Every year at Hanukkah time, we hear the same discussion for families with young children talking about how to deal with the “December Dilemma.” This “problem” is all about how to help your Jewish children survive Christmas. The website
myjewishlearning.com addresses many Jewish thoughts and ideas from different perspectives. Here are two that are worth repeating for all of us.
The first thought comes from Lauren Ben-Shoshana titled “You Need to Talk To Your Jewish Children About Santa.” She states, “In their first year of kindergarten, if not before, every parent needs to have a Santa Claus conversation. It begins like this: Santa is not real. And then talk about secrets.” She gives parents the words to talk about secrets that are good and feel good inside; we tell our Jewish children that Santa is one of those secrets and we do not want to ruin that secret. This is a tough one, but it is a wonderful way to teach about other people’s beliefs and then to give an opening for discussion on other types of secrets that you should not keep. What a great way to begin this conversation and give parents a reference point as children grow.
The second thought, also from
myjewishlearning.com, is titled “Celebrating Hanukkah…Even If You Don’t Celebrate Hanukkah” by Rachel Jarman Myers. She shares this post from a blog, New Orleans Mom Blog by Ashley, non-Jewish mom. Here are the words that Myers shares:
She’s a mom who wants her “children to know that they live in a world where their family’s way of celebrating is not the only way to celebrate.” She goes on to say, ”I want my children to understand that their beliefs aren’t everyone’s beliefs, and while I want them to be confident in what they believe, I also want them to be open-minded enough to consider others’ ideas and perspectives.”
Both these “thoughts” can help us navigate this season for our children and for ourselves. The spirit of Hanukkah is really about recognizing our unique beliefs and cultures and celebrating proudly. The December Dilemma has been about the feeling of wanting something that isn’t ours; the way we have talked to our children about this included everything from making Hanukkah even more special so they wouldn’t feel they were missing something to helping them understand that Christmas and Hanukkah weren’t in a competition but each had deep meanings and messages. However, the message for all families should be not only celebrating what is ours but recognizing and celebrating the differences in our religions and cultures. The New Orleans Mom shares this favorite song — “Here in My House”:
Here in my house there are candles burning bright, one for every night of the holiday. We gather with friends, sharing gifts and happy times, Happy Hanukkah. And in my neighbor’s house, the lights are shining, too, Red and green and blue ‘round the door. The sound of jingle bells and laughter everywhere. Merry Christmas, and many more. Season of light. Season of cheers. Season of peace, may it last throughout the year.
We are not so different but let’s enjoy our differences…and our similarities.
Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.