Weekly Trip to the Library for Nannies and Au Pairs
By Interfaith Nanny
I loved growing up with parents of different faiths. My father was raised by Jewish parents, yet enjoyed celebrating Christmas and Easter with my mother (his Christian wife) and children. My entire family love attending Passover at my paternal Grandparent's house or a Great Aunt and Great Uncle's home. Having family members to share both faiths was a blessing for me and I have learned there is more in common in the faiths of Judaism and Christianity, (including the Old Testament of the Bible), than there is different. I strongly believe that there is no harm in children learning about all religions. In the process, children will learn to love their own religion, customs, and traditions even more. Here are my suggestions for children to learn more about other holidays. Here are my selection of interfaith Christmas and Hanukkah children's books to share with children this holiday season.
Light The Lights! A Story About Celebrating Hanukkah And Christmas by Margaret Mooman
Interfaith families and families that aren't religious crave materials that validate the observance of holidays from the traditions of different faiths. In one of a very few such picture books, the author focuses on a household's joyous celebrations of Hanukkah and Christmas, two festivals that frequently occur close together on the wintertime calendar. The book's title reflects a motif common to both: candles in a menorah glow brightly in Emma's house during the eight days of the Jewish holiday; later, lights shimmer beautifully from her family's Christmas tree. The family's celebrations are purely secular, and Emma's response to everything -- be it getting presents or playing dreidel -- is sheer delight, which the author captures nicely in her bright, unpretentious paintings. The story, however, is very slight, and there's no sense of the origins of the holidays, which are very different.
Elijah's Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas by Michael J. Rosen
A child's vision of religious tolerance is exquisitely played out in this story about an elderly Christian barber and a Jewish child who befriends him. As a hobby, the African American barber makes elaborate woodcarvings -- many of which refer to events or characters in the Bible. Michael, a 9-year-old Jewish boy, often visits the barbershop just to admire old Elijah's carvings, especially that of Noah's Ark--a story that belongs to Jewish as well as Christian teachings. One day when Hanukkah and Christmas coincidentally overlap, Elijah gives Michael a special gift, a carved guardian angel. Immediately Michael is filled with a jumble of feelings -- gratitude for such a beautiful gift, concern that his parents might disapprove, and an even greater fear that God may frown upon a Christmas angel, "a graven image," in Michael's home. The thick sweeps of paint, the heavy uses of wood-tones, and primitive images make the settings and characters look as though Elijah carved them himself. When Michael finally reveals the carved angel to his parents, they help the young boy understand how expressions of friendship, love, and protection can be carried into any home, regardless of the household's religion. Michael J. Rosen based this story on the real-life Elijah Pierce (1892-1984), a lay minister, barber, and woodcarver from Columbus, Ohio, whose award-winning woodcarvings are now owned by the Columbus Museum of Art.
Holiday Miracles: A Christmas/Hanukkah Story by Ellyn Bache
This heartwarming story is truly an interfaith tale, a profile of a family in which the mother is Jewish and the father Christian. (This is a roman … clef: Bache has lovingly drawn from her own experience as a member of a Jewish-Catholic family.) As the parents perform the annual negotiations of latkes and parties and wrapping paper (red or blue?), their five-year-old son becomes seriously ill, making the entire family realize anew the central message of both Hanukkah and Christmas: Miracles are possible. The novella is simply and beautifully presented Bache, a Willa Cather Prize recipient, clearly knows how to tell a story. What could be cloying or manipulative is instead full of honest emotion.
Stop by next Saturday for another Weekly Trip to the Library for nannies and au pairs.