Saturday, December 3, 2011

Everything I Know About Hanukkah, I learned from Children's Books and Adam Sandler

If I were not a member of The LDS church, I would want to be Jewish.  Seriously.  I'm the first to admit that I don't know a whole lot about this religion.  As a matter of fact, I met my first Jew (Unless you count my Jewish penpal from NYC when I was in sixth through tenth grade.  We thought we had a lot in common since we both went to "temple") when I visited NYC  in 2007 and I loved/love her and we were friends at first sight over a plate of Indian food!   I think I was the first legitimate Mormon that she had met as well.  Together we called ourselves "MoMoJews".  She is a brilliant woman and has a very entertaining blog.  Find her at  I love Becca and admire her beyond measure.  Since she's Jewish, it stands to reason that ALL Jewish people are also wonderful and admirable as she...just like ALL Mormons are perfect like me!   BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  

Okay, enough of that.  Now, for the real reason I would convert.  It is for the mere fact that I love, love, LOVE Hanukkah.  I love everything about it.  The gelt, the latkes, the goblins, the menorah, the candles, blue, white, Judas and the Maccabees, the star of David...all of it.  I have the same magical feeling inside that I get with Christmas.  There is a story.  A very special story at the very root of the holiday.  I relish the idea of lighting a candle on each of the eight days.  Of using the shamash candle to light the others.  Instead of one day of presents they have eight crazy nights! (that's the part I learned from Adam Sandler)
Any special day set aside to celebrate and remember a miraculous bit of history is well worth my time in celebrating it.  Such is the story of the Festival of Lights.  A miracle of having enough oil in the temple to last for eight days instead of one after pleading with God to make it so, is a story I can really get behind.

How did this love of all things Hanukkah begin?  It was on the streets of Portland, Oregon.  My new husband and I were there on a business trip.  While he was in meetings, I roamed the streets.  I slipped into a small little shop that sold all things Jewish, in particular, Hanukkah.  I was smitten right away.  I purchased my own little brass menorah with a box of 144 blue and white candles.  I bought chocolate Hanukkah gelt and a bunch of at least 20.  Then I headed down to Powell's Bookstore  (Most amazing bookstore in the universe) and bought up as many children's Hanukkah books as I could afford, and maybe even some that I couldn't  (wink wink).

I brought everything home and have been obsessed ever since.  I haven't missed a single year of reading books about Hanukkah and trying to expose my students to as much about other annual celebrations, in addition to Christmas, this time of year.  I remember one year I invited my next door neighbor, Eric Huntsman, to be our special guest.  Eric was/is  a professor of ancient history at Brigham Young University.  He speaks about 8000 different languages (not really but he does speak several that I wouldn't ever even think of learning...Hebrew doesn't really come in all that handy these dayd) and he was able to come and share some things about Hanukkah.  Then, he gave us a sense of how Hebrew sounds by reciting a couple of the blessings said at Hanukkah time.  If you would like to know more about Eric, he is currently living in Jerusalem teaching for BYU in the study abroad program and has a family blog.

After Eric presented, and most years since, I served up some delicious latkes with sour cream and we played the Dreidel game.  This has been my tradition ever since...minus Eric, of course!  It is my favorite week of the year.  The children usually don't know anything about Hanukkah and are just as mesmerized about it as I am.  

 If none of this makes sense to you and you are thinking to yourself how crazy and far-fetched my ideas about religion are, just know that it's okay.  I didn't write this to "make sense" but, rather, to put in words the feeling that have so often been rattling around inside me.  I am transfixed when it comes to the topic of religion and love to understand what others believe.  It really does build love and understanding rather than forcing us all to misjudge others by being misguided and ignorant.

So...when I hear the greeting "Happy Holidays!" I don't think of it as leaving Christ out of Christmas but, rather, celebrating the religious beliefs of others' who may be different than mine.  Give me Christmas and I will always remember and love my savior, Jesus Christ and love him for his life and sacrifice.  Plus, the thought of Him being born in a stable to his beautiful mother Mary and stalwart and strong step-father, Joseph will forever make my heart sing at Christmastime.  But I think it can sing too for my friends who believe something perhaps a little different than I do.  That is just fine.  Love, acceptance, understanding, and friendship are what these here holidays are all about.

