The Beauty of Hanukkah

Christmas is a big deal in our house. Not over the top, but very much a holiday. I collect ornaments and have since my teen years, so that means a second tree (and maybe a third) would be a very good idea. But as it is, we have just the one tree, and I imagine that if it could talk, it would have a lot of ugly things to say about over crowded branches (you can’t actually see the branches) and maybe deliver a lecture on the dangers of excessive Christmas bling on the tree. At any rate, I knew there would inevitably be a GG Sprinkles episode on Christmas. But Hanukkah was rapidly approaching and would precede Christmas, and I really wanted to do an episode on Hanukkah. I was spurred by what I knew was a lovely holiday celebrated by millions of Jews around the world and by the increasing anti-semitism in the last few years, not just in the States but elsewhere in the world. I wanted to make the statement to the kids that, while Christmas is a lovely holiday celebrated by many Christians, so Hanukkah is also lovely and an equally meaningful and worthy holiday with its own traditions and celebrations.

I knew very little about Hanukkah, I’m embarrassed to say, so the first thing I did was order what was basically a Hanukkah kit, with a menorah, candles, colorful dreidels, chocolate coins and a pamphlet to explain what one does with all of those items. But reading a pamphlet and only a pamphlet is not my style with any Sprinkles topic, especially one as important as this. I hit the Internet hard and read tons of articles about the origin of Hanukkah and the finer points of correctly lighting a menorah. I learned that dreidels have letters on all four sides that represent words meaning “A great miracle happened there” except in Israel where one letter changes to make the sentence “A great miracle happened here.” I feel very bad that during the episode I accidentally left out the word “great” because it truly was a great miracle. I practiced spinning my dreidel and made a cheat sheet so I’d remember which letter meant what in the distribution of the coins (which I learned are called gelt).

I read about the different kinds of foods Jewish families would possibly enjoy during the eight days of Hanukkah. I learned that they fix foods fried in oil because of the miracle of the oil that happened so long ago when Judah led his people to take back their temple from the evil Antiochus. Jelly donuts are a favorite, but I’m no cook. I needed something I could actually make, so I found a recipe for bimuelos, a fried dough treat with Spanish origins that looked delicious (and is!) and decided to make them during the episode.

I learned a lot of the terminology and names, and got help with pronunciations (I had Antiochus all wrong, so it’s good that I checked). But the most important thing, of course, was to read about the menorah and how to properly light the candles. I was, in fact, concerned that it might not be appropriate to light it at all, as a non Jew and during the course of a demonstration. There were mixed opinions on that online, so I decided to go ahead. I wanted to demonstrate the order in which one would light the candles, light only two, and promptly extinguish them. I wanted to do this episode prior to the start of Hanukkah rather than waiting until the first night to avoid any possible hint of disrespect.

Dropping the batter for bimuelos into very hot oil and the finished treats. They’re great with powdered sugar or honey.

I get a bit anxious before some of our videos, but I actually had trouble sleeping the night before this one. I was terrified that I would get something wrong. I try very hard not to do that no matter the episode because these are recorded for children (case in point: I insisted we re-record our Octupus’ Garden episode because I said the octopus had tentacles when they’re really called arms, and it’s octopuses, not octopi). Would the kids know? Possibly not, but I would. And they deserve accuracy. So I demonstrated the lighting of the menorah, spun the dreidel, and made bimuelos. I read my poem called ‘The Story of Hanukkah’ and then one called ‘Traditions of Love,’ which emphasizes the point that I most wanted to make: that whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or any other holiday that comes around this time of year, these celebrations and traditions are worthy of respect, as are the people who celebrate them. And the world would be a much better place if we could all just remember that. ❤️

Author:

I’m a huge believer in two things: the wisdom and potential of our children and the importance of poetry and imagination in their lives and development. My teaching background is at the high school level, but my methods in the classroom ran high in interaction and whimsy, at least as much whimsy as preparation for state testing allowed. I have four young grandchildren, and I nannied a little boy for over four years from infancy, so I like to think I know children pretty well. And I used poetry to teach and inspire no matter what ages I was called to teach. Poetry takes very big ideas and boils them down to nuggets of wisdom more easily understood. And then there’s the rhyme, such a valuable asset to pre-reading and a great hook to pull the little ones into the poetry itself. The rhythm, cadence, and yes, the rhyme, all have value for kids. Even if the full meaning of the words eludes them a little, there is value in what they do process. I have written and published two books of essays and poetry for teachers, but my greater joy came in writing poetry for children. I began a book of children’s poetry the day my first grandchild Samantha was born and fourteen years later I continue to add to it. I entitled it A Duck in the Sky, which comes from a discussion we had with Sam when she was just a toddler. We were talking about the meaning of life and Sam assured us that the meaning of life was, in fact, a duck in the sky. Fair enough, and a very good title. I never published my children’s book, although that will happen. But in the meantime came Covid and quarantine. I wanted to contribute something, to help entertain young children stuck at home, even if for only a few minutes at a time. So GG Sprinkles was born, someone who reads poetry and entertains with props, demonstrations, etc. Our videos began on a GG Sprinkles Facebook page, and shortly after that became a GG Sprinkles YouTube channel. So we now have quite a few videos available and I continue to write poetry. I have learned a great deal about a lot of topics: fairies, zebras, angels, octopuses, birds, superheroes, blanket forts, dragons, space, buried treasure, planets, burping, puppets, trains, unicorns, kites, magic wands, and so much more. It has been a pure joy to do this for the kids. And, of course, I’m learning so much along the way. We intend to keep the videos coming as long as the poetry comes and the kids and parents are interested. We’d be delighted to have you come along with us as we explore new topics poetically and just have some fun. GG Sprinkles welcomes you to any of the videos you’d like to watch and further thoughts here on my blog. Enjoy!

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