Pretty audacious, right? well, i am tired of tiptoeing around what is right & wrong with how to celebrate Hanukkah. i grew up in Vermont with two parents, my father is Jewish & my mother converted. We grew up celebrating both Christmas & Hanukkah. we got a Christmas tree. perhaps a day or two before Christmas. a day or two after Christmas, my mother would strip the tree bare & pitch it over the side of the deck. we would light candles for Hanukkah. as far as the celebration of each holiday–Christmas won, hands down.
I considered myself Jewish. I celebrated the High Holidays in Connecticut and I loved these times because we got to stay with my grandfather. For a Jewish kid during Christmas…well, it’s the toughest part of the year. Christmas is a huge party, everything shines & sparkles. But as a Jewish kid? YOU. ARE. NOT. INVITED. I’ve heard from Jewish friends, “Well, we celebrated Hanukkah without decorations when i was a kid, AND.I.GREW.UP.JUST.FINE!” (bullshit, it sucked & you know it & you’re yelling? Sort of proves it) Christmas wasn’t always the way we celebrate it today. Christmas has changed with the times & the people. As does everything in this world-except Hanukkah.
First a little history on Christmas-
The first ‘Mass of Christ’ was celebrated in 336AD, by Emperor Constantine. A few years later, Pope Julius 1 made it official. In earlier times, ancient pagan Romans celebrated the Winter Solstice–Midwinter festivals called “Saturnalia” or “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti” meaning the ‘Birthday of the Unconquered SUN‘. To pagans, the winter Solstice meant that winter was over & spring was coming. A celebration to worship the sun for winning over the darkness of winter. How easy it was for the early Christians to give it new meaning, ‘to celebrate the birth of the SON’?
The Jewish FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS-Hanukkah starts on the 25th of Kislev (Hebrew calendar) Changes. People changed things to suit the times. (except for Hanukkah) More changes to Christmas happened during the Middle ages, Evergreens had special meaning & ancient (druids? pagans? Cold people?) people hung evergreens boughs over doors & windows. (I would guess it was because after being buried in snow & hardly venturing outside the house would be a bit…disgusting. no bath, no deodorant, woodsmoke, a hundred dinners) in some countries it was believed evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits & illness. In the 16th century, Germany started the Christmas tree tradition…wow. Most people in the U.S. thought the Christmas tree an oddity…meaning pagan. The first Christmas tree recorded on American soil was in 1830 by German Settlers of Pennsylvania. And Santa Claus became popular because of a poem written in 1823. The poem was called, “A Visit From St. Nicholas” THEN in 1934 Christmas BECAME Christmas with a song…have you ever heard of it? “Santa Claus is coming to town.” Ok. So i find it extraordinary, that the way we celebrate Christmas today, came into being 195 years ago.
So i’ve decided it was time for me to make some changes in the way my family wants to celebrate Hanukkah.
The only thing that has ever changed about Hanukkah is the spelling of it. There are 16 ways of spelling Hanukkah. I have been spelling it the same throughout this babbling post because this spelling is how the Library of Congress spells it. Also the number of hits recorded for each spelling is pretty interesting…
Hanukkah: 8,470,000 hits, Chanukah: 3,390,000 hits, etc. Look it up, pretty crazy. The only way it hasn’t been spelled differently is in Hebrew.
It is the Festival of Lights. Based on a story about winning a war despite the incredible odds. Judah Maccabee was a Jewish Priest (today would be called a Rabbi) He led the revolt against the Seleucid Empire. Hanukkah/Chanukah is a celebration of winning a war. And also based on a miracle, the oil to light the candles was enough for one day, but the flames lasted 8 days (how long Hanukkah is) It is the only Jewish holiday not in the Torah (5 books of Moses/Old Testament) Hanukkah is about fried food, like Latkes & donuts & lighting candles, one each night. Instead of our homes smelling of evergreens, it smells like McDonalds for a week. I hope i’m not making people mad. If i am…
i am sorry. It is not my intention to get rid of what we have & what we do, to Celebrate the Miracle/festival of Lights. I would like to make it special for children. I have three children, and Christmas was a nightmare because the kids would ask why they couldn’t do a tree & lights. For that reason, I would like to make Chanukah BIG. I would like it to be more than dreidels, latkes, donuts & Menorahs.
I love these things, but the holiday can be changed without turning it into Christmas. Because that is what some Jewish parents are afraid of. I’m going to point out rules & justifications for all the things i’d like to add. And most of all, I’d love to hear people expanding ideas of their own.
I buy very cute animals that have been decorated for Christmas. Then I remove all Christmas things, heat up my glue gun & make these animals celebrate our holiday! I buy blue & white Hydrangea’s because combined they look like Hanukkah. and they’re my favorite!
The elephant belongs to my oldest daughter because of ROLL TIDE football…AKA University of Alabama Football
My son’s Menorah is a black motorcycle.
My youngest daughter has two. We found a set of matching Hanukkah things at TJMaxx one year. When she was older she wanted to choose her own. it is the very artsy one seen in the picture above the elephant Menorah…
“And God said, “Let there be light” and there was light.”
