Welcome to the answer portion of my 5th annual Jew & A! We've got some good questions this year — far better than the answers, to be sure — so read on.Gillian asks:
If you were going to have a party for kindergarteners celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas and the Winter Solstice what elements from each holiday would you emphasize in the celebration?
Chocolate gelt, Christmas cookies, and... uh... Olaf? Sure, why not. Olaf.
If you're worried this would result in a massive frenzy of sugar-laden five-year-olds bouncing off the walls and singing "Let It Go" endlessly at the top of their lungs, you worry too much. Remember: Gillian didn't ask what elements I'd recommend for such a party; she asked what I'd do if I were throwing it. I would be like a god to those kindergartners. A god with a video camera and a suddenly viral YouTube channel.
Alex J. Cavanaugh asks:
What happens if you forget to light a candle one night?
You get an extra candle to use next year.
But seriously, if someone misses a candle he is inevitably overcome by crippling guilt at having failed an entire race of people, guilt that would reduce the toughest man in the world to a useless puddle of blubbering and tears. But of course, we're Jews, so that's pretty much par for the course. We barely notice.
What should I tell my Jewish 4-year-old about Santa Claus? Or should I just let him find out on the street?
Don't you dare let my nephew find out about Santa on the street. You might think it'd be good for him to see the jolly old elf standing outside a local store collecting money for charity. But 4-year-olds interpret that as taking payoffs from people to ensure they make it on his Good list. Plus, it's just as likely he'd first come across a drunken, slovenly Santa letching after girls from an alleyway. Either way, once he started sharing his thoughts on Santa with friends, he'd be ridiculed.
You should go the explanation route instead. Share both of the prevailing schools of thought on Santa and let him decide which one to believe. (As a reminder, they are: 1) the Theory of Evolution — that Santa's otherworldly powers evolved over the years as a matter of survival, to avoid being relegated to the dustbin of forgotten saints; and 2) the Theory of Creationism — that Santa is, in fact, an entirely made-up construct with no basis in reality.) Good luck! I hope he turns out to be a creationist like his uncle!
What is the preferred dance move to accompany the Dreidel Song?
The traditional Dreidel Song dance is actually a series of moves done in quick succession: the Tiny Dancer, the Easy Bake, the Tick Tock, and the Half-Twist, with your choice of either the Whirling Dervish or the Weeble Wobble during the chorus. Repeat until the singer gets tired of singing the same verse over and over, because it's the only one she knows.
Jewish Like the Olive Garden is Italian asks:
What qualifies you to answer questions on Judaism? You haven't been to synagogue since you were eight, and your family's sole method for celebrating every Jewish holiday (except Hanukkah) is a brisket dinner.
Um, I'm Jewish. Duh.
All Jewish knowledge is passed down genetically, so it's innate.*
* Get it? Innate? (Yeah, unfortunately, punning aptitude is also passed down genetically. Thanks, Dad.)
And that'll do it for this latest session of Jew & A. I hope it has been enlightening for you. Now bring on the kindergartners!