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Remind Me Again How a Dora Sleeping Bag Fits into the Story of Hanukkah?

By Meredith Carroll |

Dora and Boots

Maybe Dora was a Maccabee in a former life?

It’s been years since I went to Hebrew school, so please do me a favor and remind exactly where a Dora the Explorer sleeping bag fits into the story of Hanukkah.

Because a Dora sleeping bag must be in the there somewhere with the story of the Maccabees and the miraculous oil that burned for eight days. I’m sure of it.

Otherwise, why does my 3-year-old daughter necessarily get one when we light the candles and say the prayers this Hanukkah?

For most Reform Jews, Hanukkah is an occasion to simply gather with family, light the menorah and eat. Not to diminish the accomplishments of Judah, the Maccabees and that miraculous drop of oil (back when trans fat was revered instead of reviled), but technically it’s a relatively minor happening on the Jewish calendar that’s presumed by many non-Jews to be major because of its proximity to Christmas.

Sure, for kids, Hanukkah feels significant not because of the story of the Jewish struggle for religious freedom and national survival, but because along the way someone inexplicably added presents to the tradition that previously only included potato latkes, a spinning top and chocolate shaped liked coins and wrapped in gold foil (which is not to disparage fried potatoes and chocolate wrapped in gold foil, both of which are always deeply appreciated). To a child, any occasion that includes eight gifts is definitely an Occasion.

It’s not that I’m a Scrooge per se (although my 3-month-old baby will get nothing for Hanukkah), but I just take umbrage with the fact that all of a sudden my toddler knows to ask for stuff as it relates to Hanukkah. I certainly didn’t tell her about it, although I’m sure it’s something she picked up in preschool (along with the always charming, “Sharing is not caring”).

It helps that she’s actually into the holiday (along with all holidays — like, really into them). She was thrilled when the menorah came out of storage and into our house, along with the dreidels and gelt. Of course she keeps asking, too, about sitting on Santa’s lap and when he’s coming over to give her a pink Dora doll (apparently the Jews supply the sleeping bags and the goys the dolls who sleep in said bags).

I suppose as long as she keeps up her interest in Judaism and the significance behind the holidays — major and minor — I shouldn’t complain. But somehow the whole thing was cuter when we initiated the gifts and she wasn’t coming to us with her list of hostage demands via Nickelodeon.

How do you balance the religious significance of the holidays with all the stuff?

Image: Wikipedia

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About Meredith Carroll

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Meredith Carroll

Meredith C. Carroll is an award-winning columnist and writer based in Aspen, Colorado. She can be found regularly on the Op-Ed page of The Denver Post. From 2005-2012 her other column, "Meredith Pro Tem" ran in several newspapers, as well as occasionally on The Huffington Post since 2009. Read more about her (or don’t, whatever) at her website. Read bio and latest posts → Read Meredith's latest posts →

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8 thoughts on “Remind Me Again How a Dora Sleeping Bag Fits into the Story of Hanukkah?

  1. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    “technically it’s a relatively minor happening on the Jewish calendar that’s presumed by many non-Jews to be major because of its proximity to Christmas.” I got raked over the coals for saying that on another post.

  2. Meredith Carroll says:

    @Linda — Why? Isn’t it the truth?

  3. LS says:

    I think one commenter assumed that Linda was making a judgement on how she and her family should celebrate…when she was just saying that it is a minor holiday. I read that line of comments, too – don’t worry, Linda, you made sense!

  4. daria says:

    Yep, agreed with linda’s earlier posts, not sure why they were controversial. To answer the question above, we leave gift giving to the grandparents. They insist on giving the kids stuff anyway. We do lots of chanukkah stuff at home, which includes decorating, baking, art projects, dreidel playing etc, just not gift giving.

  5. Heather says:

    I grew up Christian, but had many Jewish friends. I also went to a school where it was okay to talk about religion, as long as all religions got equal time. We spent a few days every year learning about different holidays and what they meant to the people who celebrate them. We would have a Hanukka party every year, and someone’s parents would come in and make latkes and we’d play with dreidels and receive gelt. And we would learn about why Hanukka was celebrated – the oil lasting for eight(?) nights. (Sorry, I haven’t been in school for over a decade, my memory may be wrong). Nobody ever talked about it being a major holiday, or about giving presents. Most of my friends, though, would get one present a night. The gifts started out small (like a book) and got “bigger” (read, more expensive) each night. When I asked why they got gifts for Hanukkah, none of them knew why, they said they just did. It never made much sense to me except that maybe their parents didn’t want them left out of the gift giving at this time of year just because of their religion? Maybe it has mostly to do with not wanting kids to feel left out? I really don’t know, that’s just my guess. Feel free to completely disregard me if you want to; as I said I’m a Christian, so I really don’t know much about it.

  6. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    @Heather, the point is that if people were really interested in Judaism, they’d learn about the high holy days or Passover. Hanukkah gets so much attention because it’s (usually) in December.

  7. Shannon says:

    Well, I know I don’t really get it because I’m not Jewish, but why not give presents? Why do Christians give presents on Christmas? Because baby Jesus got some from the Three Kings? Seems like a pretty flimsy excuse to me, and I was brought up in a Baptist/Methodist household. My husband is Jewish, and growing up he couldn’t stand how marginalized Hanukkah was, and he felt like it wasn’t fair that Christian kids had all the fun. Now that we have a son, we celebrate both holidays, and we give presents for both Hanukkah and Christmas. We do it because we enjoy it and our son rarely gets toys apart from his birthday and the holidays, so it’s not a big deal to us.

  8. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    Celebrate how you want. My kids each opened a really nice gift from their grandparents tonight. My issue is when people pretend they’re so “inclusive” by aknowledging a minor holiday. Would religious Christians feel included if they were the minority and the majority religion aknowledged Peter & Paul day but never ever noticed Easter existed? Honestly, I’d rather be ignored and my family left to do their own thing.

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