My house doesn’t glow with colorful lights this time of year. I don’t have giant blow up reindeer in my yard. There’s no beautifully decorated, festive Christmas tree in my living room. My children have never taken a picture on Santa’s lap, or attended midnight mass, or hung their stockings by the fire with care, or ripped into dozens of presents on Christmas morning.
Because my family celebrates Chanukah.
With so much emphasis on Christmas, it’s taken some effort to convince my children they’re not missing out.
Like when classmates used to brag how they’d been good all year and Santa would be going to their house to bring them lots of presents. And my children cried, “We’ve been good all year, too. Why won’t Santa come to our house?”
Like when their classes held Christmas parties and sang Christmas songs and made Christmas crafts.
Like when my children see their eight presents but can only open one per night instead of all at once.
Like when they asked for a Chanukah bush (aka small version of a Christmas tree) to decorate and I said, “No.”
Like when they asked for Chanukah lights and inflatable decorations so we weren’t the only dark house in the neighborhood and I couldn’t find anything suitable.
Like when Chanukah, which does not follow the standard U.S. calendar, falls a few days after Thanksgiving, and my children’s holiday season peaks before their friends who celebrate Christmas have even started.
So to make our celebration of Chanukah special, I created the Chanukah table. While it doesn’t come close to the beauty of a Christmas tree, I cover it with a bright cloth decorated with multi-colored menorahs. And it looks pretty festive with all the wrapped gifts piled high on top.
When my children were younger, I researched Chanukah crafts and got approval from their teachers to bring in marshmallows, chocolate kisses, and pretzels sticks so the class could make edible dreidels in addition to the crafts planned by the class moms. And my children felt pride in sharing what each symbol on the dreidel meant.
I make it a point to either host or attend a family Chanukah party every year so my children can experience that sense of holiday togetherness while they eat latkes, sing Chanukah songs, play Chanukah games, and tear into present after present from extended family.
And so they don’t forget the meaning of Chanukah, we attend a lovely candlelit service at our temple, where each family brings a special menorah from home and they are spread around the sanctuary then lit.
What do you do to make the holidays special for your children? Click on the number next to the title of this post to comment.