Neither my husband nor I were raised in a Jewish home. I had never considered celebrating Hanukkah until after I had children. As a child I was always curious about my friends who celebrated the holiday.
The past few years we have lit our Menorah, read Hanukkah stories and played dreidel. This year they even sang a Hanukkah song for their December Concert at school. (More on that later.)
This year we focused on the story of the Maccabees, the Jewish rebel army who fought back to take control of Judea. We spoke about how the temple had been taken over and Judaism was outlawed. We learned about the re-dedication of the second temple and the oil in the lamp. We spoke about religious freedom. We spoke about standing up for what we believe in.
We discussed the point of what a 'miracle' is. What defines magic, what defines logic and what we can conclude from our discussion.
My children are in first and second grade. So our discussion didn't get too deep, they were focused on the dreidel playing they knew would be taking place after mommy stopped talking. But I know that if we use this holiday as a way to have an open discussion each year about religious freedoms, and discussions about what makes a miracle, I know that the holiday I spent time wondering about as a child, will become a sweet family tradition.
Our Menorah on the 8th night of Hanukkah 12/2013
Each night of Hanukkah this year, they received a small gift. This was our first time doing more than the candles, stories and dreidels. My husband and I felt that it was time for us to make this our main holiday for the year, instead of focusing so heavily on Christmas. It felt really awesome seeing how much fun the girls had celebrating something so foreign and different to my husband and I. To me, it proved that there were already so many awesome holidays in place, that I didn't need to create any of our own.
I am hoping to celebrate Chalica next year alongside Hanukkah and maybe Christmas. I want my children to learn more about the origins of Saturnalia and we may end up nixing Christmas altogether next year. I am hoping to find a way to mix all of the December holidays together, but I am thinking it may just evolve into a month long celebration of Thankfulness and lessons in religious freedom, science and history. As soon as I figure it out, I will let you know!