Posted on December 9th, 2015 by Rachel
In a previous existence, I was in charge of decorating an historic house museum for “the holidays” every December. This usually meant Christmas decorations, since it was a house built in the early 19th century for a family of Episcopalians. However, the house is also the main museum of the Montgomery County Historical Society (Rockville, Md.) so we did our best to change things up, and incorporate the holiday traditions of 20th and 21st century County residents.
Thus, in 2013 we decorated the parlor as if it were ready for a 1960s Chanukah celebration. I borrowed era-appropriate menorahs and dreidels from a few County families, but other elements were harder to come by. Thank goodness for the internet and the public library, which provided me with some examples of vintage decorations (and the history behind them). I found several variations (like this one) on bright and colorful “Happy Hanukkah” banners, which would suit the parlor walls – so, being well-versed in having to invent ‘antique’ decorations, I made my own banner. Here it is, hanging on the wall of the circa 1815 Beall-Dawson House, above an 1840s pianoforte.
Photo courtesy of Montgomery History, Rockville, Maryland.
Why am I writing about this now, two years later? Well, for one thing, it’s a chance to show off my craft skills; for another, it’s an opportunity to encourage you to look for – and make noise if you do not find – Jewish history within ‘general’ history museums. But really, it’s because some of the sources I used in 2013 came from the JMM collections, via our online database, and last week I came across two of those fabulous images again:
Elayne Fedder, Bernice Friedman, Myrna Cardin, and Belle Legum at the JCC Volunteers’ Chanukah Party, circa 1970. Donated by the JCC. JMM# 2006.013.456
Chanukah crafts at the JCC, circa 1970. Donated by the JCC. JMM#2006.013.274b
These great photos prompted me to delve a little further into the collections, looking for even more holiday decorations. Alas, we do not have an original paper banner, but I did find some helpful hints for making your own décor. Many of the contemporary sources advise parents to make Chanukah – though not the most important of holidays – a bright and festive time for their children. Much has been written about the whys and hows of Chanukah celebrations in modern America, and I can hardly hope to cover it all in one blog post; but for now, it’s worth noting that as private and public Christmas decorations became more and more popular in the mid 20th century, so too did Chanukah decorations.
For example, in The Jewish Home Beautiful (The National Women’s League of the United Synagogue of America, 1941), the authors advise the liberal use of crepe paper flowers and streamers, or even “a large dreidel made out of parchment or crepe paper of many bright colors;” they continue, “the color scheme should be predominately orange, the usual color of the Hanukkah candles, with green or blue as a complementary color.”
In Happy Chanuko, a 1943 picture book written by Jane Bearman and published by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (our copy was collected by Baltimore educator Louis L. Kaplan), the young protagonists are posed in front of a variety of decorative pieces, like this crepe paper streamer and electric Star of David.
“Happy Chanuko”, 1943. Louis L. Kaplan collection, donated by Efrem Potts. JMM#1995.192.158
Holiday decorating is not for everyone, and yes, Chanukah has already begun; but if this post has inspired you, I say it’s never too late to decorate! I’ll leave you with some instructions, and encouraging words, from the 1947 Hanukkah syllabus of the Holiday Institute for Jewish Mothers:
Decoration ideas, including wall streamers and a large star, from “The Holiday Institute for Jewish Mothers: Hanukkah,” (Bureau of Jewish Education, Buffalo, New York, December 1947). Rabbi Uri Miller Collection, donated by Jerome Kadden. JMM#1995.173.032
“There are so few ready-made decorations for Hanukkah one can purchase, and what fun would that be anyway! So with family cooperation, a little creativity and materials such as crepe paper, paste etc., it is surprising how well we can express our ideas. . . . We hope you will enjoy creating Holiday fun. This is your Decoration Committee signing off and wishing you all a very Happy Hanukkah.”
A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.
Posted on September 20th, 2011 by Rachel
The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. Click here to see the most recent photo on their website. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Jobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: June 3, 2011PastPerfect Accession #: CP 27.2010.003
Status: Two small boys looking at a line of dreidels with lights. Chanukah House. Identified! (L-R) Zachary Seidel and Brenden Seidel
Special Thanks: Terry Seidel