Our First Hanukkah

Last night was the first night our family has ever celebrated Hanukkah.

We’re not a religious family, but we celebrate Christmas for the joy, the togetherness and the spirit of giving. It’s a tradition both Matt and I grew up with and the idea of Santa is fun and enchanting. Especially these days; have you seen these videograms and trackers kids can follow?

But Cole came home from school last week with a book about Hanukkah. It was a really beautiful story about a family in Israel harvesting their olive trees, using both green and black olives to eat and make oil. It showed an appreciation for the effort in doing these things and how long it took the earth to produce the bounty to “Harvest the light.” It also discussed traditions and lighting a menorah. Cole told me he had friends in class that celebrated Hanukkah and that they had family visit and they lit candles and that it sounded special and fun.

That night, the first night of Hanukkah, we had Matt’s family over for dinner and Cole shared with me he wished we had celebrated the first night by lighting a menorah, since we had family over and that’s their tradition. I sincerely appreciated his interest and enthusiasm for learning and bringing new culture into the house. Yesterday I polled my Jewish friends and was inspired by responses on our Facebook page. And then, on my way home from work I picked up a menorah.

And we celebrated the 2nd night of Hanukkah. We ate dinner by the flickering light, we each talked about our day. We talked about what we each knew about the holiday and what we still wanted to learn. And then the boys were allowed to open one gift, one of their “joint” gifts. They chose what ended up being the Home Alone series and they were thrilled to all watch Home Alone 4 together as a family.

And the night couldn’t have been complete without Elana being with us (since after all, part of Cole’s inspiration came from her), so Matt made a batch of gingersnaps for us (we love these with 1/3 cup diced crystalized ginger) since we gave all the ones we made last week away.  Tomorrow we’re going to make these carrot latkes or maybe latke waffles (but that defeats the purpose of appreciating oil) and the boys will each get to open a wrapped book.

Hopefully the idea of a family of non-religious, culturally Christian gentiles attempting to participate in a Jewish holiday doesn’t offend anyone, but we’re having a good time exploring another event. Even Matt, who was hesitant at first, is looking forward to the remaining days and what we may learn and share together. Maybe next year we’ll look into Solstice, Yule or even Festivus. Because that’s what the holiday is really about to our family.  In these activities, we’re each able to appreciate exactly what the season is supposed to be focused on: spending time together and creating traditions that will carry through our generations.


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