Hanukkah is upon us. Menorahs, dreidels, latkes, jelly doughnuts, gelt, and of course presents. Given its proximity to Christmas, Hanukkah is often mistaken as the Jewish equivalent to the Christmas holiday. However this perception diminishes the beauty of the holiday and its true meaning. Hanukkah is in fact an opportunity to look at the world around us through a new lens — one of miracles.

Albert Einstein once said that there are two ways to live: as if nothing is a miracle or as if everything is a miracle. The miracle we learn as children about Hanukkah is that a small vial of oil lasted for eight days thus giving light far beyond what was expected. This is in fact a BIG miracle — but what about the smaller miracles? How can we as individuals, parents, and a larger community encourage our children to find and appreciate miracles on a daily basis. Hanukkah can provide just that opportunity for you and your family. Here are five ways to celebrate with your children:

  • Define what a miracle is. Each person will likely have their own definition. It doesn’t have to be a big event like the parting of the red sea; it can be much simpler than that. Have everyone give their own example — the beautiful sunset, the flowers growing in the garden, getting the last cupcake, finishing a book.
  • Decorate the house. By putting out the symbols of the holiday, a perfect opportunity for sharing and connecting is opened up. Do you have an old menorah that has a family history to it? A latke recipe that Grandma used to make? Or is the beauty of the house with all the decorations up enough in and of itself? All of these are small miracles — moments that bring closeness and a deeper understanding of the holiday and each other.
  • Invite people over. Share songs and a warm meal with others. The joy and memories that often accompanies these events bring light to those that attend.
  • Have a night where gifts are donated to those that are less fortunate. This allows for both giver and recipient to feel the miracle of caring for others.
  • Take a step back and observe. How does what’s going on around us make us feel and how does it impact our lives in both big and small ways?

This year as I enjoy the light of the candles, the taste of the latkes, and the company of family friends I will remind myself of the importance of noticing miracles big and small during Hanukkah and throughout the rest of the year.

Mimi Ezray, LCSW, MPH, is the Director of Children’s Clinical Services at Parents Place on the Peninsula.