Celebrating Hanukkah Books

It's not easy to be a family which does *not* celebrate Christmas.  When we are out in public during the latter days of December (i.e. after Christmas) it often occurs that kind, well-intentioned strangers will ask my older son what he got for Christmas.  You should see the looks of incredulity, perplexity and slight horror on their faces when he answers with a funny grin, "I got nothing for Christmas."  They look back and forth from his face to mine, having trouble imagining how this could be so.  I smile sweetly (to cover my slight grimace) and confirm that, indeed, we do not celebrate Christmas. A look of pity creeps into the faces of these strangers when I tell them that, instead of Christmas, we celebrate Hanukkah.  I always walk away from these exchanges marveling at the assumption that everyone in the world celebrates Christmas and that any child who lacks a Christmas Tree must surely be deprived.  Please don't misunderstand me here. I love Christmas and the beautiful story of the nativity.  I enjoy seeing all the decorations, learning about the family traditions of our friends and watching the Nutcracker performed by the San Francisco Ballet.  But, neither my husband nor I were raised celebrating Christmas and we don't celebrate Christmas in our own home now.  While we may love it, it's simply not our holiday.

The thing is, bombarded by over-commercialized glitz, omnipresent through the month of December, my older son used to really want to celebrate Christmas (and yes!  the bombardment of over-commercialized glitz can be a problem even for families celebrating Christmas!)  It did not matter how many candles we lit or how many lovely gifts he received, our little Mr. still wanted Christmas (or a commercialized idea of Christmas) until we got some really great Hanukkah books.  It was the magic of these books which brought magic to our own family celebrations.

Our first and foremost favorite Hanukkah book is Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel.  What's not to love?  A spooky, abandoned house, a passel of creepy goblins and a very clever fellow who outwits the goblins and lights the glowing candles of Hannukah...

Our next favorite is ZigaZak, also by Eric Kimmel (more naughty goblins!)

And then there's this delightful story -- the Chanukkah Guest (thanks again, Eric Kimmel!)

For a bit of good natured humor there's The Best Hanukkah Ever by Barbara Diamond Goldin...

And also this clever book -- Malke's Secret Recipe by David A. Adler.

The newest addition to our Hanukkah book collection, The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket, is seriously irreverent!

And finally, a story which is not necessarily for Hanukkah, but so beautiful that I had to share it --  
The Treasure By Uri Shulevitz.


  1. Oh let it be lucky numbe one, because you know if you don't give it to me I am going to have to buy it...
    Happy Hanukkah.. your gifts are now looking very new yearish!

  2. i'm not jewish, but i would still love to have this book to expose julia to other religions. looks beautifully illustrated!

  3. As soon as I saw your book list, I put all but one of these books on hold from the library. I have been on the lookout for good Hanukkah books.

  4. What a great treasury of books! I am enamored with Trina Schart Hyman's illustrations (Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins), and am particularly fond of The Treasure as well. May your holiday be filled with hope and light!

  5. If Shannon doesn't win it I hope I will! Shannon, I will buy you a copy if you don't - depends who gets to the book depositiry first. Peggy I just love the photo's of your boys lighting an obviously old family Hanukkah. Who are the characters depicted on the Hannukah? Now can you set me straight - is the 20th Dec the start or the Eight Night? We will join you in spirit and light all the children's candles they made this year at school. Blessings for light hope and joy for all. warm wishes Clare and Co xxxx

  6. I am so grateful to you for this post! I am just working on one now about the problems we face at Christmas (with us celebrating Hanukkah and my family celebrating Christmas). My daughter also goes to a public school that still focuses a lot of December on Christmas. Anyway, more to come, but I just wanted to say thank you for the encouraging words! I do still love Christmas, but like you said, it's just not our holiday!

    And I am going to order some of these books today!

  7. I want this to be the year I read Herhsel and the Hannukah Goblins--I've heard such good things about it, and Trina Schart Hyman is one of my favorite illustrators. Thanks for the giveaway!

  8. I just heard on NPR yesterday that they are currently making Hershel and Hanukkah Goblins into a play!
    I woud love a copy, thank you for the chance!

  9. Thanks for this great post and the chance to win!I would love to win this book! Thank you for your giveaway! I wish you a joyous Chanukkah!,

    Warm wishes,
    violaho(at) gmx.net