first of all i must start this off by prefacing that my mom LOVES celebrating. she would celebrate everything and anything if she could! she even celebrated our 1/2 birthdays every January! this woman likes to celebrate and commemorate and immerse ourselves in the holidays!!
to start with, as i’m sure I’ve covered hanukkah lasts 8-nights because of the miracle of the oil lasting 8 days instead of just the expected one during the days of the syrians and jews fighting.
in my home, we celebrate 8 nights. every year the first night falls on a different day, seeing as though we go by the lunar calendar. so this year, luckily it starts on a saturday and the last night is a saturday. it isn’t a holiday we go to synagogue or temple for. it isn’t one we need days off to pray or celebrate. but every night as the sun goes down, hanukkah festivities began at my house.
rather than explain how i/we celebrate it now, since i live alone and my brother & sister-in-law have their own place and none of us have kids yet, so i’m going to tell you how i grew up celebrating the holiday. we basically follow the same basic traditions now, and do attempt to be with family at least 4 out of 8 nights of the holiday.
as a child, around thanksgiving time (depending on when Hanukkah started THAT particular year), we put up our decorations! oh and do we have decorations! our decorations are inside and for the first 20 years of my life they were the same ones every single year. recently we’ve helped my mom move on from the tissue paper stained glass window menorah i made in preschool……and got her a new handmade banner, my dad & brother would hang the lights in the house, we’ve always had a staircase so they’ve always been displayed going round and round the banister. we had these hanger decorations my parents made in a jewish holidays class they took when i was 5 & ryan was 1. when we moved on from the tissue paper stained glass decorations we also got her to move on from the pipe cleaner wrapped wire hangers with Hanukkah symbol shrinky dinks hanging from them. THEY WERE TRADITION. every year the same decorations we had helped create were posted around the house. we had lights around the banister of the staircase and in our front window with a light up menorah that each night we would turn another light bulb to signify the new night of hanukkah. every year we/i looked forward to putting up the decorations and seeing them displayed proudly around our home.
when hanukkah began, it all depended on the night that it started. we always spent several nights of the holiday with family or extended family or friends in our home. i don’t think we did that too much during the week on the years that hanukkah was mostly weekdays, but on a year like this one where we get sat, sun, fri and sat it would’ve left A LOT of days for get-togethers!
whether we were alone as a family of 4 or my nana & papa or grandma & grandpa or cousins or family friends were over we started with dinner. some nights when we had guests it was a full hanukkah dinner with homemade latkes (potato pancakes). in my family my mom makes them from scratch during the appetizer hour and the smell fills our home for days. (many people complain about this, i’ve never really understood why!)
while my mom was making the latkes and my nana and “aunt” marty helped her, the kids sat and played dreidel. it’s a fun game where you spin the top and on each side there’s a different hebrew letter signifying whether you get half the pot in the center, none of it, if you have to put two back or you win it all!! everyone uses what they want to play dreidel as far as the “pot” in the center. we used use Hershey’s kisses, until my great-grandfather would cheat by winning but eating all of his candy. so then we changed to mixed nuts but had a cousin allergic to nuts, so i think after that we went to using Hanukkah gelt (gold wrapped chocolate coins), but i’m not sure really, i’ll have to check out tomorrow night and see what the kids playing use!
when we have guests dinners to go with said latkes varied from chicken or tri-tip or flank steak, rice, vegetables to sometimes an all dairy dinner of tuna salad, salmon salad, egg salad and fresh breads, a vegetable platter and a fruit platter. the bottom line is that we were together, we ate yummy food, and we had our latkes, which we serve with applesauce and sour cream to dip. some people like both, i prefer sour cream. there’s no rule as to what you eat and every family does it differently, my mom makes the latkes right then and there and we eat a holiday meal in the dining room together. fancy dishes, good silverware and all.
after dinner was what we called “Hanukkah” as kids. we didn’t really understand that ALL of it was Hanukkah, but it was the part that we waited for, the presents of course. now in my family we had a few lessons taught that i’m so grateful for now as an adult. first, we always gave gifts to everyone. so like my mom took ryan and i shopping to by my dad’s gifts and my dad took us shopping for our mom’s. we were taught that for all holidays, you give AND you receive. not just receive. (well except your bday that’s ALL yours!).
