Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa
and anyone else who would like to be here
Tomorrow night we will light the first candle for Hanukkah. Every night we light one more candle, and we celebrate by giving each other presents and Hanukkah Gelt
which is either real money or money-shaped candy wrapped in gold or silver-colored foil. We also eat special food: either potato pancakes called latkes, or jelly donuts called sufganiyot. A special top called a dreidel is used to play a Hanukkah game. The reason for celebrating Hanukkah is to remember a real story about a group of people called the Maccabees who fought for freedom more than 2100 years ago. The children in our family have books that tell more of the stories about the history, foods, and customs for celebrating Hanukkah.
Miriam recently wanted to know why most of her friends celebrate Christmas but not Hanukkah. Grandma and Grandpa only celebrate Hanukkah. Miriam and Alice celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas.
The reason is that Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday, and only a few people in the United States, like Grandma and Grandpa, are Jewish. Most of the time, people who are Jewish do the same things as the rest of the people. They go to the same schools, work together, play on the same sports teams, go to the same ballet classes, and go to birthday parties together. But they have some holidays that are different, and one of them is Hanukkah. It's especially important, because in the United States (and many other countries) everyone can choose what holidays to celebrate. They can make many other choices about what they believe and how they act.
The Maccabees 2100 years ago had a big problem, because the king of their country wouldn't let them make these choices. He wanted to force them to celebrate other people's holidays and believe other things than their Jewish religion. In the 2100 years between then and now, there have been many kings and rulers who also tried to force everyone to be the same, and who stopped Jewish people from having freedom. Hanukkah was always a holiday that made Jewish people remember how important freedom is.
Since Miriam and Alice's other family members aren't Jewish, they get to celebrate both holidays -- Christmas and Hanukkah.