Happy Chranzanukah

Our five-year-old, Jacob, ran through the house the other day shouting, “Happy Kwanza! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah!

Jill commented, “Well, our public schools met their goal . . . did you hear Jacob?”

The goal of our children’s school related to this holiday season was to make the students aware of and help them respect all the various forms of celebration. Anna, our eight-year-old, danced in a Jewish Hanukkah dance in a program called “A Wonderland of Holidays.” A muslim boy read a description of Ramadan, other students read descriptions of Christmas and Hanukkah.

I remember a Jewish boy I knew in my public grade school. In the 70s in Oklahoma we sang Silent Night and I remember bulletin boards about Christ’s birth, but Scott Schaffer had to sit out while the rest of us sang Christmas carols and celebrated Christmas alone. Today, public schools are still allowed to talk about religions, as long as major representative religions are given equal time.

I wonder about this experience my children are having. Does this openness and understanding benefit them ultimately? We celebrate Advent and Christmas as a celebration of Christ’s birth at home, so I think their awareness of others around them, what they celebrate, is important–as long as we are teaching our beliefs strongly at home.

What do you think? What’s your experience with schools yourself and for your children?

15 comments on “Happy Chranzanukah

  1. We’re having a wonderful experience with my oldest son’s public school. (Funny you should bring this up — I had a conversation with a friend about this just last night.) They are being taught those same three holidays, and I have no problem with that as long as Christmas gets the same amount of “airtime” as the others. I truly want him to be respectful — and knowledgeable — of others’ viewpoints, perspectives and experiences. It’s MY job to pass along our faith in Christ alone.

    By the way, this same son (a 6 year old) wished me a happy “Harmonica” yesterday. I’m pretty sure he meant “Hanukkah”!


  2. Good question. I wonder if Jesus celebrated Hanukkah. I do not know when the formal holiday was initiated, but the history it celebrates dates back before Jesus. He must have known the story being raised by Jewish parents and being a Jew himself.

    If Jesus celebrated Hanukkah, I think I could. I mean, could it be considered un-Christlike to do something Christ did?

    I liked one of the quotes from the Hanukkah link you gave:

    “In the struggle between the martyr and the tyrant, it is the martyr that ultimately wins.”

    This may be a descriptor of the people in the revolt, but is it not also a better descriptor of Christ?

    Anyway, there is good in these various celebrations and that good should be recognized for what it is. We have the historical context of the cross into which we can put everything. Just because Jesus came does not mean that Hanukkah must end. We could still celebrate Purim, Passover and other Jewsih holidays without losing our faith. Christians are spiritual Israel, are they not?

    On another note, Kwanza is a beautiful holiday. The 7 principles do not interfere with my faith, they are already part of it. I believe in these things. Kwanza does not kick Jesus out of the manger.

    I used to get all bent out of shape about competing holidays. Upon further review, they all have their value. What matters more is that I learn to deepen my faith in Christ all year long and pass it along to my children.

    I think perhaps being too much against something is the very thing that raises the interest of that thing in the hearts and minds of our children. We should save our militant posture for things that are a legitimate threat: greed, lust, envy, pride, poverty, sickness…etc.

    I am officcialyy rambling and I’ve got work to do. Thanks for the post, Greg.


  3. Fajita said:

    “I think perhaps being too much against something is the very thing that raises the interest of that thing in the hearts and minds of our children. We should save our militant posture for things that are a legitimate threat: greed, lust, envy, pride, poverty, sickness…etc.”

    This paragraph is a gem of wisdom.


  4. It’s my understanding that neither Hanukkah nor Kwanza are holidays elevated in their own cultural settings to the same level that Christmas is in America (or other countries with Euro-roots), and that they are given attention here mainly because of there proximity to Christmas in timing. In other words, were it not for the Christmas season, most of us would not know of Kwanza, and we may know of Hanukkah, but we would not be as familiar with it as with other Jewish holy days. I like the multi-cultural emphasis, but something about elevating these holidays only because of their proximity to Christmas is a little too PC for me. On the other hand, the Jewish kids who have felt left out of the main holiday season in this country for decades also bothers me, so I guess I really don’t mind. It’s a matter of the spirit of the season, after all.


  5. I absolutely hear you, Don. I would suggest, though, that what we often write off as “PC” is often what I would simply call being considerate, respectful and thoughtful. I suppose it’s when such actions come from self-serving attitudes that they become something like “PC”.


  6. I don’t like Kwanza because it is an African-American holiday trying to sound all African and tribal and so on. Everyone I knew in South Africa (Zulus, Xhosa, Ndebele, Sotho, Tswana, etc.) had never heard of it. Perhaps I dislike it so much because it offends my African sensibilities.

    (By the way Greg, I’m about half-way through “High Places” and loving it. Every time I open it I feel like I’m back in Uganda…pit latrines, pointing lips, raised eyebrows, “eh’s” and all. I’ll write more when I’ve finished it!)


  7. A question for those who speak so fondly of Kwanzaa…how do you tell your kids about the libations to the spirits, or the honoring of the ancestral spirits? I wonder if the teachers teach this aspect of it, or ignore it, or simply aren’t aware.


