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Welcome to the Love Santa Blog

What is a Hanukah Dreidel?

In Australia, Christmas is well known (and yes we’re slightly biased about that at Love Santa!) but there are other significant events and traditions in December.

One such celebration is Hanukah.

Hanukah

Also spelt Chanukah, Hanukah means dedication. It is a Jewish celebration of lights that lasts for 8 days. While not the most significant Jewish celebration, it has increased in prominence in recent years in response to Christmas celebrations in the western world.

Hanukah dates back to the second century BC (so about 2,200 years ago) when the Jews reclaimed their holy temple in Jerusalem back from the Greeks. There was little oil left after the Greeks left but they managed to light candles in the menorah for 8 nights. After 8 days, they had prepared a new batch of oil with appropriate rituals.

hanukkiyah - 9 candles in a menorah for HanukahTraditions include lighting one candle a day for eight days in the hanukkiyah (a nine candle menorah – something like a candelabra), often putting the candles in a window or doorway, and saying certain prayers. Dishes cooked in oil are common in honour of the limited oil available at the temple – the most well known being latke (potato pancakes) and sufganya (jam filled doughnuts). It is also a time of many songs and singing.

Children were once given gelt or gifts of coins to reward positive behaviour and devotion to studying the Torah. The gelt was also to encourage children to give tzedakah (charity). Over time, this resulted in foil covered chocolate coins and the giving of gifts more like Christmas presents since the late 1800s.

Hanukah is part of the winter solstice – although it is summer for us of course! It can start on any day except Tuesday, and is on the 25th of Kislev. Kislev is a month in Jewish calendar which is lunar based so Hanukah start anytime between 28 November and 26 December in a western calendar. This year, Hanukah begins on the evening of Sunday 28 November and ends on Monday 6 December 2021.

Dreidel

A wooden dreidel (spinning top) showing SHIN

Another Hanukah tradition is playing with a dreidel.

A dreidel is a four sided spinning top. On each side is written a Hebrew letter – nun, gimmel, hei and shin. Together, these letters represent nes gadol hayah sham, “a great miracle happened there”. It is played by placing a bet on which letter the top will land on – the winner getting a pot of coins, nuts or similar.

Alternatively, children may have spin offs to see who can spin their dreidel the longest.

 

Cut out pattern of a dreidel (spinning top) in bright colours

The crayon’s Christmas includes a cut out dreidel to make. You can see all four sides here

Writing to Santa

This time in 7 weeks it will be Christmas Eve!

Get those letters started!

A child's hands and hair as she writes a letter to Santa (asking for My Little Pony)One of the most special Christmas activities or traditions is writing a letter to Santa. And if you and your children have not yet thought about these letters, now may be a good time to start…

With COVID-19, postal deliveries are much slower and that is likely to be more so as more items are posted and delivered in the lead up to Christmas. So getting letters to the North Pole (and back again if you’re lucky enough to get a reply) may take longer this year.

And if you use Santa letters for ideas on children’s gifts as well, the sooner you get those ideas the better as, again, delivery of online orders may be slow and shops may not stay fully stocked with supply chain delays.

 

 

 

Writing Santa’s letter

Little girl writing on a Love Santa letter template

What is so great about writing to Santa? Well, mostly it is fun!

It also teaches kids letter writing skills, literacy, and gives them something constructive to do while they wait for Santa to actually arrive!

I also find that Santa letters are a great way to lookback on your children when they were little. I have copies of their Santa letters in an album (along with letters signed Love Santa!) and my kids love looking back at what they used to want and how their writing has improved.

If you’re not sure how to start writing to Santa, you can use our Santa letter template and our writing to Santa tips. We also have some tips on making the letters extra special with colour and drawings.

Remember that the letter is from the child. so let them help – whether that means they write most of it and you can’t read it, they dictate and you scribe, you write for them and they sign in, or some combination, just let them feel some ownership of the letter. And you can set the example by writing your own letter to Santa – it’s a great family activity to write letters together.

The twelve dogs of Christmas – Christmas book review

The twelve dogs of Christmas

Elizabeth’s Studio by Kevin Whitlark
Milltownimages of cloth book called the 12 dogs of Christmas

Age group:

babies and toddlers

Format:

10 cloth pages*

This book was given to a young friend of ours and shown to me as something a bit, well strange!

The story

An animal lover’s version of the 12 days of Christmas.

My review

So the text is no real surprise in that it follows the pattern of ‘on the first day my true dog sent me one…, on the second day he sent me two…’ and each day has the appropriate number of dogs given.

This is a cloth book so suitable for babies and toddlers to manipulate and chew on! It has larger pages than most cloth books, I think, but is quite thin (ie there is no real padding between the pages as some cloth books have).

