From Christmas lights to Christmas trees, from Santa and his reindeer to that (damn) Elf on the Shelf, December is synonymous with one holiday – Christmas. And, as much as I love to get into the Christmas spirit with my kids, I find that I know nothing about the other holidays that are happening around us without much less fanfare: Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
If I know zero about Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, my kids will know even less. That changes this holiday season! This year I plan to add some inclusiveness, diversity, and sensitivity to our traditional red and green holiday cheer.
How might I explain the basics of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa to my children? With a parody of a Christmas classic, of course –
Shine Your Light
‘Twas the weeks before Christmas,
And all over town,
Kids made wish lists,
Red and green lights and decor all around.
My friend, Ashley, she’s Jewish,
She does different stuff,
She tells me her menorahs are cool,
A “Festival of Lights,” to me, is interesting enough.
Hanukkah lasts for eight days,
Is the Hebrew word for rededication,
Lit candles from the December 18th through 26th,
Makes quite a marvelous window decoration.
During Hanukkah, Ashley spins a dreidel,
To me, it looks like a top,
Saying “nun,” “gimmel,” “hei,” or “shin”,
She gets a gift when her’s finally stops.
Christmas and Hanukkah are both coming soon?
I’m excited to add more celebrations to December,
I’ll wish Ashley “Happy Hanukkah,”
The week before Christmas if I remember.
“There is another holiday,”
Said my friend, Jenna, “this time of year,”
“It’s called Kwanzaa,
Right after Santa leaves with his flying reindeer.”
“Kwanzaa starts on the 26th,
It’s a celebration of community,
Bedded in seven guiding principles,
That, until last year, were all new to me.”
Umoja is “Unity,”
Kujichagulia is “Self-Determination,”
Ujima is “Responsibility,”
These principles are better than a new game on PlayStation!
Ujamaa is “Collective Economics,”
Nia means “Purpose,”
Kuumba is “Creativity,”
Imani is “Faith” and that’s all seven, Jenna’s certain.
On day six of Kwanzaa Jenna even says,
It’s time to feast,
And after celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, and this,
I may be the size of Disney’s Beast!
I thank Jenna and Ashley,
They have me here thinking,
There is more to December,
Than gift wrapping and Christmas carol singing.
So many of us celebrate differently,
In our own kind of way,
Whether Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, or all,
The feeling of joy and gratitude is the same.
So, to my friends in December,
As I wave them goodbye,
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas,
Whether on a tree or a menorah,
Do our community a favor,
And shine your light.
+ + +
Maybe, after all, learning the basics of these other December holidays will allow my kids to better understand what the Christmas season is all about – collective good, family, and celebrating all the differences that make each of us, ourselves. And, let’s be honest, aren’t those better lessons for our kids to understand than how the Elf on the Shelf made snow angels in the sugar?