so we’d go into the family room in our childhood home and now in the entryway/foyer, and we light the menorah’s. we have 3 or 4 family menorah’s and we all light them. there are 3 prayers we say the first and last night and 2 the other 6 nights. in my family, after saying the blessings over the candles we sing songs. it’s a joyous occasion and having grown up going to jewish day school we knew LOTS of them. i think we’ve gotten my mom to minimize the singing to just “oh Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah” and “dreidel dreidel”…..but we are in for a TREAT when there are grandchildren!! LOL.
after the candles were lit and the blessings said, our tummy’s full we would go and open presents. in our family, we got a present or two every night. but the biggest (price wise) was something we got on a night that was just the 4 of us. we still got great gifts as little kids and do as big grown-ups! i can’t think of just one gift that sticks out. i started out getting toys, and as i got older i wanted clothes and jewelry and purses and shoes. my mom is a great gift giver (98%) of the time……..and it was ALWAYS ALWAYS exciting to see what it was we were getting! our grandparents either gave us gifts, something our parents had told them we needed or wanted, they were generally larger gifts (bikes, roller skates, jackets, and then as we got older checks so that we could go and buy what we wanted).
we exchanged gifts with our friends and their children, i think when us kids were young the adults ONLY bought for the kids, but i could be mistaken. i know now we all exchange gifts but i’m fairly certain that was the case. in the early years it was toys of course, then cassettes (HA!) or cd’s and dvd’s, and GC’s. they were always thoughtful gifts but on conservative side, keeping the budget for each of the kids around $25-$30. this went on unbeknownst to us of course, we were just excited for our presents! 😉
the nights that it was just the 4 of us were the nights that we got the big things we had asked for. the dollhouse. the ride on fire truck. the cabbage patch doll, the keyboard. the walk-men, the clothes, the bedding, the video game console. generally the biggest gift we got. sometimes the biggest gift we got was a joint gift. i can’t really think of any right now but if i were to imagine, i’m sure it was something like our play kitchen we had, or the rocking horse, or some other mutually used toy put into our playroom. these were the nights we also exchanged with our parents on those nights both giving them our gifts. we gave things to them that they liked. of course when we were younger we were helped and directed and as we got older we made our own choices. pajama’s for my mom or slippers, a calendar, a jacket my dad had known she wanted and for my dad dodger paraphernalia, books and well, i gotta be honest, he’s hard to buy for, so we’ll just move on. LOL!
when it was just my immediate family, present opening just led to playing with whatever we got and then soon bedtime as usual. on the nights that we had “parties”, after the present opening we’d do dessert which ALWAYS included jelly donuts (sufganyiot). but in my home you can’t have a dessert table without chocolate so likely there was homemade fudge by my dad, brownies and some other delicious treats that either of my parents had gotten as gifts or people had brought over. you see, all jewish holidays aren’t complete without yummy food!!
as i write this post i love love love the walk down memory lane and the looking forward to the coming week. as i said we still try to see each other at least 4 out of 8 nights of the holiday and exchange gifts and spend time together. the gifts are fun, let’s be honest, but, i’m grateful to HAVE a family to celebrate with!
i wish i had pictures of my family celebrations to post here, but sadly they have yet to be scanned so they aren’t digital and they live at my mom’s house. i will be working on that, but, tomorrow night is the first candle, another way of saying the first night of hanukkah and i plan to take LOTS of pictures and will post on sunday to show everyone how exactly hanukkah is done when its done RIGHT!!!
happy hanukkah to all those that celebrate!! thank you for those that took the time to read these posts and learn about another important holiday that many people celebrate!! please feel free to comment or message me if you have any questions…….i may have used vernacular that is unfamiliar and i’d love to clear it up if necessary!
thank you again for reading…….and learning about MY/OUR traditions for hanukkah and look forward to having actual pictures to show you guys later this weekend! ~ traci xoxo