Friday, 8 December 2017

Chanucah is nearly here. By Keren David

It's nearly time for Chanucah, the Jewish festival of lights. It starts next week and goes on for eight days. It's a very relaxed sort of festival, with no big meals and the minimum of praying.  That's possibly why it's my favourite. 

For eight days we light candles in our homes - eight days mean you can share the celebrations with family and friends, really easily, with no hard choices to be made.  There's one extra candle every night. We eat doughnuts and potato pancakes, or latkes. We exchange small gifts. And sometimes we play a game with a spinning top called a dreidel. 

And that's about it.  There's a deeper story of course, which you can read about here. 
For me, Chanucah is about courage and endurance, patience and optimism. Its message sustained me through a difficult third pregnancy, at the end of which we named our son Judah, after the hero of the Chanucah story, Judah Maccabee -   our son was born a week before the festival. 

On Twitter the other day a librarian asked me to recommend children's books about Chanucah (in America, by the way, it's generally called Hanukkah, but that's a very weird transfigeration of the Hebrew word). And I couldn't think of any at all. So I've had a think, and found eight -  for the eight days -  just so I'll be able to have a list handy if anyone else should ask.  I've only read one of them, and most are American. We definitely need some more Chanucah books from the UK.

This one, by Sara Freedland and Sue Clarke was the only one I had to read to my kids when they were little. A stunningly beautiful pop-up book.

 I'd have liked this one too 

 which also tells the story of the festival.

And my kids would have loved this...
as Elmo was a big favourite. In fact I think they saw Chanucah celebrated on Sesame Street...and Teletubbies....and there were several episodes of Rugrats, which we appreciated a lot.

I liked the look of this book...
because my son's name is NEVER in a children's book. In fact I might buy it for him this year, even though he's 18 now.

 Here are two that look cute and funny (although I wouldn't recommend swallowing a dreidel)

And lastly, two very different books that address the fact that Christmas and Chanucah are around the same time. 

Patricia Polacco's beautiful book recalls a time when her neighbourhood was struck with illness and her family celebrated Chanucah and then helped their neighbours with Christmas.
And this one could not be more different...Lemony Snicket's furiously angry potato  latke, served up with a Christmas ham.  Happy holidays! 


Penny Dolan said...

Hope you and all you family have a most enjoyable time, Keren.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I still haven't bought potatoes or candles for next week. I may need to pop out tomorrow morning on my way to a friend's Christmas party. ;-) I love doughnuts, but can't make them and only buy them from a certain stand near a railway station, where they make them on the spot and fill them with jam for you and the doughnuts are meltingly delicious.

I recall that it's traditional to give children money - Shalom Aleichem actually wrote a very funny short story about kids doing the rounds of the relatives and putting up with having cheeks pinched in exchange for the cash.

As for the dreidel, one thing they rarely tell you is that it was, at one time, used for gambling! Not sure what the Maccabees would think of that, eh? ;-)

Have you ever read Howard Fast's wonderful novel My Glorious Brothers? It's a left-wing retelling of the story, from the viewpoint of Simon, one of the brothers. I used to read it every year, but my copy is falling apart after all these years and I think it may be out of print now. I wrote about it on my blog and had the thrill of a comment from the author's widow, who said the book meant the world to him and she was so glad I liked it!

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