Eight Candles and a Tree

Years ago, when I first started out working in public media, the second time around that is, I was hired to do something I knew little about: community outreach.  But heck, that wasn’t about to stop me from doing the best job possible.

So I went in desperate search for any information I could glean, any knowledge I could take in.  And that’s how I met Simone Bloom Nathan.

A wonderful, compassionate woman, Simone, who grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, lives in Brookline, Massachusetts. Of course, we met in Los Angeles, where she was doing a diversity training in partnership with the public TV station there.  The training was aimed at outreach professionals in the public media system and was designed to give them the tools needed to teach child care providers and parents how to use “The Puzzle Place,” a high quality children’s TV series all about tolerance and acceptance.

It proved to be an invaluable training.  I found Simone’s knack for teaching and being, well, such an awesome, compassionate woman, very inspiring.

Fast forward to now. Simone, in her continued support of diversity and tolerance, has written a sweet, endearing book for the holidays, “Eight Candles and a Tree.”  Happily, Simone has been gracious enough to answer some questions I recently posed to her. I’m thrilled to share her response with you.


1) Who did you write this book for?

I wrote the book for families with young children who celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas.

2) What inspired you to write “Eight Candles and a Tree?”

A few years ago, when my granddaughter was three, I went to my local bookstore to buy her a picture book about celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas, but surprisingly, to me, I could find a book on the topic. I decided I was going to write one. Little did I know that it would take three years of research and learning about picture books before I actually was able to hold the book in my hands.

3) What is the message you are hoping to convey through the story and why should families be more accepting or flexible in celebrating the holidays?

With 60% of Jews marrying out of the faith and more than a third of all marriages interfaith, I think it’s important to validate and accept that all families have different traditions and different ways to celebrate their holidays. I also tried to convey that there is no “right” way or only way to celebrate a holiday, and that each family develops their own rituals and traditions.

4) What are some of your own memories and experiences of celebrating the holidays and what does celebrating Hanukkah mean to you?

I grew up Jewish in Johannesburg South Africa, where Hanukkah was a minor holiday that my family celebrated by lighting the menorah candles and eating latkes. We didn’t give or get presents. When I immigrated to the United States, and particularly when my own children were born here, I realized that in this country, Hanukkah is considered a “major” holiday, especially from retailers’ point of view. So my family started making our own new Hanukkah traditions that included menorah candle-lighting, making latkes and giving small gifts.

 5) What would you say to a parent who may be trying to figure out how they will honor their traditions as well as their spouse’s?

Here are my tips for interfaith families:

  • Make a conscious decision as a family to create and celebrate traditions that honor both faiths. There is no “right” way or “only” way to practice a religion or celebrate a culture, and interfaith families have a unique opportunity to make their own traditions and celebrations.
  • Show an interest in and enthusiasm for your significant other’s religion and culture. While you may not have grown up with it, it’s part of your family’s life now.
  • Connect your children to their grandparents and great-grandparents by telling and re-telling family stories. Children in a recent study who had high levels of self-confidence knew they belonged to something bigger than themselves.
  • Good communication is one of the foundations of a happy family. When children ask you about religion or culture, answer questions that you can, and offer to find out together about questions that you don’t know the answer to.
  • Find opportunities to link with other interfaith families in your community. For example, the Interfaith Families Project of Washington DC has weekly Sunday gatherings and educational programs that expose families to both Christianity and Judaism.

6) Anything else you’d like to add, including where can you buy the book?

Monica’s Tangled Web readers can purchase the book at a special discounted price of $15 with free shipping at simonebloomnathan.com. Mention Monica’s name. The book is also available at Amazon or through Beaver’s Pond Press.


Congratulations to Debbie of Musings by an ND Domer’s Mom, for winning my NaBloPoMo contest. Debbie, bless her heart, commented on my blog nearly every day–29 days in all!  Whoopee, Debbie, your electronic Amazon gift card is on its way!

Better luck, next time, to my two runners-up, who I treasure dearly for being just as committed to visiting my blog: Meditating Mummy and Robert of Mid Life Tales missed only two days.

To all those who supported me during the 30 days of blogging, thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. I wish I could give you all Amazon gift cards!

20 thoughts on “Eight Candles and a Tree

  1. I’m happy I was a runner-up along with Robert. But really, it was my pleasure. I love reading your posts, having a giggle or two or just thinking deeply about a question you’ve posed. I’ve met Kim and Kathy on your blog and they’re lovely – Thank you.

