Friday, December 7, 1984
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
t begins right around
Thanksgiving, that feeling of being a
member of a small minority. Over-
night, stores are aglitter with tinsel
and lights. Each day our mailboxes fill
with catalogues and circulars. Every
radio station and loud speaker lulls us
into humming fragments of songs re-
membered from school concerts past.
Santa waits for us at every mall.
Contrary to popular belief,
Christmas is not an American holiday.
It is a meaningful, important Chris-
tian holiday. To devout Christians, it
isn't just reindeer and tinsel, but the
celebration of the birth of their Savior.
Living in a predominately Chris-
tian society, Jews are often expected
and exhorted to join in the merry good
cheer at work, in school and in the
BY ELLYCE FIELD
Special to The Jewish News
Many American Jews, with ambi-
valent or confused Jewish feelings and
tenuous Jewish connections, do celeb-
rate Christmas to varying degrees.
Some have Christmas trees, and stock-
ings. Others send cards or exchange
presents wrapped in red and green
paper. Some host Christmas dinners
and parties. Some wait in line with
children eager to see Santa.
During December, the delicate
balance between appreciating
Christmas and actually participating
in Christmas festivities is in constant
flux. Many Jews feel ill prepared to
compete with Christmas. We worry
about our children feeling dissatisfied.
We wonder if they are feeling embar-
rassed or left out. December is a time of
anxiety and tension.
To confuse matters even more,
Chanukah falls close to Christmas.
Many well-intentioned Christians and
Jews misleadingly assume Chanukah
is the Jewish Christmas. Hence, the
Chanukah bush and the season's
Elissa Berg, with Joshua, Francessca and baby Zachary, walks past the Christmas tree
at the Orchard Mall.
Rabbi Robert Abramson, Hillel
Day School headmaster, illustrates
this problem of perception with a
story: A rabbi is asked by one of his
congregants, "How many days will
Chanukah be this year?" The rabbi is
confused, "Chanukah is always eight
days long," he answers. The congreg-
ant replies, Some years it is four days,
eight or 12 days, even 28 days long."
"How can this be?" asks the rabbi.
"Well, Chanukah begins whenever it
begins and ends on Dec. 25." the con-
Many Jewish children are famil-
iar with Christmas symbols and home
observance. Santa, reindeer and pre-
sents around the Christmas tree are
part of the popular culture around us,
played out with regularity in the mass
media. Chanukah symbols, char-
acters, events and melodies are not.
Unless parents are committed to creat-
ing a Chanukah environment in their
home, Chanukah will be forgotten and
its beauty ignored.
Janet Pont, Adat Shalom Nursery
Most importantly, Mrs. Pont adds,
"Each family should own a menorah
and display it in a prominent place
during Chanukah." Many families col-
lect menorot on travels or with the
birth of each new child. When each
family member lights his or her own
menorah, he participates in a beauti-
ful, historic celebration that will
create lasting memories.
Rabbi Abramson urges parents to
make the lighting of the Chanukah
candles the primary focus of the holi-
day celebration and as much a family
event as possible for all eight nights.
"Given our busy schedules, if all fam-
ily members make an effort to join to-
gether each night for the candlelight-
ing and a festive dinner, we will retain
Linda and Michael Nack have
worked hard creating a warm, sensory
and exciting Chanukah for their three
daughters. Each Chanukah builds on
the traditions of previous Chanukahs.
"My parents were liberal Jews," says
Linda. "Although I grew up in a
School director and long-time pre-
school educator, points out, In order
to make small children feel
Chanukah's importance and to
minimize Christmas, parents must
encourage all kinds of positive
There are many children's books
available that tell the Chanukah
story, show home observances and
illustrate Chanukah symbols. Chil-
dren's records have popular and tradi-
tional Chanukah songs and usually
include the blessings over the
Chanukah candles. Mrs. Pont urges
parents to read to their children about
the holiday and to have holiday re-
cords playing throughout the season.
Children love making and hang-
ing decorations. Even the simplest
project will be enjoyed. Children can
color pictures from Chanukah coloring
books or draw their own. Chanukah
symbols can be created out of colorful
Many craft ideas found in ladies
magazines are adaptable to Chanukah
decorations. One mother makes
"potato-stamp" dreidles, carving sym-
bols out of a potato and, using the wood
block technique, has her children
create cards and gift wrapping.
Pre-made decorations are avail-
able at area Jewish book stores and,
increasingly, at secular stores in
Children should be encouraged to
plan holiday menus which include
traditional foods. There are several
Jewish children's holiday cookbooks
which include recipes for Chanukah
foods around the world. Most children
will enjoy making and eating latkes
and soofganyot, the traditional
Sephardic fried donuts.
neighborhood 90 percent Jewish, our
family did not play up Chaukah. We
had a little Christmas tree and red and
green decorations. My parents
entertained friends on Christmas be-
cause 'everyone was home from work.
My husband's family was similar; they
even exchanged Christmas presents.
We had few connections to Chanukah
so we decided to create our own."
A "Chanukah box" holds the Nack
family Chanukah decorations, books
and collectibles. A day or so before the
holiday, Linda and her children deco-
rate the house. We have lots of deco-
rations that we value. Last year I
finished a Happy Chanukah banner
made out of fabric. We collect stained
glass Chanukah ornaments. We still
have the decorations our children
made in nursery school."
Linda supplies the children with
colorful construction paper to create
new paper decorations. They are even
encouraged to decorate their rooms.
For a month before Chanukah,
Linda and the girls are busy creating
Chanukah gift boxes to send to cousins
around the country. They include
homemade Chanukah candles and
cookies, festive breads and cakes.
Linda explains, "My girls look forward
to the smells and tastes of Chanukah.
Once Chanukah arrives they can't get
Over the years, the Nacks have
collected dreidels of all sizes and
colors. Their "dreidel basket" sits on
the kitchen table throughout the holi-
day. Linda says, "We are always play-
ing dreidel games. The children love
picking out their favorite dreidels."
The Nacks also have a penny jar
they add to throughout the year that