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The Stories Behind the Candles


The Stories Behind the Candles
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Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.71

     challenging words:    Pemberton, self-determination, economics, lasting, beginning, candelabra, candleholder, monk, creativity, based, celebration, meaning, legend, reading, poetry, kings
     content words:    David Rivlin, Jewish Festival, Temple Mount, In Israel, Maggie Baldwin, Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, Christ Candle

The Stories Behind the Candles
By Brenda B. Covert

1     At the beginning of class, Mr. Pemberton explained that several students had holiday presentations to make. To avoid a pop quiz, the class would need to be attentive and polite during the presentations.
2     David Rivlin was first. His heart raced as he carried a large cardboard box to the front of the class.
3     "My topic is Hanukkah [HAH-nuh-kuh]. Hanukkah means 'dedicate' and 'beginning'," he said. "It's also called the Jewish Festival of Lights. It's either in November or December, depending on the Jewish calendar." He opened his box and pulled out a large silver candelabra and nine blue candles. "This is a menorah [meh-NOR-uh]. It holds eight candles for the eight days of Hanukkah, plus one extra candle in the middle that is used to light the others. You light one more candle each day, until finally on the last day you have all the candles lit."
4     "Hanukkah celebrates the Jews' victory more than 2,000 years ago as they fought their enemies for religious freedom. When they reclaimed the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, it had to be rededicated to the Lord. Although they only had one day's worth of sacred oil for the lamps, the oil burned miraculously for eight days until more oil arrived. That's why there are eight days of Hanukkah," David explained.
5     "It's a tradition to eat foods fried in oil during Hanukkah, like potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts," David said. "We also play games with a four-sided top we call a dreidel [DRAY-dul]. The old tradition was to give chocolate coins or real coins as gifts to children. The new tradition is to give a present on each of the eight days, so I can tell you that it is a great holiday to celebrate! In Israel, school is out for a week in honor of Hanukkah!"
6     Maggie Baldwin was next. She giggled nervously. "I'm going to tell you about the Advent candles of Christmas." She paused for a moment. "Christmas is a Christian holiday, but with Santa Claus and presents and all, I think anybody can enjoy it, not just Christians. It's interesting that Santa Claus is based on the legend of Saint Nicholas, who was a monk a really long time ago, but that's another story!" She giggled again.
7     Maggie reached into her brown paper bag and pulled out a green wreath, which she laid on Mr. Pemberton's desk. Then she brought out five candles and arranged them on the wreath, a white one in the center and four colored ones around the wreath. She explained that Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day and ends on Christmas Eve. The four candles around the ring stand for hope, peace, joy, and love, and one is lit each Sunday before Christmas. The white candle in the middle is called the Christ Candle, and it is lit on Christmas Day. A special reading and a prayer go with each one.
8     "Advent has been celebrated for about 1,600 years," Maggie said, looking at the teacher. "The word Advent means 'coming.' It's about remembering the birth of Jesus. If you've seen the lawn decorations of a stable with a man, woman, and baby inside, with shepherds, kings, and animals all around, and at least one angel, then you probably know about Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus. The kings brought gifts to Jesus, and that's why we give gifts at Christmas. It's a great time to show your friends and family that you love them!"
9     William Harrison stood up last. A shoe box was in his hands. "My holiday comes at the end of December, starting the day after Christmas and lasting until New Year's Day," he said. "My family celebrates Kwanzaa."

Paragraphs 10 to 19:
For the complete story with questions: click here for printable

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