Overheard some snatches of kid conversation in my art classroom concerning the meaning of the phrase "A Great Miracle Happened There" as it applies to their lives.
Pretty deep stuff for seven-to-nine-year-olds to discuss, huh?
The phrase itself is a translation of the acronym of letters on the different sides of the dreidel, the Hanukkah spinner which kids and adults alike use to gamble for gelt by the light of the menorah. The miracle is one that happened a couple thousand years ago or so, when the small band of Maccabee zealots defeated a massive Syrian Greek army and regained control (at least, religious control) of the Temple in Jerusalem. Or, depending on which of the rabbinic sages you subscribe to, the miracle is that surrounding a small cruse of oil that was found in the the temple while it was being cleansed of pagan objects. It was the only oil left to light the eternal light in the temple, and it was only enough for one day...but miraculously, it burned in the lamp for eight days.
Anyhoo, I overheard the kids talking about what the phrase means to them personally while they were slaving over their dreidel costumes they had to make for their Hannukah pageant. It concerned what the dreidel letters say on Israeli dreidels - they are translated to say "A Great Miracle Happened Here", because it did happen there, after all.
"Oh, a great miracle happened here!" said one of the kids.
"No, a great disaster happened here," another retorted.
"No, the storm was a great miracle!" the first kid insisted. "My house got redone because of it!"
Hey, if kids can find the bright side in times like these...
I myself am looking for a good way to get Hanukkah across to the little guy, who, for the first time in his schoolgoing days, is confronted with our predominantly Christian culture every day in the classroom and school, which, although it is a public school, has a lit-up tree prominenetly displayed in the front hall, and there is a small tree in his own classroom. I think I'm going to drag in a menorah or something just because.
Oh, not just because. It's because I don't want to have conversations like this with my son:
"Mommy, I want my birthday to be on Christmas next year, okay?" (His birthday is in December, just not on the 25th)
"Honey, your birthday is the day you were born, and you were not born on Christmas day."
"Please can't it be on Christmas? Pleeeeease??"
I didn't want to go into depth with him on the whole Christmas thing. It may have been because he perceived he could possibly get more presents if his birthday were on Christmas. It may be that he wants a tree in the house, which is coming in over my dead body. I guess I need to speak with his teacher and see what the deal is about, and talk about it with him a little more, like I did in the library the other day:
"Mommy, let's read this Muppet book!" he said, pulling out The Muppet Babies' Christmas Book (or some such thing - it had the Muppets on it and it was Christmas-themed).
"No, honey, I'm not going to read it to you," I said.
"Please can you read it to me? Pleeease??" (I am proud the little guy is so polite, but still...)
"Sweetheart, I'm not going to read it to you, because we are Jewish and don't celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Hanukkah. Here, I'll find a story about it for you," I said, running for the stacks as though my life depended on it.
I guess now I need to plaster our walls and door with Hanukkah decorations and flashing strings of dreidel lights. My dad used to joke that one of these years, he'd lay out a menorah in Christmas lights on the front lawn to counter all the holiday displays in neighboring yards.
If anyone has a lead on a giant inflatable menorah snow globe, just drop me a line...