah on all eight nights. One light the first night, two the second night, etc. until the final night. We also encourage our children to strengthen their learning of the Torah and fulfillment of G-d’s commandments by giving presents.
So, is Hanukkah only about lighting candles?
No. Lighting candles each night is a significant part to celebrating Hanukkah, but those candles hold a deeper meaning and lighting the candles each night reminds us of what that meaning is.
Rabbi Shanowitz summed it up beautifully. He tells us:
The world may be dark, but we can brighten it up with our small flames—our good deeds and positive actions to make a brighter, better, and more peaceful world.
Rabbi Munitz’s reply is equally beautiful:
The message of G-d is universal. A little light can defeat a lot of darkness. Bring light into the world, be increasing acts of goodness and kindness and fulfill the purpose of creation—a world of peace.
Your friends at Multicultural Kids Blogs
Welcome to our second annual Hanukkah for Kids blog hop! Be sure to visit all the participating blogs for create ways to share this special time of year with kids. Plus you can find all these and more on our Hanukkah Pinterest board! (And don’t miss last year’s series!)
Kelly’s Classroom on Multicultural Kid Blogs: Hanukkah Is Not Jewish Christmas
Moms & Crafters: Spaghetti Squash Latkes
Kid World Citizen: What Is a Dreidel? How to Make and Play One
Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes: Hanukkah Resources for Kids
The Book of Life: Hanukkah Past and Yet to Come
Ann Koffsky: Coloring Page