Light…how can that be? When it was the fourth day in which He created the Sun & Moon? I believe when God said “let there be light” he meant the creative spark of Creation.
If Hanukkah is the “Festival of Lights”…then this is the way to expand on the Celebration of Hanukkah. PLAYING WITH SUN LIGHT & THE CANDLE’S FLAME! I am a lover of natural light, as a photographer & a watercolorist, light is the most important element while shooting images or creating art. Without it? We see nothing. When anyone walks into my kitchen, it is obvious that i love playing with light
i found this HUGE Christmas ornament at a craft store after Christmas. I paid .99 cents for it. My art kids love it. I call it my disco ball. The kids have asked me where i found it, because they want one for their homes too. About half of my art students are Jewish. When I tell them it was on sale after Christmas. The Jewish kids would become upset b/c i said the word Christmas, which means to them, “I cannot have a Christmas ornament” I’ve said this so many times over the years AND plan on continuing these words to all my art class kids, “As artists, we can create new ways of looking at things. This is only a Christmas ornament if it hangs on a tree & because it does not, it’s called a disco ball” smiles return.
I told all my artists that i would buy them all disco balls when the Christmas stuff comes out in November. Sitting on the table, on the photo above, is a bowl full of their disco balls. This photo (above) is my prism. i bought it at an educational store for teachers. it gives me big rainbows. i tell the art students that if light is broken by the prism, it creates rainbows, just like rain drops falling in sunlight. the photo below…the rainbow landed on my white/lavender flowers.
The big diamond paperweight gives me hundreds of tiny rainbows. you might be wondering about the white rabbits…i buy them at Leaf & Petal every Easter, just a few at a time, to put on my windowsills, in the spring/summer they live in my garden. I loved the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland–the beginning of ‘what if’ which is a type of creation, isn’t it? And Rabbits & bunnies are not Christian. My decorating rules for Hanukkah:
Things that are labeled Christmas but are NOT for Christmas, but for WINTER, can be used as Hanukkah decorations. Anything that reflects light, or shatters it (like the prism). We are celebrating the light. Why not decorate our windows? I also buy ANYTHING i find for Hanukkah in stores, because the shop took a risk in buying something for just a few of us (Jews make up .02 of the world population!), the least i can do, is repay them for their thoughtfulness.
adding mirrors to tables can catch sunlight & bounce it.
disco balls with star ribbon
garden art? These would look awesome in our windows!
fruit or something different…something that comes out with the Hanukkah decorations every year…
what about a few of these? Filled with shiny things or dreidels?
anything that reflects light
a reflecting egg thingy?
i’m lucky because my mom is a fused glass artist…
Anything that changes our lives from the mundane to excitement. And it gives us ALL something to look forward to. A way to SHINE is needed by everyone, no matter their faith.
We should all use our imaginations to come up with ideas. Creating can be done in a million POSITIVE ways. Art can make time irrelevant, meaning you are living in the moment (a grand thing, that). Living in the present, brings a sense of peace.
Gather the family together to decide what they’d like to do in order to make Hanukkah a Grand Event. Chose colors for wrapping paper–yes, blue/ white/silver is usually Hanukkah paper, but the light can make rainbows, you could use any color. Choose a winter animal to spray white & glitter it to a silver shine. String popcorn & hang from a stick, in front of a window to look like snow. String white lights around windows for night time shine. buy prisms, crystals, colored glass, snowflakes to put on windowsills. collect dreidels every year & date them. Display them. Buy tons of Hanukkah gelt, use the gold tinfoil to create new decorations. Buy big white & blue Hydrangeas that look like snowballs or baby’s breath to look like tiny flakes–anything that is different from the everyday.
find a place to display Hanukkah gifts, with pretty candles waiting for the first night of Hanukkah to begin. This is super tacky, but my kids are so young, it looks like a candy store to them. And that is what Hanukah is for, to bring joy to your children (and other reasons, but none bigger than that)
the gifts above are wrapped in all the old paper…to get rid of it. This year i’m going in search of silver paper & each child will have his/her own color ribbon. So it is NOT so busy looking.
Make sure to buy Hanukkah stuff you find. Support your local businesses. Take your children up to the Christmas decorations to find snowflakes & animals to spray paint & glitter.
I will post craft ideas for the next few weeks. I hope you check back to see how to make something like me or to make it your own way…The dreidels below were made by my art class kids.It is a time to be creative, to step outside the humdrum of the everyday. Celebrate the “festival of Lights” by playing with the Sun-bounce light, reflect it, spin it, change it into colors, put colored glass in front of it. Celebrate the “Unconquered Sun” as it has been done thousands of years before Christmas & Hanukkah came into being.
Celebrate light & love this Hanukkah AND i do hope you have NO GUILT when you walk up to the Christmas ornaments & grab the shiny snowflakes…just remember it isn’t a Christmas ornament if it’s not on a tree. You own it. As far as making things, there is the single most important thing you need to make, and that is memories for your children. Make their memories shine.
Happy Hanukkah & Merry Christmas