  8. We celebrate Advent as a “christmas” tradition. For 6 or 7 years now we have had a felt christmas tree with felt ornaments (velcroed) to the tree, one for each night of December, we have a nightly devotional with advent candles and our boys take turns putting the ornaments up….. after Christmas we have a twelfth night party (you know the 12 days of Christmas) with some friends. The kids act out the birth of Christ, nobody wants to be the donkey. Then everyone reads verses that go with each ornament and we take them off the tree.. a nice way to end the holidays. No credit to me, my always spiritually minded wife suggested this one. I really don’t know anything about Kwanza, but Hanukkah is ok. We have been meaning to celebrate the passover as a learning experience and a spritual reminder. To me that is the important thing. Growing up where we didn’t dare mention Christmas in church… Santa was all we had to hang on to. Using any chance we can as a spiritual reminder seems to me what we should do.


  9. GT, I taught middle school for 16 years and the kids I really felt sorry for were the kids whose parents would not let them observe ANY holiday…..Halloween, Christmas, Easter, nothing. If I recall correctly, I believe these kids were from the Jehovah Witness faith.
    They would always feel so left out, and I would do my best to include them as much as we could without offending their parents. I for sure did not allow any of the other kids to make fun of them, but you know it happened when they were away on the play-ground, lunch room, or bathroom.

    Like GKB, I doubt one Nigerian or Liberian I know could tell me one iota about Kwanza. Also, it’s a personal thing………but I abhor the term “african-american”. Am I a “european american”? Why can’t we all just be Americans? 🙂


  10. David —

    Here’s my thing on “African-American” ~

    If you were once called “Davey” as a boy and decided later on that you had outgrown the name and preferred to be called “David”, I would immediately stop calling you “Davey” and call you what you wished to be called. I would not risk angering you by calling you a name that you did not wish to be called. If you wanted to be called “Slim”, “Duke”, “El Presidente Underwood”, “U-Dawg”, or “Lard-butt”, I would call you whatever you wanted to be called. 🙂

    Likewise, if a group of people wants me to refer to them as “African-American” rather than some other term, I’m happy to oblige. It’s no skin (yuk, yuk) off my nose. If they prefer a different term later, I’ll be on board then, too.

    That’s the viewpoint of this Alabama-American.


  11. At the age of 4 months our oldest son, Nate, began going to Ms. Margie’s house. Ms. Margie acted as “guardian angel” (baby-sitter) for Nate before he went to school. Ms. Margie didn’t just keep Christian children in her home, and one of Nate’s best friends from birth was a little girl named Zoe. Zoe and her family were/are Jewish. As Nate and Zoe grew up together, my husband and I felt it was important for Nate to understand Zoe and her family’s traditions. We bought Nate a book about Hannukah (“The Rugrats First Hannukah” — really cute!) and explained to him that some people celebrate holidays other than Christmas.

    At the age of 3 Nate began to go to our church’s Mother’s Day Out program. He came home one December day talking about a friend who celebrated Kwanza. Again, we went to the bookstore (AMAZING… there’s a “The Rugrats First Kwanza” book, too!) to find information about a holiday that wasn’t our primary winter celebration. Again, we reinforced the idea that different people celebrate different holidays.

    Those two books are lying on Nate’s bed right now. We read them (along with DOZENS about the birth of Christ) each year. I don’t think Nate is any less focused on
    the birth of Christ because of his respect for other people and their celebrations. In fact, his respect of others during this holiday season may be making him MORE LIKE Christ than ever before.

    I got a copy of a Bill O’Reilly’s current column in my box today. It is called “Take Your Christmas and Stuff It” and it offers the idea that the diversification of thought during the holiday season is just a way to wipe out religion in America. I do not believe that. In fact, I think that by teaching our children about many views and then enforcing our own beliefs about the birth of Christ, we make the story more special and holy and personal than ever before.

    And I think Matt is right… ethnically and racially, we use the terminology that people want used about themselves (African-American, Black, Asian-American, Latino, Hispanic, etc) because, again, it is about respecting them. But to do that, you have to FIND OUT what people want to be called and that takes getting to know someone and time!

    Thanks for letting me ramble. Can you tell I care about this?


  12. Just to clear something up…..I DO use the term “african-american”, because of the very point that was made by Matt and others….that is what has been requested. I just feel we would be less sectarian, prejudiced, and biased and it would help attitudes and relationships if we could all just be Americans. Think about your own families…..do you say the state you were born in before your last name? In the home I grew up in, all 5 of us were born in different states, but we were all Underwoods. Does this mean you can’t be proud of your heritage or lineage? NO WAY! I think we ALL should be. I also think we should be as united as a country as we can be…..and we have a long way to go. Right after 9/11, I doubt very many people felt like “european Americans, african-Americans, hispanic-Americans, oriental-Americans” or any other kind of American….we were ALL just one people who were very hurt and united in our sympathy for the families who lost loved ones. That is the kind of unity I wish we would strive for, even if we never get there.


  13. David, I think the usage of African-American is only when it is being used to describe or define ethnicity, not the same as everyone in your family saying which state they were born in, unless, of course the conversation is about that. The people who want to use that term only use it in place of the terms “black, negro, etc.” which were used at one time, but not in favor now. So….you’re just wrong, Lard-butt. I’m with Matt on this one. Also, Matt, how did you know that David prefers “Lard-butt”? He has confided to me several times that he wishes everyone would call him that.


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