Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, the eight-day “Festival of Lights” that commemorates the success of the Maccabees when they fought the Seleucids 2100 years ago. When the Maccabees knew they were victorious, they realized they had enough oil to light the menorah for only one night. However, the oil lasted for eight nights. Jews eat latkes, play games with dreidels, and light candles on the menorah every night. Tonight the shamash (the middle candle) and one more candle will be lit. Hanukkah will end the night of December 20. Children could read Alexandra’s Scroll: The Story of the First Hanukkah, written by Miriam Chaikin. Children could also visit a great website, loaded with activities, at: http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/hanukkah_for_kids.htm.
Poinsettia Day marks the death of Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett. A United States diplomat assigned to Mexico, he was the first person to bring the poinsettia plant from Central America to the United States. The plant was named in honor of him. He died in 1851 near Statesburg, South Carolina. Now the poinsettia is associated with the Christmas season. The red portions of a poinsettia are actually a type of bracket leaf. The real flowers are the yellow dots in the center of the leaves. Children could read Tomie dePaola’s The Legend of the Poinsettia.
Kenya celebrates Jamhuri Day. Kenya gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1963. Today is also its Constitution Day, established a year later in 1964. This east African country, located along the equator, is slightly larger than the state of California. More than 40 million people live in this tropical country; Nairobi is the capital. Kenya exports coffee, tea and petroleum. Kenya’s coffee is quite strong. Children could find out how coffee is grown and harvested.
Pennsylvania became the second state of the United States by ratifying the Constitution in 1787. William Penn received a charter for the colony in 1681 and named it after his father. The name means, “Penn’s Woods.” The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were both signed in Philadelphia. Harrisburg is the state capital, and its nickname is the Keystone State. In 1780 it was the first state to end slavery. It is a large transportation center, since it has access to both the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Erie. Children could discover what a keystone is and how it relates to Pennsylvania’s nickname. They could also visit the America’s Library site at: Pennsylvania.
Guglielmo Marconi sent the first transoceanic radio signal from England to Newfoundland (2,200 miles) in 1901. He flew a kite 500 feet in the air to keep his antenna up and used Morse Code to transmit “s,” which is “- – -.” He, along with Ferdinand Braun, received the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics.
William Lloyd Garrison (born Newburyport, Massachusetts, 1805; died New York, New York, May 24, 1879) was an abolitionist and a writer. He was the editor of The Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper. Following the Civil War and the end of slavery, he became a proponent of women’s rights.
John Jay (born New York, New York, 1745; died Bedford, New York, May 17, 1829) was a diplomat and a writer. He co-authored the Federalist papers and was the first chief justice of the Supreme Court. Children could learn more at: John Jay
Edvard Munch (born Loten, Norway, 1863; died Ekely, Norway, January 23, 1944) was an artist. He is known for The Scream, created in 1893. Older teenagers might want to visit the Munch portion of the Google Art Project at: Edvard Munch