Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mensch On The Mantle

Edited to add: For those of you stopping by from Kelly's Korner on December 20, thanks for visiting. This is a new Chanukah tradition we started this year and I'm excited to continue it. Two other Chanukah traditions we have are drinking hot chocolate and reading all our Chanukah books one night (this year we did it on the seventh night) and reading the Lemony Snicket book, "The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming:a christmas story." We usually read it at our church small group Chanukah party, which has also become a fun Chanukah tradition!

Last year when Kelly of Kelly's Korner hosted a show us your life on Holiday traditions, Suzanne over at Our Life at 31-derful posted about Mensch On The Mantle. Since Dave is Jewish, and I am Christian, we have decided to focus on the religious meaning of Christmas, rather than the secular Santa and elves to differentiate as to why Jews don't celebrate it. So much as I loved the fun of the Elf on the Shelf, that wasn't going to work for us. (I actually think it's a little creepy that the Elf is supposedly watching our kids' behaviour and reporting back to Santa but I like the idea of setting up fun scenarios.) So when I read about the Mensch on the Mantle, I fell in love. I love that the idea is teaching kids how to be mensches, since a mensch is a real life good person.

So this year we introduced our mensches. I looked high and low for a doll to use as our mensch and couldn't find anything. Eventually I remembered my Raggedy Anne and Harry Potter marionettes which my parents gave me for Christmas quite a few years ago. Since it was the day before Chanukah started, and we were desperate, Dave agreed they would make wonderful mensches. Especially since Sam and Rachel don't know them as storybook characters yet!

Dave and I figured out what we would be doing for each night of Chanukah and then Dave came up with scenarios of what our mensches would be doing. On the first night of Chanukah we lit candles and the kids each got one present. Our mensches taught the kids that "A Mensch keeps traditions" and were waiting to light the Chanukah candles when the kids came downstairs that morning.
What was really funny about this picture is that Dave and I explained to the kids what traditions were, like the generations of Dave's family who have lit the menorah during Chanukah, and then Dave was explaining that the shamash (helper candle) was broken. Sam kept asking which one was the shamash and finally I pointed it out to him. Then he asked, "Well, which candle goes in the front holder then???" At that point, Dave and I realized that Dave had put the shamash in the middle of the menorah as opposed to in its shamash spot. We laughed and then pointed out to Sam that he was already doing a good job of keeping traditions!

Unfortunately, at this point, Rachel kept pointing to the mensches and saying, "Scary. Mensch scary." Oh boy.
On the second night we were involved in the final Fall evening of LOGOS, my church's mid-week program. It always ends with a labyrinth so our mensches were going through the labyrinth and the phrase was "A mensch listens."
On the third night we hosted my church small group for a Chanukah party so our mensches were enjoying tea (a meal) together and our phrase was "A mensch enjoys being with others."
On the fourth night we hosted a different group of people for a Chanukah party and our mensches were helping to make latkes. "A mensch is helpful" was our phrase.
On the fifth night we celebrated Chanukah with Dave's family so our mensches were looking at photo albums. Our phrase was "A mensch appreciates their family."
On the sixth night the kid each got a toy for a present so our mensches were sharing a ball and the phrase was "A mensch shares with other people."
On the seventh night we read Chanukah stories and drank hot chocolate. Our mensches were reading Chanukah books and our phrase was "A mensch remembers stories."
On the eighth, and final night, our plan was to buy some things for various donations we want to make this season. Sadly that plan got upstaged by illness in our house and we have yet to buy the donations. Next week, for sure! Since some of the things we wanted to buy were hats, mitts, and socks for our church's Hat And Mitten Tree, our mensches were wearing hats and mitts and our phrase was "A mensch helps those in need."

According to Dave, on Thursday morning after Chanukah was done, Rachel woke up and asked, "Mensches doing Daddy?" so I think she got used to them :)

Since this is the first year we did this, and our kids are quite young, we kept things pretty simple. We didn't write any of our phrases down and it was mostly about the fun of it. Sam, especially, enjoyed looking in each room until he found the mensches.

For next year we want to find some "mensches" which are a little more realistic and a little less floppy! Rachel was always a little concerned about the mensches and liked them best when they were "sleeping" during the day, as opposed to playing with her toys!

This is definitely a holiday tradition which I am very much looking forward to continuing in the coming years.


  1. I've never heard of a mensch...must do some Googling!! But I think your mensch thing seems way better than the Elf thing. Definitely.

  2. Great idea! Already thinking of ways to put our own spin on this next year.

  3. OH, I love these! What a great idea!

  4. I love this tradition too! I always love seeing everyone elf pictures, and part of me is a little sad that I wasn't planning on every doing it. But now I found the perfect alternative! Plus with only 8 days it's a lot easier to pull off than the entire month of December.


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