Two weeks ago, I was out running errands with the girls and we saw a sign that said, "Happy Holidays". My children asked what that meant and why it didn't just say, "Merry Christmas". I did my best to explain to them that at this time of year not everyone celebrates Christmas and I used the example of my "bloggingfriendEmily" (that's how you say her name in our house), who's family celebrates Hanukkah.
This of course, required me to explain to them more details about Hannukah and as I fumbled through I realized my description was falling short. And I told them I would just have to ask Emily to tell us a little bit about how her family celebrates Hanukkah and all the wonderful traditions that surround this holiday.
So I am so happy to turn things over to Emily on my blog today. Enjoy her lovely words and beautiful photographs. If there's anything I've learned about Emily, in getting the chance to get to know her in person, it's that she lives her life very thoughtfully and mindfully. And that same mindfulness and thoughtfulness overflows into her relationship with her children.
Thank you Emily for taking several moments out of your holiday season to share this with us.
I was thrilled when Molly asked me to write about Hanuukah for her blog. But also overwhelmed – there’s so much to say about this holiday, about any holiday. So I asked my kids. I asked them what they’d want Emma and Mary and Elizabeth to know about Hanukkah. and this is what they said:
*they said tell them about the miracle of Hanukkah. Not the part about the one drop of oil lasting for eight days, which everyone thinks is the miracle, but is actually a legend. Tell them about how the tiny Jewish army of the Maccabees beat the great Syrian army to regain their religious freedom and their holy temple – that’s the real miracle. (you can read more about the story of Hanukkah HERE.)
*they said tell them that presents don’t have anything to do with Hanukkah. That Jews in America saw their Christian friends exchanging gifts on Christmas, then Jews adopted the custom. tell them that traditionally, and in Israel still today, people don’t give presents on Hanukkah – they give coins to children. That’s all. (which is why we have chocolate coins, or “gelt” on this holiday.)
*they said tell them that Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday for the Jewish people. Unlike some holidays when we don’t work or go to school, and instead we go to synagogue to pray – on Hanukkah people work and go to school (unless it falls during winter vacation like this year!). and there are no special Hanukkah services in the synagogue. We celebrate this holiday at home.
*they said tell them that we celebrate Hanukkah by lighting a “menorah” or “hanukkiah” which is a candelabra with nine arms – one arm for each of the eight nights of the holiday, plus one extra arm for holding the “shamash” or “helping” candle. each night, when we light the “hanukkiah,” we strike a match and light the “helper” candle – which sits apart from the other eight candles (maybe it’s taller than the others, or off to the side. somehow it’s separate.) – and then we use the “helper” candle to light the other candles. each night, we light the number of candles according to the night of the holiday – so on the first night, we light the “shamash” and one candle. on the second night, we light the “shamash” and two candles. and so on until we light nine candles on the eight and final night. we light 144 candles over the course of the whole holiday!
*they said tell them that we like to play the dreidel game during Hanukkah. And they said tell them that we sent them some dreidels in the mail so they can play too!
that’s what they said. These are the things my kids wanted emma and mary and elizabeth to know about Hanukkah. There’s so much more, of course. I wish I could tell you everything. I wish you could hear the singing. And see the lights shining from the candles on the hanukkiot. And smell the oil from the latkes frying. It’s a beautiful holiday. and I’m thankful to molly for the chance to share a bit of it with you here.
I do hope you enjoy your holiday season – whatever holiday you are celebrating. And I wish you much peace and joy in the coming year.