At the same time, the content is a bit long for a baby or toddler so may suit older children or even adult dog lovers wanting something a little different. Of course, the pictures and the key text for each page would be enough for a toddler to follow.

The illustrations match the words, so there are six dogs playing and so forth. The dogs are cartoon drawings in full colour and quite cute.

However, some of the dogs’ actions were unexpected to say the least. For example, a fat cat in a fur tree and ten labs a’ licking are a little strange and ‘11 puppies pooping’ was a bit tasteless and unnecessary to my mind.

So do I recommend it? Not really! It’s not awful or worth avoiding but I just can’t see enough value in taking the time to find it, make it or read it, frankly.

* Or can be used as 10 panels to hang on a wall or create a quilt from, apparently.

The Christmas matchmakers

promo of Christmas Matchmakers movieLast night, just for something to watch in lock down, we watched a Christmas movie that came up on our feed.

Christmas Matchmakers

Movie duration:  1 hour 27 minutes
Movie made: December 2019

I hadn’t heard anything about this movie prior to watching it – which is the way  prefer to watch movies so I can just enjoy it without any preconceptions.

Staring Anna Marie Dobbins and Andrew Rogers as executive assistants to workaholics Vivica A. Fox and Dorian Gregory, this movie shows two people coming together to make Christmas better. Wanting their bosses to enjoy Christmas so they can have some time off themselves, they try a bit of match making.

Jen & Jon from the Christmas Matchmakers

It reminded me of those movies where the kids try and match make their parents, like The Parent Trap and It takes two. Overall, it is a sweet movie, although a bit saccharine sweet with overly smilely characters. And yes it predictably has a happy ending…

Owen and Kate in the Christmas Matchmakers

There were a couple of weird bits that stood out to me. Namely, why did two people working for executives in different companies end up having offices next to each other? And the expensive housing for two young people struggling to start their careers was a bit unrealistic.

However, I disliked the overreaction of the young male lead when the woman he liked wanted to take it slow – it felt very wrong to have him yell at her for ‘knowing what you were doing to me’, and not apologise for it. Jon’s behaviour here was disrespectful and it was out of sync with the feel of the movie.

I actually found the two bosses more interesting and engaging than the two main characters.

Would I recommend this movie? Well I certainly won’t bother watching it again. But it fits most of the criteria for a light hearted, easy-watching movie, other than Jon’s tantrums.

Dear Santa Hannah can explain – Christmas book review

Dear Santa, Hannah can explain Green cover of Dear Santa Hannah can explain

written & illustrated by Heath McKenzie
Lake Press, Hawthorn, 2020

Age group: 4 to 7 years
Format: 32 page hardcover picture book

I spotted a display of Christmas books yesterday and wanted to see what these personalised books are like. I grabbed the Hannah version to give a friend as our family’s names were not available.

The story

Hannah tries to peak at some Christmas presents but tries to pass it off as looking for ideas on what to give her family. Unfortunately, this sets off a string of incidents that need explaining

My review

A cartoon girl hanging from a cupboard above a stool and a startled catOriginally, there was just ‘Dear Santa I can explain‘ which was first published back in 2017. Now, there is a series of these books that are personalised a bit so the main character’s name could be Hannah, Aria, Thomas or Michael, and so on. Or you could choose ‘my son/grandson’ or ‘my daughter/granddaughter’, which is good as the range of names isn’t extensive (understandably).

The pictures tell this story, with the text just leading your interpretation of what is happening. I enjoyed it more on the second reading because I caught more of the story in the pictures. Instead of a spilt drink being the issue, that is Hannah realising her sister would like a new outfit, and so on. The pictures are detailed and the expression of Hannah’s family’s faces are quite funny.

A cartoon girl watching a fishtank land on a car roofIt will certainly stand out to Santa as one of the more creative letters he receives! Hannah doesn’t just explain her actions but also asks Santa for gift ideas. She doesn’t ask for anything for herself though!

Would I recommend Dear Santa Hannah can explain? I love the personalised element, and I was amused with parts of it. It’s short and cute, and kids will laugh and love the feeling it is about them.

Christmas elves visiting Hogwarts!

Hogwarts and elves seems a reasonable fit, so not a huge surprise that our Christmas elves are visiting Hogwarts today!

More specifically, the elves are in the Lego Harry Potter advent calendar with Harry, Hermione and Ron. And both elves are on paintbrush broomsticks!

Christmas elves visiting Hogwarts advent calendar on paint brushes

So, most obvious is Tinkles. She is flying on a paint brush (aka broomstick!) above Hogwarts with Harry’s help. They seem to be sharing the wand!