    I love this interview. What a beautiful cover. Simone sounds wonderful. I have many Jewish friends who celebrate Hannukah and Christmas together. The kids enjoy it and the adults have made their own special traditions for the children, where they celebrate with their grandparents, aunts and uncles on each holiday. It is truly lovely to celebrate that way.

    • I’m so happy, too, MM. It couldn’t have happened to a better blogger. To tell you the truth, you and Robert are in good company. But don’t tell him I said that. It might go to his head. You on the other hand, are quite sensible and will take it for what it’s worth. You’re a good egg, MM. A very good one at that!

      • I see I got a mention, I am not sure if it was a complement or not!!!!

        The wife says I have been known to be quite sensible, but normally only when I am asleep!!!

  2. Nice interview, Monica. I have a small collection of children’s books and I may add this to it. I don’t know a great deal about Hanukkah, so this would be enlightening to me as well.

    So, Debbie won’t the little gift card, huh…Hmph.

    • In a way, Tots, I was wishing I could’ve won, as I love to shop on Amazon and could’ve used the gift card. But alas, I was disqualified from the get go. The proprietor of this blog didn’t think it appropriate. Go figure. Maybe next year? As for the book, I hope you do add it to your collection. Hanukkah is a lovely holiday. My favorite Hanukkah dish is latkes with apple sauce. Yum!

  3. Pingback: Closing a circle | simone bloom nathan

  4. Thank you Monica for your kind words. I so appreciate the opportunities we had to connect with and learn from our PBS colleagues around the country during our Puzzle Place trainings. As Sherri said…”good and important times.”

  5. I love the title of this little picture book, and for so many reasons I won’t go into here, I’m intrigued to look for it. So many cultures are blended and folded over so many times, I think it’s wonderful that she writes to be sure her granddaughter is free to acknowledge and celebrate her own family’s culture. Every family has a unique culture and what a treasure (not buried, as Robert referenced) to know grandma wrote a book for her. It’s an interesting study the one that reveals “Children in a recent study who had high levels of self-confidence knew they belonged to something bigger than themselves.” I will have to look for this and of course, I want to check out the dedication page knowing why she wrote the book.

    Congratulations to Debbie who faithfully met each of your posts daily. I enjoy reading her comments as well as Robert’s. Kudos to you for posting every day especially in light of the fact it was challenging to comment each day much less write a post.

    • If you can’t find the book in your local bookstore, please consider ordering it directly from Simone. I bet she’ll even sign it for you if you ask. It’s really a nice story.

      In any case, that study revelation I totally believe. Growing up, I remember the pride it gave me knowing I was part of something. So giving kids that self confidence is so important. Anyway, visit Simone’s website. I’m sure she’d love to hear from you.

  6. I won?? Really and truly?? Gosh, I never win anything — thank you, thank you, thank you, Monica!! I enjoyed keeping up with your blog-every-day thingy — I knew you could do it, too!

    This sounds like an interesting picture book. Religious leaders might frown on their congregations marrying outside of the faith, but we all know it happens. And then the focus should be on doing what it takes to keep the family together! I admire Simone’s persistence in getting her book published.

    • Congratulations on getting the prize! I hope it makes your Christmas holiday just a little bit sweeter. Fyi, you’re supposed to receive it in your email tomorrow, but let me know if you don’t.

  7. Thanks Mon for this great information on Simone’s book. What a wonderful gift for families. I, too, was at the Puzzle Place training those many years ago and felt it was one of PBS’s most amazing children’s programs, celebrating diversity in all aspects, and Simone an amazing lady. This continues that wonderful mission. I will see if my local bookstore can order it!!

    • I think that’s where we met! Those were the days, eh Sherri? I loved those trainings and miss the camaraderie we all had there. As for the book, you can order it directly from Simone. She’s giving my readers a discount! Isn’t that cool??

      • Yes dear lady that was where we meet. It was a magical experience for me, I remember it all very well. Good and important times. xx oo

  8. An interesting book Monica, it’s also available I note on Amazon.co.uk for people this side of the pond.

    It gets excellent reviews on Amazon. Though I think the UK price is a bit on the expensive side.

    We need to be more tolerant of people of other faiths and cultures, sad to say many are not. I love finding out about other cultures and religions, even though I am an atheist. We can always learn from other people irrespective of who they are or for that matter their age.

    Pleased I came second in comments on your blog last month, I enjoyed your posts immensely. As you mention my midlife tales blog I had better get myself into gear and do a few posts. I am not sure about being treasured, after all don’t you bury treasure?

    • Well said, Robert. The world would be a better place if we could all be a little more tolerant. When you think of all the wars in our history, most of them were started in the name of religion. I can’t think of one war started because people were too tolerant of each other.

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