Eight Lessons from Hanukkah for All of Us

The following was written by contributor Robin Zipporah of The Not-Ever-Still Life. It originally appeared in November of 2010.

When Hanukkah begins this Wednesday night I’ll light the brightly-colored candles with my family, sing the ancient blessings and traditional songs, and delight in my kids’ enjoyment of the holiday. And then I’ll wash dishes or pay bills or fold laundry, I’ll tuck my little ones into sleep, and I’ll prepare for work on Thursday.

In terms of religious significance Hanukkah is actually a minor festival. We make time in our schedules to remember a long-ago miracle but we move about our regular days. It’s a little sparkle at the beginning of winter. Its significance is conflated because of its proximity to Christmas, but really, they’re not in the same league.

Still, I think there’s something in Hanukkah for everybody:

1. Let your light shine out.

The two-sentence version of the Hanukkah story is that when the Eternal Flame in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was extinguished, only enough oil to relight it for one day could be found. God made the day’s oil ration burn for eight days, the time it took for messengers to travel and return with more rations. Jews light the Hanukkah candles to remember the miracle of the oil, and they light them in their windows and doorways to publicize the miracle. What gifts can you share with your neighbors?

2. Develop the long view.

We’re commemorating a story that occurred over 2000 years ago. It still matters. Can you imagine what impact your actions will have in 2000 years? How can we add relevance to our everyday lives?

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An Uncomplicated Holiday: Three Most Important Things

makealist1 Photo by BLW Photography

Yesterday, we began a conversation about whether or not it is feasible to enjoy an uncomplicated holiday season. If you haven’t already, make sure to read through (and add to!) the comments. There are some great insights from the SK community there.

Throughout December, I want to continue this conversation so that as a community, we can come together and inspire and encourage one another in the pursuit of simple, meaningful celebrations.

I think one of the most challenging aspects of the holiday season is that if we aren’t careful, we can become oppressed by the tyranny of choices offered to our families. Holiday parties and cookie exchanges and Christmas caroling excursions can all be lots of fun and provide for many fond memories.  Yet families who are committed to intentional participation in the holiday season have to be thoughtful in choosing what to say yes to as the invitations begin to roll in.

In writing about her Home Management Notebook at Simple Mom, Tsh underscores the importance of choosing three Most Important Tasks for each day.  Let’s borrow from that idea to create a list of Most Important Things for the Holiday Season 2009.

In describing the MITs for the day, Tsh notes that “if nothing else gets done, I’d say my day was a success if those three things happen.”  We can apply that concept to our Most Important Things for the holidays.  How would you go about creating your Holiday MITs?  Here are some thoughts to begin:

1) Carve out some time with your spouse or partner to discuss what is essential for your family. If you have older children, you may consider inviting them to this discussion as well.  Over mugs of hot cocoa or spiced cider, draw up a list of everything to which you have been invited and everything that you think might be fun to do.

2) Ask the question, if we can only get to three things on this list, what would be most meaningful for our family?

3) Stay flexible and open to all perspectives as you negotiate and decide on the three MITs for the season. Remember, just because an activity or idea didn’t make the MIT list doesn’t mean it won’t get done!  The goal here is to identify the three things which take priority for your family’s time and energy this year.

Here we are at December 1st, so the sooner your family can create the holiday MIT list, the more clarity you will have as you consider your calendar for this month.  I would invite you to work up your list and come back to share it with others here in the comments.

My own family’s MIT list for Christmas 2009 is

1) Create a Jesse Tree.
2) Spend one evening driving through our community’s Christmas light display.
3) Spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning in our own home.

What are the three Most Important Things for your family this year?

An Uncomplicated Holiday: Mission Impossible?

gift Photo by kevindooley

I don’t know about you, but my mailbox and email inbox are both quickly filling up with sale ads, catalogs, and invitations to buy more! more! more!

As you know, our mission at Simple Kids is to celebrate, promote, and encourage an uncomplicated approach to raising children.  Though I am a passionate advocate for a simple, slowed-down parenting philosophy, I find that as we enter into the holiday season, my vision for simplicity becomes blurred.

As we experience this month together, I hope to share inspiring thoughts and practical applications on how to create an intentional holiday season as a family. As always, I would love to share the collective wisdom of this amazing community.

Would you be willing to share your thoughts with me on this topic today?

  • Is your family’s approach to the holiday season more simple or more elaborate?  Does this depart from or complement your family’s status quo?
  • What are some practical steps you have taken in the past to create an intentional holiday experience for your family?  What do you hope to do this year to create holiday harmony?
  • When it comes to gift-giving, how do you know when enough is enough?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!