Our father’s parents were Polish Jews. Our mother’s were Christian missionaries in Sierra Leone. Our cousins Cindy and Lucy Ann were Colombian American and our cousins Sonia and Evelyn were Liberian American. We had some crazy celebrations back in the day.
My Recommendations for the Winter Holidays
This hadn’t been published when I was a kid, but we got it as a present after my kids were born. Stories for Children by Isaac Bashevis Singer has some terrific Chanukah stories for older kids. (No pictures--but you can use your imagination. A good alternative if you think you’re too old for picture books.)
Best Chanukah Song (According to Me)
I’m pretty sick of “I Had a Little Dreidl.” My new favorite Chanukah song, which is in Ladino, is “Ocho Kandelikas.” Listen to it on one of these CD’s:
I discovered A Christmas Memory when I was a twenty-something. Truman Capote writes about making fruitcake with his eccentric older cousin (a lady in her sixties) in Alabama. It's also a movie, with Patty Duke.
Since I’m from the South, I do like stories about eccentric Southerners. (The best kind.) So I’m going to read these accounts this year:
- Nothing with Strings: NPR's Beloved Holiday Stories by Bailey White.
- My Mom Loved A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. And I like it partly because of my Welsh name. You can get it from the San Mateo County Library in several editions: Candlewick Press, Holiday House, and illustrated. It is also available as a book on CD, read by the author (the way I remember it).
Opera for the Season
Every year after we got a TV, we used to watch Amahl and the Night Visitors, an opera by Gian Carlo Menotti, with our Mom. I don’t even like opera, but I liked that. (I thought it was a musical, like Guys and Dolls.) Read the book (for children). Listen to the original cast album.
Just Don't Choose!
This is a cool picture book that doesn’t force you to choose one side or the other of your family or neighbors:
Elijah's Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas by Michael J. Rosen; illustrated by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson.
No matter how you spell it, it’s a fun holiday. The little girl in this picture book visits her aunt, who celebrates Chanukah (or Januca) the Mexican way: Hanukkah Moon by Deborah da Costa ; illustrated by Gosia Mosz.
Most of our Kwanzaa books are for kids. But maybe you’re an adult who always meant to celebrate Kwanzaa, but didn’t know how? Try one of these:
- Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture by Maulana Karenga.
- How to Celebrate the African American Holiday Kwanzaa [DVD]
Vaughn H. works at Half Moon Bay Library and goes out on the Bookmobile.