Thursday, December 10, 2009

Festival of Lights

Before I delve into this post, I have to comment on the fact that in the last post I wrote that we don't encourage the belief in Santa, while the post directly below it shows my kids sitting on Santa's lap. Oh, the irony. Their dad took them, I promise! Just kidding. We enjoy Santa as the good man he was and as a fun, fictional character, but he is definitely NOT the big deal about Christmas at our house.

OK, having dealt with that particular cultural phenomenon, we'll move on to another. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll remember that our family loves to celebrate Passover, the Seder, every spring. We don't think that it's mandatory or anything for Christians to celebrate Jewish holidays, but with certain ones we've found it a great way to introduce some neat traditions and key spiritual truths--particularly during times when the spiritual aspect can get lost in the shuffle of excitement and, well, candy. The Jewish holidays are full of symbolism and profound meaning, and there are a lot of opportunities for children to get involved, too.

It's for this reason that we decided to celebrate Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights for the first time this year. First, we read the Festival of Lights chapter from this book (which I just have to give another plug for this whole series. If you haven't read them yet, you have to. You just have to. Any Jewish friends I've had throughout my life always want to know, "How come you know so much about Judaism?" Because of the All-of-a-Kind Family books!)

I have some blue and silver and white table settings, and I put out eight candles. We had roast chicken and of course, latkes. Yum. These are traditionally served with sour cream or applesauce. If you're a Gentile redneck, ahem, they'd be good with ketchup too.

The key to family worship with kids, we've found, is a) to keep it short and sweet, and b) to make it participatory.

Here is what Darren read to us before dinner:

"The holiday of Hanukkah celebrates events that took place more than 2,300 years ago. A wicked king named Antiochus was cruel to the Jews—he killed them and tried to ruin their temple. A small group of Jews, led by a man named Mathias and his son, Judas Maccabeus (known as “The Hammer”!), fought against the wicked king and his army. Even though they were greatly outnumbered, God gave them the victory.

One of the first things the Jews did was to clean their temple. When it came time to burn their special lamps, there was only one tiny jar of oil. Miraculously, this jar of oil lasted for eight whole days, so the lamps could burn until they could make more oil! So, to this day, Jews around the world celebrate Hanukkah for eight days—that is why we have eight candles on the table.

It was during Hanukkah, otherwise known as the “Festival of Lights,” that our own Jesus entered the temple in Jerusalem. There were huge lights burning everywhere; you could see them over the whole city! The book of John tells us that Jesus walked in the temple, next to those huge lights, and called out, “I AM the Light of the world! He who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

Lucy—your name means “light” in Latin. Elaine—your name means “light” in French. Jesus’ words to you in the book of Matthew say, “Let your light shine before everyone in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Tonight in our celebration of Hanukkah, we remember God’s miracle to the Jews—the oil that lasted 8 days; God’s miracle to us—Jesus, who is the Light of the world; and our mission to those around us—to be a light in this dark world."

Then each girl got to light four of the candles...

We all enjoyed it so much, that I want to get more elaborate for next year: I want to buy a menorah; get a dreidel so we can play the traditional Hanukkah gambling games (because really, holidays could do with some more gambling in them); and have a number of families over to celebrate with us. Even if you don't have kids, this celebration would be wonderful to do with a group of friends--you can get as simple or fancy as you want.

Oh, and technically, Hanukkah doesn't actually start until Friday night except we have an anniversary party to go to then, so we just celebrated Thursday night instead. Being goyim, we can be all loosy-goosy like that. So, if you want to celebrate Christian Hanukkah with your friends and family this year, you've still got eight nights left!

Happy Hanukkah!


Kacie said...

Oh my gosh, the past few months I've been WRACKING my brain to try to remember the name of those books that I found in the library as a kid that taught me so much about the Jewish life and practices. That's it! I love those... I'm adding them to my wish list, actually!

Laura Brown said...

I loved All-of-a-Kind Family when I was a kid, too.

Apparently the traditional Hanukkah dish in Sephardic (as opposed to Ashkenazi)households is not latkes, but spiced doughnuts. When I was studying Hebrew, one of my classmates brought in a batch flavoured with caraway and cardamom -- yum!