Christmas elf visiting Hogwarts advent calendar with Harry on a paintbrush

Ginger is also on a paintbrush. However, she and Hermione are still on the ground. Maybe Hermione wants to stay at the Yule Ball instead of flying off with Ginger? Ron is certainly watching closely…

Christmas elf visiting Hogwarts advent calendar with Hermione on a paintbrush

As always, I love the fine details Lego thinks to add. Like Hedwig and broomstick shaped Christmas gift under the tree. Or the mix of a microphone and a gramophone!

Christmas elves play games offline

Our Christmas elves were playing games last night, and this morning are inviting the kids to join in!

First we noticed Ginger driving the shoe train! She is giving train rides to various Lego characters… I think the kids would jump on board, too, if only they were small enough to fit on or in a shoe!

Christmas elf playing trains by sitting in a row of old shoes

Shoe-shoe-shoe, shoe-shoe-shoe, toot-toot!

Then we spotted Tinkles up on a shelf, playing Candy Crush! Only, she is playing it with real lollies and the hammer from her tool box 🙂 My daughter loves that one lolly had already been crushed and is very hopeful of getting to eat the game once Tinkles is done playing.

Christmas elf playing candy crush with real lollies and a hammer!

Tinkles wrote a note “wanna play Candy Crush?” but she isn’t offering up her hammer for anyone else to play with!

Christmas elf playing candy crush with real lollies and a hammer!

Have you seen any elves playing offline games they devised themselves?

Christmas elves at the Christmas tree, being cheeky

Tinkles grew overnight!

At least, that is what I told the kids. Tinkles caught my eye immediately this morning as I went to wake the kids up. My son instantly asked if she was on stilts, but my daughter was wondering how Tinkles grew!

I think Tinkles was being a sociable Christmas elf chatting to the two Santa decorations on the tree, or maybe she was straightening up the Christmas train on the tree.

Christmas elf on stilts (actually Christmas paper rolls)

If you look carefully, Ginger was close by, but it was my daughter who found her a bit later. The cheeky elf is peeking into Christmas presents under the tree!

baby Christmas elf poking head into a wrapped Christmas gift

Have your elves ever been cheeky around the tree?

Still some Christmas lights in Ivanhoe

The Boulevard in Ivanhoe (an eastern suburb of Melbourne) is well known for its Christmas lights.

Most years, the Boulevard is a very popular spot. A slow moving line of cars moves along the street (which becomes one way only for the Christmas period) while crowds of people walk along to see the lights close up. Some nights, there are musicians playing carols at a number of houses as well. The surrounding streets also have some beautifully decorated homes.

Fast forward to 2020 and a pandemic – the local council cancelled the event.

reduced lights in 2020

As we drove past Ivanhoe last night, we decided to drive down the Boulevard and have a look. Just because the event was cancelled doesn’t mean every house would be unadorned…

A few houses had a Christmas tree in a window and a few lights. So the street was pretty dark.

Except for one house with a deep front yard which was full of lights and decorations!

collage of photos of Christmas lights and large Santa in an Ivanhoe frontyard

That house was recently up for sale. Perhaps that is why it was decorated this year as the final farewell to 60 years of the family home.

Just for fun, here are some photos of the Boulevard in previous years. Starting with the same house featured this year:

 

A cosy elf hiding spot!

It took me quite a while to find the elves this morning – and I’m not sure the kids have found them yet! They were cuddled up together on the blanket shelf in our linen press.

Christmas elves lying on blankets in a linen press

Would you like a snuggly day, too?

Christmas yoga in the high country!

Last day of school for 2020 and many people are finishing up work as we near Christmas, so there an air of relaxation and stress release around.

Our elves both found a way to relax and head into the holiday mode – we found TInkles on my yoga mat this morning! She started doing a forward bend from the splits (not a move I could master!)

However, we spotted her in different poses through the day (which is fair enough as an entire day in any one yoga pose would be tough to maintain!)

Meanwhile, Ginger was resting on top of a photo hanging  on our wall, overlooking Tinkles on the yoga mat. The photo itself is of Wallace’s Hut up in the Victoria High Country – visiting the High Country, even via a photo is definitely something I would put on a list of good ways to relax!

The photo is of Wallace Hut  – a hut built by three brothers in 1889 near Falls Creek and now the oldest surviving cattlemen’s hut. It is such a beautiful part of the world.

 

Construction elf!

Tinkles was in work mode this morning, wearing a high vis vest and carrying a stop sign.

Christmas elf in a high vis vest holding a stop sign and sitting on various plumbing items

The kids loved her little tool box, complete with tape measure, scissors (that actually cut paper my daughter discovered!), saw and hammer.

Woodne tool box with a saw, hammer, tape measure and scissors - all elf sized!

Watching Tinkles work must have built up Ginger’s appetite, as we found her in a punnet of cherry tomatoes!

a baby Christmas elf sitting in a punnet of tomatoes

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