So, to my Jewish friends a very Happy Hanukkah (beginning December 20th)!  I hope you will make room for me at your holiday table and even save me a latke or two!
This is a beautiful and tender story about two little friends, one Jewish (named Becca) and one Christian (named Tami)
Who think of each other at the holiday season and work to make each
life happy and fulfilled.

The Trees of the Dancing Goats
Oh how I LOVE this author, Patricia Polacco, whom I have met a couple of times.
She is a dear, dear lady.  Read her books (especially this one and also Pink and Say) if you haven't.
She is amazing. The story is amazing.
Even if she really didn't name her characters
Becca and Tami!!

Books featured in this post:
1. Hanukkah   By:  Roni Schotler  I love the illustrations in this book.  It also is written with a rhyme and rhythm that children love and appreciate!
2.  The Chanukkah Guest  By Eric A. Kimmel  This is a cute story about an older woman who makes the best latkes in the village.  Her eyesight is failing and when she thinks she is serving latkes to her rabbi, she is really serving to a real, live BEAR!  The children love this and think it is hysterical!
3.  The Magic Dreidel  By:  Eric A. Kimmel  (this guy writes a lot of Jewish literature)  This book is really cute.  It has all of the necessary characters (Fruma Sarah, goblins, gelt, dreidels, latkes, etc. etc.)  The children really enjoy this book as well.  They love to hear how a regular little boy can get into cahoots with a silly goblin to teach the crochity old busy body neighbor a valuable lesson.
4.  Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins  By:  Eric A Kimmel  (See what I mean about Eric A. Kimmel?) This is probably my very favorite Hanukkah story.  Hersel goes into a village...there are many villages in Jewish folklore...where they haven't celebrated Hanukkah for many years because of the goblins who have overrun the synagogue.  When I read this book to my class, they always put forth every sound available to their wonder!  "Oooohhhhhh!"  "Uhhh  Ohhhh!"  "Oh no!!!"  "Aweee!"  And I LOVE it.  The illustrations are awesome.  Read this one if you get the chance.)
5.  Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel!   By: ?   You've heard the song..."Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel.  I made you out of clay..."  Well, this book takes the traditional words of that song and puts illustrations to go along with each line.  PLUS (are you ready for this?) see that round button up there on the book?  Well you push it and it plays the Dreidel song.  Have you ever heard first graders fighting over a book during free-reading time???  Well I have.  And it's every year over the Dreidel book.  :0
6.  See above.


Abbie said...

(The text I sent you. heehee!)

Oh my gosh! I want to be Jewish too! When i wasnt actively mormon, I would sometimes lie and tell people I was Jewish! Hahaha! Silly high school Abbie! I just got my first menorah and we checked out a bunch of Hanukkah books from the library. And I bought a 8 dreidels at target a coupe days ago. I also took a class on a the similarities btwn Judaism and Mormonism. And I instantly love any orthodox Jew I see on the subway because she has a bunch of kids like me:) K. Obviously we need to talk more about this! :):):)

Becca said...

Oh Tami, this is beautiful and we really are two kindred spirits! (PS, it was MormoJew :P) As I once blogged, I know all Mormons are awesome because of you and the people in the nice suits on the subway. ;-)

You did forget the best part of Hannukah, though: jelly donuts! It is the fried theme, along with the latkes, because of the miracle of the oil. Who wouldn't love a holiday based on fried foods?

I wish you could come to NY and celebrate Hannukah with me. In the meantime, I will continue to think of you over the holiday season and how wonderful it is to share traditions with friends.

PPS, I knew a book about goats would be about us! OK, maybe not.

Tami Anderson said...

Oh Abbie! I actually already knew that about you. Do you remember when your dad and I first got married? You came over to our very first place and we lit the Hanukkah candles. You were smitten all the way back to when you were 13!!

Becca...You're right, it WAS MormoJew! That was one of my favorite nights that night. Getting to meet you for the first time over Thai food and religion! We were connected then forever. (Like it or leave it missy!)

I had no idea there were jelly donuts involved! I don't know how I missed that one!

Rachel said...

Oh my gosh! You've met one of my all time favorite authors in the whole world several times????? LUCKEEEEEEE

So, is this your way of asking to be invited to Hanukkah? ;) I had no idea you loved it so.

What isn't to love about an evening full of deep fried food and a game which involves chocolate as the prize? :D

I love being a Jewish Mormon. :) Best of both worlds!!!

Rachel said...

P.S. Actually, You've listed two of my most favorite authors. Love Eric A. Kimmel as well.

Becca said...

I like it!

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