For Me, The True Meaning Of Christmas Is Celebrating Hanukkah


true meaning of christmas is celebrating hanukkahIt’s that joyous time of year. It’s merry and it’s bright…for some of us. For others there is a feeling of fearfulness and exclusion right now that is exactly the opposite of Happy Holidays. Inclusivity – loving and respecting people of all faiths – is important to teach our children, and the holiday season is a wonderful time to learn about it.

Around the country there has been a surge of anti-semitism. I believe it’s our job to fight back against that with kindness. There have been swastikas found spray-painted on temples and schools right here in Orange County. If we don’t teach our children kindness who will? I have friends who are scared to put up their decorations since they are blue and white and have the Star of David, not Santa.

So let’s talk about how we can be kinder and teach our kids to do the same at this time of year.

There are so many holidays that make up this time of year. We have Christmas that reigns supreme in our culture but there is also Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Diwali, Bodhi Day, and Lunar New Year all around the same time.

But let’s focus just a minute on Hanukkah and how we can be more inclusive to our Jewish friends this time of year while things are feeling so unpredictable.


Buy a menorah

Menorahs can be bought anywhere, I even got this cute one on amazon! Putting one in a window or on display somewhere your friends and family can see is a great way to show support of your Jewish friends and let your neighbors know you are a family who thinks love bridges religion. It’s also a wonderful way to teach your children about the magic of the holiday.

I believe that the true meaning of Christmas is celebrating Hanukkah.

The story of Hanukkah is one of turbulence and perseverance. Something many can relate to today. Sometimes we think children can’t understand hard difficult history but often they can and even enjoy learning something new that seems like a more adult topic. Let’s talk about the menorah for a minute.

Why do Jewish people light menorahs?

The story starts during a revolution against the oppressive government that wasn’t letting the Jewish people practice their faith. The Macabees led a rebellion and won but during this time they were low on supplies. Though they only had enough oil to light the Ner Tamid (Eternal Light) for one night, it somehow lasted 8 nights allowing them time to get more supplies. This created the miracle of Hanukkah and the celebration or festival has been held every year since.

Let’s think about how magical that is.

Recently I saw a meme going around and it said the menorah lasting 8 nights on that amount of oil is like if your phone is at 10% and it somehow lasts for a week! Great comparison to teach our kids and ourselves to relate to how crazy miraculous that would have been.

To learn more about the rich history and practice of Hanukkah, please click here.

Lighting the menorah

The menorah used for Hanukkah is called a Hanukkiah and has 8 branches for candles, plus a 9th for the candle known as the Shamash. Each night you will add a new candle to your Menorah going from right to left. You use the 9th candle (the helper candle) to light the 8 other candles. Jews typically say blessings during this time but if you’re just celebrating to support others it’s a nice time to talk about why you are doing so with your children.

You may not feel the need to do this every night if you aren’t Jewish, but certainly the first night it’s a great thing to do.

If you are doing an electric one you can still discuss why it turns on each night and why your family is doing it even though it isn’t your faith tradition. After all there are never too many lights and candles around the Holidays.

Other traditions: food & games

Latkes or potato pancakes are a traditional food. Plan a latke party with some Jewish friends! You can also serve other traditional foods like jam filled donuts (YUM) called sufganiyot. Or you can bring some to a friend whose family is celebrating so they know you’re thinking of them.

Driedels are a fun spinning top you can use for game of chance.

We used to bet with goldfish or chocolate coins when I was a kid. Gifts aren’t given all in one night, they are given each night of Hanukkah just like lighting the candle. If you have a friend who is Jewish, stopping by with a gift one night is a nice thing to do. For more ideas, check out this post on how to celebrate Hanukkah with young ones!

Discuss the holidays

Encourage your children to ask their friends about what holidays they celebrate. Try not to assume everyone celebrates Christmas. Though Hanukkah isn’t the most important Jewish holy day, it is often important to children since it’s at the end of the year just like Christmas and they can feel left out.

Acknowledge that every family celebrates differently and there are more cultures in our country than we can even count.

Discussion about all different faiths and cultures is the only way to teach our kids that we accept people of all kinds. The holiday spirit is about giving and love. What could be better than loving all our neighbors and showing them all support during this time of year?


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Liz McTan is an entrepreneur, blogger, singer/songwriter and above all a mom. On her blog The Redheaded Rambling Mama she focuses on the necessity of connection and establishing our own village. Liz also writes about maintaining a sense of self after children, and beating the illusion of perfect parenting we see throughout social media and keeping a sense of humor to stay sane. She is a proponent of traveling, protesting, and even attending festivals with your kids. Through her battle with post-partum depression and anxiety she has found a new sense of self and purpose in her writing and music with her band Echo Hill. You can read more of her work at or on her social media pages and