So, today is the first day of Hannukah, I think? I could never really figure it out sometimes with the sundown thing. Last night would have been the first night to light the menorah, which I don't own. I generally line up 9 candles and that's my makeshift menorah. As you can tell if you read my previous 'Part 1' of the holidays in my mixed religion household Christmas was the heavy hitter, for one obvious reason...presents.
Most people think that Hannukah is eight crazy nights of presents being showered upon you...erroneous. When Christmas is the big holiday, in my house at least, we only got one present for Hannukah, maaaaybe two. My most remembered Hannukah gift was a set of personalized pencils with 'Sam' on them, like the ones you would find in a card store near the cash register along with personalized key chains. I think my present the following night might have been a notebook so that I could use said pencils. It was a weird Hannukah.
My brother and I would try to play The Dreidel Game but we would get the rules all mixed up and end up trying to see who could just make the dreidel stay up longest, being the younger I mostly lost at this feat.
So, the first of night Hannukah is the most critical for candle lighting to my Mom. We HAD to do it at least that night. Second and third night usually made it on the list but fourth, fifth and sixth at least one would fall to the wayside and then we tried, sometimes failing, to end strong with seven and eight. I loved lighting the candles. They looked so mysterious being the only light in the kitchen which was always harshly bright white. The soft light would reflect and sparkle off the tin foil underneath the menorah that caught the dripping wax from the drip-less candles. My mom would light the shamash and read the prayer on the back of the Hannukah candle box with one eye as she covered her face. I liked to arrange the colors of the candles so that none repeated. I also liked to pick off the dried wax from the menorah and see how big of a chunk I could get at once, it's the simple things.
We ate Bubbe's latkes and had matzoh ball soup if the whole family got together. I made latkes once with my Bubbe which resulted in a lot of smoke and my mother being upset at the smell and mess being made in her kitchen. I couldn't handle the smell but my Bubbe was so bent on sharing her tradition with me that when I threw up I couldn't bring myself to tell her how sick it was making me feel...Jewish guilt is killer.
Even though our traditions are kind of half-ass, they are ours and I think that's what it's all about. Hannukah is eight days to really remember the miracles, big and small, that happen in our lives and honor them. Holidays get so trite with presents, money and consuming what we don't need or sometimes even want (looking at you Christmas sweater from Grandma). Why can't we just get together with our loved ones, our families both blood and extended to take time together? Can't we get back to a simpler time when the holiday was meant to celebrate each other?
This year I donated to the Heifer Project in my family's name, you should too, they are an amazing organization that helps families and villages in the world to sustain themselves