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  Category: Articles » Education & Reference » Teaching » Article

A Christmas and Chanukah Play

By Freda J. Glatt, MS

Learn about Christmas and Chanukah through this conversation between two friends.

Narrator: Two friends, Greg and Charlie, meet at a park on a Saturday afternoon. Greg is carrying a basketball.

Greg: Hi, Charlie! Want to shoot some hoops?!
Charlie: I surely would, Greg, but the court looks crowded right now. How about taking a walk, first?
Greg: Okay.

Narrator: The two boys start walking and Greg dribbles the ball as they go.

Greg: Is your family getting ready for Christmas, yet?
Charlie: Well, actually, we celebrate Chanukah. Since it starts in two weeks, this year, my parents have started shopping for presents, I'm sure. My sister and I are making them a calendar. Boy, will they be surprised when they see the pictures we chose! I can't wait to give it to them.
Greg: I guess we have more time to get ready because Christmas is December 25. My little sister and brother still think Santa brings their gifts and leaves them under our tree. Your calendar sounds like a neat idea but I think I'll buy my family some presents at the mall.
Charlie: For Chanukah, my parents give my sister and me a present on each of the eight nights the holiday lasts. Some Jewish families give presents all at once, like you do.
Greg: Why does Hanukkah last for eight days?
Charlie: Well, you see, the Assyrian Greek King Antiochus IV captured and desecrated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. By the time the Maccabees recaptured it, there was enough holy oil to last for only one day. But guess what! It wound up lasting for eight days instead!! We light candles in a menorah, or candelabra, every night. On the first night, we light one; on the second night, two; and so on until all candles are lit on the eighth night. The tallest candle is the shammash and we use it to light all the others.
Greg: Wow! We light candles, too, but for a different reason. You know that Christmas is the day Jesus was born. Well, in medieval times, there was a legend that the Christ Child would be wandering the Earth in search of places He would be welcomed. When we put candles in our windows or along our walkways, it's to signify that He is welcome at our house. Of course, no one knew how He would be dressed so the custom arose that people were not turned away on Christmas.
Charlie: That's interesting. What do you do on Christmas Eve?
Greg: We celebrate Christmas Eve by having a big mass at church and singing Christmas carols. Did you know the most famous carol service comes from Cambridge in England? It was first performed in 1918 from King's College as a way to celebrate that World War I had ended!
Charlie: Well, for Chanukah, there is no special temple service. We do have parties, though, and celebrate with eating festive meals, dancing, playing games, and opening presents. All our relatives get together and that makes me happy. Because oil is so important to Chanukah, many foods are made with it. My favorite is potato latkes, or pancakes, served with applesauce...yum! Do you eat anything special for Christmas?
Greg: Yep! Our family eats roast turkey! Some of my friends' families eat ham, though. You want to know what I love most? The Christmas cookies and apple pie! My grandparents like the fruitcake. I love that my entire family comes over. What else do you do on Hanukkah?
Charlie: My family plays our favorite game, dreidel. A dreidel is a spinning top with four Hebrew letters on it. We play with nuts and everyone puts three into the kitty to begin. If someone spins and lands on three of the letters, they either do nothing, take half the kitty, or put in three more nuts. The lucky player who lands on Gimmel, though, wins the whole pot! We also like getting chocolate candy wrapped in gold paper to resemble coins. It's called Chanukah gelt because gelt is the Hebrew word for money. What is your favorite part of Christmas?
Greg: Hmm. I love so many things about it but I guess I really enjoy how my family comes together and decorates our Christmas tree. Everyone does his part and hangs glass ornaments, tinsel, and strung popcorn. And, oh, the singing! All of us are smiling and happy. By the way, did you know that many Christmas customs we observe today started in Germany? The English Queen, Victoria, visited relatives over there and fell in love with Prince Albert. After they got married and returned to England, the English people loved their tree and hand-blown glass ornaments. In the US, the tree tradition probably began with the Hessian troops during the American Revolution or with German immigrants. In 1851, a farmer from the Catskill Mountains sold evergreen trees in New York City and by 1920, the custom of having a Christmas tree was very common. I can't imagine Christmas without one!

Narrator: The boys are close to the basketball court, again.

Charlie: Well, we're back where we started! I learned alot about Christmas. You know, even though we have different religions and celebrate different holidays, we both love getting together with our families at this time of year and enjoy the spirit of exchanging presents.
Greg: Yeah, it's nice to know we have something in common besides basketball. Thanks for telling me about Hanukkah. The court's pretty empty, now. Do you still have time to shoot some hoops?
Charlie: You bet!

Narrator: The boys take off for the court and start playing basketball.

Activities for use with this play
1. The above play can be read by three children or used as part of a program with the inclusion of Christmas, Chanukah, and winter songs and dances.
2. Have children attempt writing a similar play about two other countries' observances.
3. Make a comparison chart for Christmas and Chanukah and include this information from the play: religious significance, presents, candles, celebrations, and foods.
4. Do further research on other symbols of each holiday.

However you celebrate the season, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!
About the Author
Freda J. Glatt, MS, retired from teaching after a 34-year career in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. Her focus, now, is to reach out and help others reinforce reading comprehension and develop a love for reading. Visit her site at Reading is FUNdamental!

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