Hanukkah is already over, and there are only three days left until Christmas -- so chances are you've been hearing a lot about people's holiday plans and customs over the past few weeks. But how much do you know about your family's own holiday traditions, and the beliefs of those around you?
The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah -- which commemorates the recapture of Jerusalem from the Syrian Greeks more than two thousand years ago -- lasted from the 8th to the 16th of December this year. Jewish families celebrate Hanukkah by lighting the menorah every night for eight nights, often also exchanging gifts and eating special holiday foods like potato pancakes (latkes).
Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus, and happens on December 25th every year. Of course, many people also associate the holiday with Christmas trees, carols and presents from Santa Claus.
Kwanzaa, a non-religious celebration of African-American heritage, lasts from December 26 through January 1. Its customs include lighting black, red and green candles that represent principles like unity, creativity and faith.
Some families celebrate more than one of these holidays; some celebrate none. You probably know some people whose religious beliefs are different from yours -- but even if you don't share their beliefs, that doesn't mean you can't appreciate their traditions. Tonight, let's talk about why we celebrate the holidays the way we do -- and how we can be aware of the beliefs of those around us.
Questions for discussion:
- What does your family do for the holidays?
- What do you like about your family's holiday traditions?
- How similar or different are your friends' holiday celebrations?
- Why do you think rituals are important?
Related on HuffPost:
"How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?" and "How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?" By Jane Yolen & Mark Teague
I think there is something really funny about dinosaurs and <a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/how-do-dinosaurs-say-merry-christmas-jane-yolen/1111849530?ean=9780545416788">Christmas</a> and <a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/how-do-dinosaurs-say-happy-chanukah-jane-yolen/1111851809?ean=9780545416771">Chanukah</a>. Instead of sneaking down the stairs to look at presents, ripping off wrapping paper, and ravaging plates of cookies, these extinct monsters go caroling, help trim the tree and go to bed when they’re told. Instead of blowing out the menorah candles, grabbing all the gelt or hoard the dreidels, dinosaurs sing prayers, eat latkes and help clear the table, gives his grandparents holiday wishes. Who knew? If you want to teach your little monsters how to behave over the holidays, this book might be for you.
"The Christmas Quiet Book" By Deborah Underwood
The holidays can be noisy and hectic, but if you slow down you can find pockets of quiet in even the most chaotic excitement. The latest of the <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Quiet-Book-Deborah-Underwood/dp/0547558635/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1352499524&sr=1-1&keywords=the+christmas+quiet+book">Quiet Books</a>, this one reminds us of “searching for presents quiet,” “knocking with mittens quiet” and “listening for sleigh bells quiet.” Take a quiet moment with your children to explore all the silent moments of the season.
"The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas" By Michael Keane
I tell my son that Santa can bring presents to kids around the world because he’s magic and that seems to work just fine. But<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Night-Santa-Got-Lost-Christmas/dp/159698810X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1352498420&sr=1-1&keywords=the+night+santa+got+lost+how+norad+saved+christmas"> if Santa’s magic ever fails</a>, it is nice to know that NORAD would step in and help. In the tradition of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” this newest addition to our holiday collection includes satellites, computer tracking, fighter jets, battleships, helicopters and submarines as the military scrambles to help Santa get back on course after a Christmas Eve blizzard threatens his delivery schedule. After reading it, make sure to track Santa you’re your kids on Christmas Eve at <a href="http://www.noradsanta.org">http://www.noradsanta.org</a>.
"Pete The Cat Saves Christmas" By James Dean & Eric Litwin
If the military is unavailable, Santa can always call on <a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pete-the-cat-saves-christmas-eric-litwin/1108621173?ean=9780062110626">Pete the Cat</a>. When Santa gets sick, Pete leaves groovy Key West, hitches his van up to the reindeer, and takes his place. As Pete says, “Although I am small, in the spirit of Christmas I gave it my all!”
"The Berenstain Bears’ Old-Fashioned Christmas" By Jane & Mike Berenstain
For fifty years, the Berenstains have charmed children with stories of Mama, Papa, Brother, Sister and Honey Bear’s lives. Their <a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-berenstain-bears-old-fashioned-christmas-jan-berenstain/1108621088?ean=9780060574437">latest book</a> celebrates the joys of a country Christmas with handmade ornaments, gingerbread cookies, caroling and Papa Bear’s usual mishaps. There’s always room for timeless and sincere celebrations of the season, and the Berenstain Bears deliver just that.
"Charlie And The Christmas Kitty" By Ree Drummond
<a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/charlie-and-the-christmas-kitty-ree-drummond/1106028213?ean=9780061996573">This book</a> comes with a droopy-eared dog, a brand new kitten, and a delicious recipe for sugar cookies (Ree Drummond has never steered me wrong when it comes to recipes, and you can find more on her blog www.pioneerwoman.com). Charlie the Ranch Dog definitely did not have a new kitten on his Christmas list, but one shows up on his ranch anyway. After some initial hesitation, Charlie learns that unexpectedly good things come in very small packages.
"A Perfect Day" By Carin Berger
During the holidays, it’s easy to get caught in the excitement and miss the perfect stillness of a day carpeted in snow and the simple joy children take in sledding, snowmen and snowball fights. Carin Berger <a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-perfect-day-carin-berger/1107756675?ean=9780062015808">captures all that</a> and more in cut paper collages and a story about a single winter day, which is, in a word, perfect.
"Llama, Llama, Holiday Drama" By Anna Dewdney
<a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/llama-llama-holiday-drama-anna-dewdney/1020443626?ean=9780670011612">This isn’t a new release</a>, but if you haven’t discovered Baby Llama and his Mama, please do. Baby Llama is patient for a long time during a season of errands and lines and waiting for presents, but llamas can only wait for so long. He wants Christmas to come right away. When a tantrum doesn’t get him what he wants, his mama reminds him, "Gifts are nice, but there's another: The true gift is, we have each other."
"It’s Christmas David!" By David Shannon
It’s hard to be a kid at Christmas, and it’s harder for David than most. His Christmas list is a mile long, he can’t stop searching for hidden presents, his table manners are horrible and he won’t wait patiently in the line for Santa. What David doesn’t know is that Santa is watching, and on Christmas morning, David is in for <a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/its-christmas-david-david-shannon/1111847602?ean=9780545143110">an unpleasant surprise</a>. Or is he?
More Great Reads For Kids:
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/devon-corneal/november-books_b_2066539.html">Mesmerizing Non-Fiction Children's Books</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-handler/50-inspiring-childrens-books-with-positive-message_b_1557914.html">50 Inspiring Children's Books With A Positive Message</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/22/food-inspired-childrens-books_n_1617653.html">14 Food-Inspired Children's Books</a>