December 14, 2012

Traditions

SB has a lot of questions about Hanukkah. I have a fairly solid understanding of the holiday, having had many Jewish friends throughout my life. And can explain to her the meaning.

But I thought it would be fun for her to chat with some of her peers and learn about their traditions firsthand, from their perspective. Last year we visited the home of some Jewish friends during December. Their young daughter showed SB their menorah and shared some of her Hanukkah books.

SB was two and her friend a year younger, so they didn't get into too many details. She was intrigued enough that she suggested we celebrate Hanukkah. I tried to explain to her the reasons we do not.

This year, when she showed even greater interest, I asked one of my favorite blogging friends if we could video chat with her twin daughters, who are close to SB in age, to talk about their Hanukkah traditions.

There was some initial shyness, all the way around. And SB ended up looking to me to ask her questions. But she delighted in watching the family light a menorah and sing prayers.

Later, as we prepared for dinner, SB asked me to sing the Hanukkah prayer. I got as far as "Ba-ruch’ A-tah’, Adonai E-lo-hei’-nu, Me’-lech ha-o-lam’." I think she was impressed. But that was as far as I could go. (Later Lea sent me a file of Carole King singing the prayers.)

SB asked why Jews light a candle for eight nights. I explained how the oil in the Temple was only expected to last one day but burned for eight. And that it was the first time they had been in the Temple since driving bad people out. 

Then she was focused on the bad people. Who were they? Why were they bad? What did they do? I told her the focus of Hanukkah is not the bad guys.

Of course, SB doesn't entirely understand the meaning of Christmas yet either. The holiday we celebrate in our home. Each year she grasps it a little more. She knows what she should. What most kids her age know about the holiday.

I believe it is important for her to learn our traditions. But also to realize there are others, and they are just as meaningful, beautiful and important as our own.

I have been fortunate in my life to have friends of many religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Knowing them and being exposed to their traditions has enriched my life.

The world SB is growing up in is smaller and more connected than when I was a child. The society in this country is more diverse than it has ever been. I think it is imperative she learn about - and learn to respect - different traditions.

How do you teach your child(ren) about your religious holidays and traditions? Do you discuss holidays you do not celebrate?

Colorful dreidels2
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