My traditionally untraditional Chanukah
By Lauren on December 10th, 2012
Chag Sameach OOM readers! It’s the third night of Chanukah and as people usually do this time of year, I’ve spent some time sifting through my childhood memories of Chanukahs past.
I have a confession to make. Though I am a practicing Jew and very proud of my religion, I spent a lot of my time as a child wishing my family celebrated Christmas. My desires however, weren’t rooted in anything spiritual. What I loved so much were the traditions associated with the holiday. Erin, my best friend growing up, was Christian and I loved going to her house, drinking hot chocolate, helping her hang her stockings and decorating her various Christmas trees. There were two (double the fun, double the envy). Erin and I would make ornaments out of colored clay and hang them from each branch. Her mom would wrap their banister with green garlands and rich velvet ribbons and single white candles illuminated each window. The effect of her efforts was nothing short of enchanting. I would always come home jealous that all we had was a Menorah and even though we baked tons of different cookies, no magical man in a red suit was landing on my roof with eight reindeer to come eat them.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Chanukah (and still do). As a kid, I couldn’t wait for my dad to get home from work so we could read the prayers and light one of our Menorahs. We had three: a clay one I made, a wooden one my brother made, and a gold gilded one from Israel that was my dad’s. We rotated through them during the eight nights. I got very competitive during our games of dreidel and the smell of our kitchen as my mom made latkes is still one of my favorites.
From the beginning my parents never discouraged my love of Christmastime. In fact, they encouraged it. Along with gelt there were candy canes. Along with Menorah lightings there were visits to the Fifth Avenue windows and the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center. There were trips to see the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center and yearly viewings of It’s A Wonderful Life and a Christmas Carol (both the George C. Scott version and the animated Disney one with Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchet). When OOM asked me to share how we celebrate Chanukah, I was really touched to realize how my family came together to blend both cultures throughout the years and come up with our own traditions.
During all eight nights of Chanukah, I still call my parents to say the bruchas together, though now almost retired, my dad has to wait for me to get home from work. The wooden and clay Menorahs are also no longer with us, though my dad’s Israeli one has stood the test of time. I have taken my dreidel skills mostly pro and compete yearly in a major league dreidel tournament, and when I go home to celebrate, I make my mom swear up and down to wait for me before she starts cooking the latkes so I don’t miss a minute of the aroma of the potatoes as they start to fry. I also still go to Erin’s to celebrate with her family, and the clay candy canes I made many years ago are still on her family’s tree. Every Christmas Eve, my Dad and still go into the city to check out the windows, starting uptown near Bloomingdales and working our way all the down to Macy’s. Then we go home, make some hot chocolate, open some gelt, and watch our three favorite Christmas movies together on the couch.
What are your favorite holiday traditions? Sound off in the comments!
No comments yet