"But, mom, why not Hanukkah, too?" Celebrating winter holidays in our multicultural world

One question with six words has been on my mind for the last few days: “But, mom, why not Hanukkah, too?” 

And, it’s all thanks to my six-year-old son.

He uttered that one question with six words to me on Monday, November 3 – to be exact.

It came right after our red shopping cart careened around a corner at a Target store near my sons’ school and we were visually bombarded with Christmas lights, decorations, cards and gift wrap.

Yes, this retailer had worked its magic, transforming the Halloween section of its store into the Christmas section – just three days after we had bundled up and went trick or treating at the homes in our neighborhood.

So, when my son first exclaimed, “Wow. Why is there all Christmas stuff?,” I responded that now that Halloween was over, stores are focused on the next “shopping” holiday, and it looks like it’s Christmas.

I obviously missed his six-year-old point. And, he was quick to clarify it for me.

“But, mom, why not Hanukkah, too?”

Then it hit me, he wanted to discuss the topic I prepare myself for every year – what it means to celebrate a different holiday than so many other people in Chicago and why “our” holiday isn’t given equal representation at local retail stores.

As an adult, I understand that retailers offer supplies to meet demand. But, for a child, it’s harder to grasp why you don’t see your holiday represented at all – not even a selection of decorations, cards or gift wrap – even though it comes about a week before Christmas.

But, to me, it’s not something to shield my sons from or try to cheer them up about. Rather, it’s an opportunity to talk about multiculturalism and diversity – and our place and role in it. And, it provides us with another reason and way to celebrate and appreciate those who celebrate Christmas and every other winter holiday.

Yes, instead of focusing on the lack of Hanukkah decorations, cards and gift wrap, we can talk about the different multicultural holidays that make the “holiday season” such a special one. And, we can talk about how we will proudly celebrate “our” holiday, too.

For us, during Hanukkah, we put out our menorahs, we eat potato latkes (pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts), we play dreidel, we exchange presents, and we get together with family and friends for eight “bright” nights. We do all that for Hanukkah, but we happily celebrate other wintertime holidays, too.

I feel fortunate that we have friends and family that celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza and other winter holidays. And, we also can participate in holiday events held across the Chicago area.

During November and December, we’ll attend the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. We’ll watch the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade. We’ll eat large hot pretzels at the Christkindlmarket in Chicago’s Daley Plaza. We’ll admire the holiday windows that line the first-floor of Macy’s State Street store. We’ll view one of the Kwanzaa Daily Candle Lighting Ceremonies at the DuSable Museum. We’ll listen to a Hanukkah concert at the Chicago Botanic Garden. We’ll see the Winter Pageant at Redmoon. And, the list goes on.

Yes, it may seem like we’re in the minority at holiday time during the winter months. But, the truth is that we’re lucky.

We live in a diverse, multicultural city that offers us the opportunity to celebrate so many of the winter holidays – even if they’re all not represented at the Target near my sons’ school.

I’m thankful for the opportunity those couple of store aisles gave us to get an early start on this important conversation this year, and to help my sons continue to appreciate and understand all of the winter holidays.

Because, yes, there is Hanukkah and so many other holidays, too.

Winter holiday celebrations across Chicago

Winter holiday celebrations across Chicago.

How do you celebrate your holiday with your family? How do you expose your children to the other holidays celebrated during this time of year? How do you explain to your children how it is to be in the majority or minority during the holiday season? Please share your thoughts, traditions and experiences in the comments below.

There is a lot more multicultural discussion and fun to be had together.  Be sure to “like” Raising World Citizens on Facebook to join in on the conversation. And, come along with me on a visual journey of my efforts to raise two world citizens on Instagram.

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