Ah, December…that most wonderful month filled with holidays of light, mountains of gift-giving, plates of mouth-watering treats, loads of love and joy, and yet every year my family and I are faced with the overwhelming drama of The Holidays. The fact is, convert or not, I’m still part of an interfaith family. In our house, we observe Hanukkah, Shabbat and all things Jewish, sharing our holidays with as many family and friends as we can invite. Nevertheless, I come from an Italian-Catholic family that observes Christmas in a big way, and we have always shared Christmas and other Catholic holidays of my childhood with my family. My kids know they are Jewish, but they are also very familiar with the traditions surrounding Christmas and other holidays celebrated by their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. What we have stressed with them are the shared concepts of light, generosity, giving and miracles that envelope these holidays and the many others that occur at this time of year. With that in mind, I have selected a few books that reflect these ideals. I hope they will make your holiday season a bright, happy and delicious one.
How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
Ages 3-8. The How Do Dinosaurs series is among my favorites, as they provide parents and children with a variety of laughable situations to review proper behavior. This new book once again uses the rowdy dinosaurs to demonstrate the appropriate forms of Chanukah conduct.
My Two Holidays: A Hanukkah and Christmas Story by Danielle Novack
Ages 3-8. As Sam listens to his classmates, he learns that they all celebrate just one holiday—Christmas or Hanukkah—while he and his family celebrate both. He is embarrassed to tell his friends, until he talks to his mother. She explains that their celebrations are “one of the things that make their family special.”
Snow Day for Mouse by Judy Cox
Ages 3-8. Mouse is back and excited that snow is falling. A snow day has been declared, so there’s no school. Mom is baking cookies, and Mouse is picking up the crumbs when Mom gets out the broom and sweeps him out the door with Cat! Fortunately, three kind-hearted birds protect Mouse from Cat and help him enjoy the time outside. Mouse repays their kindness with some generosity of his own.
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel
Ages 5-9. If I was stranded on a desert island, this is the one book I would want to have with me. I read this book every Hanukkah, to children and adults alike, as the story of Hershel outwitting the King of the Goblins and winning back Hanukkah for a poor town is just that good. Click here for some wonderful activity sheets to accompany this book.
The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco
Ages 5-10. In this stunningly illustrated and warmly told story by a master writer-artist, Polacco takes us back to her childhood and life on her Babushka’s farm. It is holiday time, and Hanukkah is about to begin. Unfortunately, a Scarlet Fever epidemic is ravaging the surrounding farms, all of which celebrate Christmas. Sad that her best friends and neighbors will not be celebrating their special holiday, Patricia and her family decide to make sure that everyone has the best holiday season ever.