Jewish Peanuts

BETH HANNAN

December 03, 1992|By BETH HANNAN

I've been a ''Peanuts'' fan for years. I've literally grown up with the ''Peanuts'' specials. ''It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown'' and ''A Charlie Brown Christmas'' are as traditional in my house as pumpkins and Christmas trees.

But I have a question.

Why haven't there been any ''Peanuts'' for the Jewish holidays?

There have been ''Peanuts'' specials for almost every holiday including Arbor Day, and that special was created prior to the recent flourishing of the environmental movement. ''Peanuts'' specials have always been educational, whether the message is subtle, such as standing up for your beliefs as Linus did in ''The Great Pumpkin,'' or overt, such as the ''Why, Charlie Brown, Why?'' special that explained leukemia when a new student was being treated for the disease. Why not use the ''Peanuts'' gang to teach children about another religion?

Personally, I'd structure it a bit like the leukemia special. A new student (let's call him David) could enter school right before the Christmas season. When greedy Sally talks about everything she wants for Christmas, another character could ask David what he wants for Christmas. David could then explain that he's Jewish, so he celebrates Hanukkah, not Christmas.

When the rest of the gangs chimes in with questions Linus -- the resident scholar -- can help David answer the questions and explain the story of the Maccabees and the miracle of the temple. A few kids might pick on David for his beliefs while the rest of the gang defends him -- but I think that's too trite. Besides, why set a bad example? I'd rather see the Peanuts gang decide that David might feel left out when they have their holiday party, so they try to include some Jewish customs in their celebrations.

Besides teaching the children watching a little bit about a religion they might be unfamiliar with, it would also demonstrate that people of different beliefs and customs can coexist. For that matter, they can enjoy their holidays more by sharing their customs with others.

Wouldn't ''Peanuts'' would be perfect for this? I've always associated the ''Peanuts'' gang with the best aspects of childhood. By showing them care and respect for others, they could be teaching children the true spirit of both holidays.

Beth Hannan is an editorial assistant for The Baltimore Sun.

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