Hanukkah started earlier this week, and the girls have definitely gotten into the spirit of the holiday. They attended a Hanukkah party on Sunday at the , where they both enjoyed the festivities and the special foods, such as potato pancakes called latkes, connected with Hanukkah. Muffin especially enjoyed the Moon Bounce, as it combined two of her favorite things: the moon (which fascinates her) and bouncing. But this was not particularly surprising to me—Muffin and Squeaker do not consider the eight days of Hanukkah to be sufficient to contain their expression of holiday glee.
It all started last year, and, as is not surprising with Muffin and Squeaker, books were involved. For last Hanukkah, one of our dear friends gave the girls a book about Hanukkah that looked like a present. Michael and I referred to it as "the Hanukkah book" to the girls, and once their vocabulary started to expand, they referred to it the same way. But then it turned out that among the books we got from PJ Library was Hanukah Lights by David Martin, and then another book about Hanukkah, In the Month of Kislev, arrived in a bag of random books that a friend of my parents gave us. The girls were thrilled! Three different Hanukkah books, presenting different aspects of the holiday! They couldn't get enough of the books. In fact, they had us read these books at random times of the year, even when it was very far away from Hanukkah, so we tried to make it clear that the books were about a winter holiday. So when, for example, we read them the books in March, we would remind them that we had celebrated Hanukkah the previous December. In June, we reminded them that the holiday of Shavuot had just passed but that Hanukkah would be coming at the end of the year. And as November arrived and we read them the Hanukkah books for the umpteenth time, we reminded the girls that we would be celebrating Hanukkah again soon, with the lighting of candles every night and eating special foods.
It was not just books, however, that kept Hanukkah in the girls' minds. Last year at our synagogue's Hanukkah party, the girls discovered the joys of spinning dreidels. They are not yet coordinated enough to spin them themselves, but they revel in watching people spin them and reaching out to touch the spinning dreidel (They haven't yet learned that doing so violates the rules of the game). I had a couple of small plastic dreidels at home, and once I was confident that the girls were old enough to know not to swallow the dreidels, I let them hold the dreidels. As the year went on, it would not be uncommon for Muffin to say, "Green dreidel!" or "Purple dreidel!" and grab the dreidel off the shelf and ask me to spin it.
Furthering the girls' continuation of the holiday spirit was a gift that they received last Hanukkah. Michael's brother and sister-in-law and their daughter gave Muffin and Squeaker the Fisher-Price Little People Chanukah set, and they fell in love with it. The set comes with a family of six people—a father, a mother, a grandfather, a grandmother, a son, and a baby—all of whom are clearly supposed to be Jewish. The grandfather, father, and son all wear kippot (skull caps), and the father is holding a cup filled with grape-based liquid (either wine or grape juice, depending on your family's tradition). The mother has a head scarf on, as well. The set comes with other pieces as well (a refrigerator and a stove, a dog, and six chairs), but the focal piece of the set is a table set for a holiday meal including a Hanukkah menorah (candelabra) that plays two different Hanukkah songs when pushed. The girls delight in playing the songs over and over at the slightest provocation, at virtually any time. I found it somewhat jarring, in the heat of the summer, to find myself singing "I Have a Little Dreidel" under my breath until I realized that it was because Muffin had just been playing with the Hanukkah set again and had activated the table's songs.
To everyone celebrating this holiday season, whatever you celebrate, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and may the spirit of the season continue throughout the year, as it does for Muffin and Squeaker. One warning, however—the special foods for the holidays are, alas, only available for a limited time. Unless Muffin and Squeaker beg me for more latkes next summer...
This week’s column is written by Nomi S. Burstein.