This year, on an impulse, I picked up a menorah and candles, and we’re trying out a new (at least, for my family) tradition — Hanukkah.
Truth be told, it wasn’t entirely just an impulse. My grandfather on my mother’s side was Jewish, and I’ve always been aware of my Jewish heritage and ancestry. But I’ve never done much about it.
Hanukkah seemed like an easy start. I recall my mother discussing celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas in her mixed-religion household growing up. And so I read up a little bit on it, and off we went.
We’re celebrating Hanukkah-lite, I think. We’re lighting the candles, putting them in the window, and we’ve told the story of the miracle of the eight days. But I’m not really sure how to use or make a dreidel or what to do with it. And the prayers that I found were all in languages that I can’t understand. And so we’re starting with some easy elements — a menorah, some candles, and presents.
The first night was a bit strange. We told the kids we would be celebrating Hanukkah. Sullivan then asked if that meant that we were Jewish now. I explained that we were celebrating the holiday to honor our Jewish heritage, but that it didn’t mean that we were Jewish.
Lighting the candles is never a problem. My kids are all pyromaniacs. The (very condensed) story of the eight days went mostly over their heads, I think. And they enjoyed the presents. We’re going on night number four tonight, and I think the kids are getting used to the idea. (Not to mention they like the presents). It’s been a fun new tradition, and I think it’s one that we’ll keep.
I find it interesting that different people from different backgrounds are adapting Hanukkah to their own use. It’s not just me — there are also the Chrismukkah folks. And Chris Walton has an interesting discussion of how Unitarians adapt Hanukkah. They’re interesting data points as I try to figure out how we’re going to adapt this holiday in my own home. But I think it’s definitely a tradition we’re going to try to add and incorporate into the family.