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Dreidle, dreidle, dreidle

It took kids for me to like Hanukah.  We never did much by way of presents---that was reserved for Christmas (I come from a family that celebrates many traditions). It wasn't the songs---please, not the songs. And it certainly wasn't the dreidle game---which put everyone to sleep.

It was the candles.

There's something wonderful about candlelight in the dead of winter. (Okay, this week, it's the end of autumn, but it's certainly dark enough to feel like winter.) When the kids were little, we lit the candles, one night after another, and you could see the excitement mount as the menorah filled. We'd light them before dinner and watch them burn, commenting on each one's progress. It's totally corny, but my kids, accustomed as they were to electricity, marveled at these flickering lights.

The holiday itself, quite frankly, is minor. The only reason non-Jews know about it is that it usually lands around Christmas, and non-Christians are completely overwhelmed by the non-stop Christmas, CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!  that's blasted at us this time of year. Hanukah became a defensive mechanism. Sure you have bright decorations carpet bombed everywhere, gorgeous trees, inspired music, colorfully wrapped gifts, weeks of feasting, feel good stories and movies, and one heck of a religious service. We have---uh---menorahs, silly songs, token gifts (for 8 days!), latkes and doughnuts, and the occasional TV special.


The fact is, with its over-the-top celebration, nothing in the West can compete with Christmas.

But when you stop trying to compete, you notice what you do have. A perfectly lovely minor holiday, with beautiful candles.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 2nd, 2010 07:23 pm (UTC)
Amen. I didn't like Chanukah until I was in college, when the holiday fell during finals a few times, and it was the most incredible thing: I HAD to stop working so I could go and light dozens of candles with other Jews, sing a few things, watch them burn, then go back to work. Those moments are some of my favorite from that time.

Also, my mother sent me a box of spiced nuts and homemade granola and gelt, and the softest flannel shirt I've ever owned. Isn't that adorable?
Dec. 2nd, 2010 09:03 pm (UTC)
Mm. Soft flannel shirt. That sounds perfect.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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