Tag Archives: Hanukkah

It’s beginning to look a lot like Hanukkah

29 Nov

It’s Christmas time! That holly jolly time of year that we await eagerly. Houses are decked, trees are lit. Children are half out of their minds with anticipation. Radio stations play carols around the clock. Every night, there’s another holiday special to watch.

And every year, Christmas makes me glad there is Hanukkah.

Hanukkah really shouldn’t be compared to Christmas but they happen at the same time of year so I guess it’s inevitable. Hanukkah is a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, not like Yom Kippur, which is the heavyweight. Someone joked once that many of the Jewish holidays follow the same theme: “They tried to kill us; we won. Let’s eat.” Hanukkah is one of those holidays.

Christmas exhausts me.

I start thinking about Christmas gifts for friends and family some time in August. I do this not because I’m particularly organized, but because I can’t afford to make the entire Christmas sacrifice in a single month.

Hanukkah? We don’t do gifts at Hanukkah.  I tried doing treats for each night when my son was very young. Every night, he got some dumb little thing. On the ninth night at sundown, he said, “Where’s my present?”

Since then, the kids have had parties for Hanukkah; one year we made pretzels. This year, we’ll have a small dinner party with brisket and latkes. I might even make rugelach. I will make this dinner once, even though Hanukkah lasts eight days. My daughter is inviting her best friend. My son is inviting his girlfriend. My daughter’s friend is invited to sleepover, too. My son’s girlfriend is not.

Christmas decorating takes three days, but it takes me at least three weeks to build up the momentum to accomplish it. I keep all holiday decorations in big plastic bins in the crawlspace. Halloween has a bin, as do Passover, Easter and Chinese New Year. Christmas has eleven bins, not counting the box—large enough to hide a small body in—that contains the Christmas tree.

It takes at least four trips up and down the stairs from the basement to get all of the Christmas gear into the living room. Two people are needed to move the casket tree box. Every year, I’m afraid my husband or son will go tumbling down the staircase should the tree moving go horribly wrong.

Because my husband is Jewish I’m a control freak, only I can put the lights on the tree. It takes me at least three hours, after which my arms are shredded from winding strands of lights in and out of the tree’s branches. I always have either too much left when I get to the top, or too little. It can take me half an hour to get the top of the tree lit to my liking.

The next day, I put the ornaments on the tree. My daughter helps; my son says he does, but I can’t recall this phenomenon. Maybe this year, I’ll take pictures. My son’s greatest contribution to Christmas decorating is his insistence that my daughter and I cease listening to carols while we decorate because, as he says, “Christmas music is crap.” I respond with “Yes, of course it’s crap! But it’s Christmas crap. How else am I going to get in the mood to spend three days decorating the house?”

Decorating for Hanukkah? I bring the Hanukkah box up from the basement by myself. I take out the menorahs; we have one big family one and the kids each have their own. It is necessary for each child to have their own or Hanukkah turns from the Festival of Lights, to the Festival of Whining That He/She Lit The Shamash Last Night.

The extent of my outdoor Christmas decorating is hanging a festive wreath on the door. My inner Martha Stewart demands that an outdoor light display be artistic and neatly applied. This is impossible to achieve unless you are, indeed, Martha Stewart assisted by Santa’s Elves.

Photo: Martha Stewart Omnimedia

Hanukkah display? I’m all over that one with our driveway menorah. We start with one luminaria at the end of the drive near the house. Each night, we add another luminaria until, on the eighth night, there are eight luminarias lining the drive. It’s artistic, it’s neat and it’s easy.

I only have two problems with Hanukkah. Though we start the holiday with the best of intentions—that we will light the candles and say the blessings every night—invariably, we forget at least once.

The other Hanukkah problem is a matter of timing. Because it’s based on the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah wanders all over December from year to year. Every year, I check the calendar and every year that Christmas minds its manners and stays away from Hanukkah, I breathe a sigh of relief.

I love Hanukkah because, like Christmas, it brings light to the darkest time of year. But more, I love Hanukkah because its more low-key festivities help me ease into the holiday spirit. This year, Hanukkah begins at sundown on December eighth. We’ll light the candles for eight nights. Then on December 17, I’ll polish the menorah, put it back in its velvet-lined box and be ready to begin the hoopla that is Christmas.

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Happy Boxing Day!

26 Dec

I have no idea why today is called Boxing Day, but I’m willing to take it as a reason for a day off. Many of you know that, in addition to writing this blog, I write a parenting column for Naperville Patch, an online newspaper that covers my city. Now, the idea of me as a fountain of parenting wisdom is pretty amusing and should be amusing to many who know me. Here, then, is a link to my column for this week: http://naperville.patch.com/articles/hanukkah-rebellion-smells-like-teen-spirit

Enjoy and Happy Seventh Night of Hanukkah.

Janice

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