We think it’s great when our military kids are inspired to learn more about the religion and cultural heritage of their friends! One of our young MILITARY KIDS’ LIFE contributors, Nena, wanted to share what she learned about Hanukkah, so that more military kids could enjoy it. Inviting other military families to join you in your celebrations is such a great way to strengthen our community.
Learn About Hanukkah With Your Military Kids
by Nena, age 12
Military kids meet lots of different people, with different ancestors and religions. Even though we have different religions and backgrounds, one thing we all have in common is that we are all American! Many Military families have different traditions, such as Hanukkah. Hanukkah is a time for Jews to celebrate when God delivered them from the Greeks, who were trying to make them give up their religious beliefs. When the Israelites won the war they fixed up the temple in Jerusalem. They wanted to relight the Menorah, (a lamp that is lit with eight candles plus a shamash, or “helper” candle) but they only found enough oil for one day. Miraculously the oil lasted eight days, hence the number of candles on the Menorah we use to celebrate Hanukkah.
Honoring the Miracle
I love all the YUMMY food that comes with the eight days of celebrating Hanukkah! One of my favorites is latkes. These are potatoes fried in oil to make a kind of pancake. This is a traditional Hanukkah food because it is meant to remind us about the eight days that the oil burned. I like eating applesauce or sour cream on my latkes. Try this delicious latke recipe tonight!
Another favorite Hanukkah food is sufganiyot, or jelly filled doughnuts. Some people think that the Maccabees ate pastries similar to these. Other people think that we eat them because they are made with oil, similar to latkes. No matter what, I like that doughnuts are a part of this traditional holiday. Mmmmmmm!
An Amazing Story Told With Food
Cheese is another part of the Hanukkah celebration. The reason relates to a story about the cousin of the Maccabees named Judith. Like other Jewish women, Judith provided for the men by smuggling food to them as they hid in the mountains, but one day she found a way to do more. Judith decided to pay Holofernes, an enemy general, a visit. She brought with her a feast, consisting of cheese and salt, which made Holofernes thirsty. Next Judith gave him wine to drink, and that made him sleepy. After Holofernes had lain down to sleep, she cut of his head! The enemy left, and Judith’s actions saved her people. Eating cheese is a reminder of Judith’s bravery. A traditional Hanukkah dessert that includes cheese is rugelach, a delicious pastry that usually contains cream cheese, fruit, and nuts.
Have you ever heard of Christmas cookies? If you like that part of the holidays, you might also like Hanukkah cookies. They are like sugar cookies, but instead of being made into Christmas shapes, they are cut out with shapes from Hanukkah celebrations. Cookies shaped as Menorahs, dreidels (learn to play the game here!), Stars of David, and Torahs are definitely a delicious (and pretty) treat.
One thing that makes Hanukkah special to families who are in the military, is that part of the holiday celebrates how the Jews won a war and were then able to practice their own religion. This reminds me of the story of early America!
Want to Learn More?
Military kids will love learning about Hanukkah with these picture books:
Latkes and Applesauce: A Hanukkah Story by Fran Manushkin
The Gift by Aliana Brodmann
Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein by Amanda Peet and Andrea Troyer
Nena, age 12, is a military kid who definitely sees the bright side of her military life! She is a frequent contributor to MILITARY KIDS’ LIFE magazine.