"Chanukah is (Almost) Here Once Again. . . "

Really, Leora's post and looking at her photo of her 'chanukah table' with all their menorahs on them made me wax nostalgic. . .

Chanukah was one of our favorite magical holidays when our kids were little. I know it's a very Northern Hemisphere view of it, but our memories of Chanukah are of dark, snowy evenings with our chanukiyots'* blazing candles in all the colors of the rainbow, or their oil wicks flickering in the air, creating dancing shadows on the walls and reflections in the frosty windows, lighting up the night from within.

A Jewish Holiday Meme via Here in HP (who got it from Ima on the Bima, who got it from--oh, enough already!):

Everything that I am writing about below took place in the past. Our children haven't been home for a long time now, and except for 2004 in a different state, and 2005 in Israel, we have not been together for Chanukah in years. But this is what we used to do, and hopefully, in the near future, do again (with the addition of our new family members, our daughters-in-law and grandchildren, ken yirbu*).

1) One menorah, or several? Hillel or Shammai? ("just kidding about that part"-see HP, and Ima on the Bima, and--oh, never mind).

Our family minhag* is simple: every family member had his/her own chanukiah*, and said the brachot* by him or herself. After, we sang together in harmony the full "Hanerot Hallalu," and we are one of the few families in our community who have been singing the entire "Maoz Tzur*" for years (I don't think many families at Chabad know that there is more than one verse!)

2) Do you buy your children gifts for every night of Chanukah?

Are you kidding?! We'd go broke...well, we are broke--but we didn't buy gifts for every day--we bought some gifts for each other; I know, I know: it's not a Jewish minhag*, but we did it anyway. It increased the excitement; but it always came after the lighting, brachot, and singing, and sometimes telling the story of Chanukah, mainly in song (ever hear the song, "He Struck the Traitor to the Earth"? One of my kids' favorites. . . )

3) Do you and your spouse/partner or any other adults in your life exchange gifts?

Only maybe one night, when we were giving the kids gifts. I am guilty--of loving surprises!

4) Special family chanukah traditions?

We used to sit around the chanukiyot* and sing, harmonizing with our two sons and three daughters (and later on, after our eldest moved away, our two remaining daughters) traditional Israeli songs, first from memory, and then one year we had a big Chanukah party and invited lots of people (in the '90's), and mimeographed--remember those?--a booklet of all the songs in Hebrew, with some in English.

In later years we worked mainly from that booklet so we'd know all the words, singing and harmonizing as many as we could.

My husband and I sometimes make homemade sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts, or "Bismarks," as they are called in this-here territory), and always make levivot (latkes), including my mother's (a"h) spinach-latke recipe, which is heavenly.

5) Latkes or sufganiyot? If latkes, sour cream or applesauce?

We use both. I know Chanukah is often a milchig* holiday, but some years we'd have fleishig* meals, including hamburgers and hotdogs (not healthy but so delicious) or on rare occasions, steaks--and have the levivot with apple sauce.

6) Favorite chanukah book?

A favorite used to be Light Stories for Children, and also Hershel and the Chanukah Goblins. I will add, we also had two favorite Chanukah tapes (remember those?), one, the Israeli tape of children's and some adult's songs, and the second, called "Chanukah is Here Once Again" (which is why it is the title of this post). The latter contained the story of Chanukah told by adults and kids in a thick Brooklyn accent, with songs and niggunim, some of which were unique to it. My kids, especially my younger son, really loved that tape. I think it reminds him of his childhood at home. . .

7) Do you actually play dreidl? If so, what do you use for counters?
We sang so long, that often we didn't play the dreidel, or sevivon game; by the time we finished singing, we were starving.

But sometimes we did play the game, and used chocolate "gelt" or nuts, or even pennies. The kids showed off who could spin the sevivon upside down (just like Leora's family on HP--honest, I'm not copying this). At the very least, we looked at the many different sevivonim we had which I had saved, some even from my childhood, in various sizes from huge to tiny, and all the colors of the rainbow--some from Israel (nun, gimel, hey, pey) and most from chutz-la-aretz*.

8) What relationship, if any, do you have with Christmas and all things Christmas-y?

None. We never really 'shopped.' We were not such a consumer family (we never had the means). The closest thing might be, that I always enjoyed window-shopping, looking at the colored lights and decorated trees.

9) “If you’re reading, you’re tagged!”

This is much easier than searching for bloggers to tag and linking their blogs, etc. Just go for it! If you are not Jewish, why don't you write something about your family traditions for Christmas? --And don't forget to link this blog to yours if you do!

Leora added something about her preparations here, so I will, too: we used to open up our card table and cover it with foil, where we'd put all the family's chanukiyot, and place it in front of our living room window, in our old house. But our living room faced the back--our yard, not the street--where no one walked. It's actually more halachically correct, here in the town home where we currently live. We place it in front of our living room window, which faces the front path which goes around the greenway, where people sometimes do walk.

But there are only the two of us here now, and in the past couple of years, we put out only two chanukiyot, and sometimes I would add my father's (a"h) old chanukiyah and light it without a bracha (after I've made the bracha on mine), just in memory. Because the table looked so sad with only two chanukiyot, flames flickering alone in the night. . .

(I don't have any photos of our little table to show you; I have not yet transferred all my photos from my old computer, Mergatroyd, to my new one, HaMachshev. Have to get to that someday...)


ken yirbu: 'may they increase'
minhag: Hebrew for 'custom'
chanukiya, chanukiyot: a menorah specifically for Chanukah, with 9 branches.
Maoz Tzur: Rock of Ages - the original is Hebrew
milchig: dairy
chutz la-aretz: outside of Israel

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Phyllis Sommer said…
glad you played along!:-) love the story about the singing....
Lady-Light said…
Ima: I am a meme-addicted blogger (except for some), so it was a pleasure! The story of the singing is true; that is one of the things I so miss about not being with my kids for Shabbatot and chagim. You see, my husband, uh, can't carry a tune from the dining room to the kitchen (but he sure can kook! www.kosherkook.com)
Anonymous said…
who got it from ME! glad to see it spreading through the blogosphere-
Lady-Light said…
homeshuling: Yes! But I didn't mention it, because I didn't know you then. But now, I do. Welcome to my blog!
Leora said…
I can't believe I'm just reading this now! I enjoyed it very much. Well, at least I am reading it while it is still Chanukah. We haven't played dreidel much, but there's been a lot of dancing and singing by the flames. And we stuffed ourselves with sufganiyot on Sunday night! No fried food for a year for me. Until next year...

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