2017-2018 National Hospital Ambassador
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! There are many festive holidays this month for veterans and their families of various faiths and cultures. Here are a few you may want to consider helping them celebrate with an activity or a small token of remembrance.
Chanukah (also spelled Hanukkah and Hanukah) begins at sunset on Tuesday, December 12th and concludes the evening of Wednesday, December 20
Chanukah, also known as the festival of lights, is a holiday celebrated by those of Jewish faith and is observed for eight nights. The festival is observed by the lighting of the candles arranged in nine-branch candelabra called a menorah. It has eight candles with a ninth candle (the shamus) that is used to light the others each night of the holiday. Each night, another candle is added from right to left. On the eighth night, all nine candles (the eight Chanukah candles and the shammus) are lit. The candles are to be lit any time after dark, but prior to midnight.
Chanukah festivities include playing dreidel and eating oil-based foods such as doughnuts and latkes (potato pancakes). A dreidel is a four-sided wooden top used as a gambling toy found in many European cultures. You can find out how the game is played on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreidel .
If there is a veteran of Jewish faith at a local nursing home, VA or other medical facility, wouldn’t it be fun for him or her to teach his or her neighbors how to play the game! Contact the Activities Director to find out if there are Jewish residents or patients, and either a veteran or the family member of a veteran. You can sponsor the game by supplying the dreidel, latkes, doughnuts and beverages.
Christmas is Monday, December 25
Christmas is a religious holiday celebrated by those of the Christian faith. It is an annual religious and cultural celebration commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Many celebrate the holiday with gift-giving, exchanging Christmas cards, singing Christmas carols, completing an Advent calendar, attending a Nativity play and/or special church services.
Most facilities will have a celebration of Christmas gift-giving but not all will have a service celebrating the birth of Christ. If a veteran in a local nursing home, VA or other medical facility is mobile and able, what a wonderful Christmas gift it would be to take him or her to church for a true Christmas celebration. *Please check with your local facility for rules regarding an outing such as this prior to mentioning it to the resident or patient. It would be heartbreaking for a resident or patient to think they are going to attend church services on or near Christmas only to discover they are not allowed to leave the facility for whatever reason.
If a veteran is unable to attend a church service, find out when a service will be televised so they may watch it and partake in the celebration of the birth of Christ.
Kwanzaa is Tuesday, December 26 to Monday, January 1
Established in 1966, Kwanzaa is a week-long cultural celebration that honors African heritage in African-American culture. According to its founder, Maulana Karenga, the name “Kwanzaa” is derived from a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits.”
A Kwanzaa ceremony includes music, a candle-lighting ritual, and a big meal at the end of the seventh day. The seven candles symbolize the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity; self-determination; collective work and responsibility; cooperative economics; purpose; creativity; and faith.
To learn more about the celebration, Google “How to Celebrate Kwanzaa Videos” and a list of more than 23,000 videos will show up! A simple explanation is found in a Sesame Street video.
If you have never held or participated in a Kwanzaa celebration before, but know of someone or a church in your community that has, ask if you can partner with them to bring the celebration to residents or patients at a nursing home, VA or other medical facility.
New Year’s Eve is Sunday, December 31
Elderly adults and those at a nursing home, VA or other medical facility don’t often stay up until the clock strikes midnight. However, they are almost all up when the clock strikes noon. Instead of a “New Year’s Eve Party,” host a “Noon Year’s Eve Party,” complete with black and silver table cloths, sparkling juice, plastic champagne glasses, noisemakers, party hats and music. You can create a balloon drop by suspending several inflated balloons in a cradle of tulle from the ceiling to drop on the residents at just the right moment and watch with delight as they all pull out their noisemakers, blast them like it was the real thing and sing Auld Lang Syne!
I hope you all have a very happy holiday season filled with joy and love. Thank you for all you do to make this a special time of year for our veterans, especially our hospitalized veterans.