Hanukkah (that’s my preferred spelling!) starts at sundown this Saturday. My thanks to Melissa for writing about The Festival of Lights and her family’s traditions.
Guest Post by Melissa Chernick
Chanukah, Hanukkah, Hanukah, Hannukah, Chanuka, Chanukkah, Hanuka, Channukah, Cahnukka, Hanukka, Hannuka, Hannukkah, Channuka, Xanuka, Hannukka, Channukkah, Chanuqa. One holiday with 18 ways to spell it! Which ever way you choose it has the same meaning and significance. It is a celebration of the victory of the Jews and the miracle that occurred when the menorah was lit with enough oil to last only 1 day but it lasted eight!
Growing up in New York I was exposed to all races and religions. In my experience, every family went to church or temple, had their own holiday traditions and all the kids met up and played in the neighborhood. Our neighborhood was a mix of Italians, Irish Catholics and Jews. It was always fun to compare Christmas/Chanukah presents with the neighborhood kids.
In our house, Chanukah was a fun holiday typically celebrated with just my immediate family. We had so much family nearby who we saw on a regular basis that this little holiday was our own! My brothers and I anxiously awaited our father’s return home from work each night, lit the candles and ripped open presents, hoping for something special. To me, Chanukah means spending time with family, lighting candles and reflecting about what it means to be Jewish. It’s our time to be together, just enjoy ourselves and create memories.
We usually ate latkes only on the first night and not again during the holiday. They were so labor intensive and I don’t think my mother enjoyed the mess, now that I’m a mother I can totally relate! Since having a family of my own and living a distance from other family members, we have created our own Chanukah traditions. Instead of the smaller, nuclear family customs of my childhood, we like to have friends who are both Jewish and non-Jewish come over and celebrate our holiday with us. We enjoy teaching people who do not share our traditions in addition to spending time with people who do.
I like to serve potato latkes and donuts along with a meal to help incorporate the story of the oil unexpectedly lasting so long. Echoing my mother’s thoughts and feelings about making messy latkes I only do it once during the eight days. I didn’t grow up eating donuts on Chanukah, although many people did. Since moving to Rhode Island and discovering Allie’s Donuts 5 years ago we have since incorporated that into our holiday repertoire.
This year since we have moved back to New York we will continue our tradition of lighting candles with friends but we will also be celebrating with family. As our extended family continues to expand, this year will be a large, loud and festive celebration! Being with my brothers will bring back memories of youthful Chanukah festivities and seeing cousins and their families will help to create new traditions. I will have to find a replacement for Allie’s in our new home town.