When I was a kid and it was December, our family would gather around the Advent Wreath on the sideboard before dinner each night. Either my sister or I would strike a match, light the appropriate number of candles, and read a prayer from the official mimeographed booklet:*
As we draw near to you, Lord God, keep us aware of your presence in all we do. Come with power to enlighten us by your grace, that we may live in praise and peace all our days. We ask this through Your Son, our Lord. Amen.
And then we would go eat and argue about who would blow out the candles after dessert.
But for an overlapping handful of nights during that month, we would put the Advent pages down, take two steps over to gather around the menorah, strike another match to light the shamash, and read from different official booklet:
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, she’asah nisim l’avoteinu, b’yamim haheim bazman hazeh . . . Amein
And then we would light the appropriate number of candles in the menorah, go eat, and argue about who was going to blow out the Advent candles after dessert, since the hanukkiyah candles were allowed to go out by themselves under the watchful eye of my mother, who was less interested in keeping her offspring from committing a liturgical crime than keeping the cats from setting themselves alight.
Good times. Good memories.
I thought maybe that this year, we would revive the tradition, my children and I, with our Espiscopalian prayers and wreath and my rusty Hebrew and the small menorah my grandfather*** brought me from Israel when I was only a little older than Sunny.
The other adults probably wouldn’t hold with this and my kids just want the chance to play with fire and wax, just like my sister and I did.
But that’s okay.
I couldn’t unearth the wreath in time,^ but I found the menorah and some candles that fit. It will be well after sunset when I get home from work (it’s dark now), but Hanukkah isn’t a High Holy^^ and we don’t go much for orthodoxy, anyway, if you couldn’t tell.
That’s okay, too. We all celebrate miracles in our own ways.
And on this Festival of Lights, I’m celebrating with crooked, striped birthday candles, good memories, two of my favorite pyromaniacs, a flammable cat . . . and by sharing a video of several good-looking, talented Jewish boys singing a history lesson:
a lichtigin Chanukah, y’all!
*Yes, I’m old. Now, hush.
**Blessed are You, O Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who made miracles for our forefathers in those days at this time.
***My grandmother’s second husband, who married her when my mother was fifteen. So my extended family is Jewish, but my immediate family isn’t.
^Or one of the wreaths, as my mother has given me at least four over the years, all of which disappear completely the moment we think about them—the traditional Christmas miracle. Janie is fine with this, though, as she’s the one who gets to light the big wreath at church for the early service this year.
^^Seriously, it’s actually a minor holiday, built up in perhaps unconscious response to The Hype that Ate Christmas. Not that I don’t thoroughly enjoy the Hype, or most of it, but occasionally I wish we would all get a grip.
14 thoughts on “Chag Urim Sameach”
Happy Hanukkah. We got through the first two prayers and then got stuck on the last one tonight. It’s time to move back to Chicago where we can attend Temple so the kids can go to Sunday School and learn how to be proper Jews.
Happy Hanukkah, Lisa.
As my Cousin The Rabbi would say, “What’s a proper Jew? All of them.”
We celebrate Hanukkah to offset the hype that is Christmas. No question. Otherwise, our kids would feel totally gypped. Love the video, ‘tho I did spot a mistake around 2:07. Wanna take a stab?
Absolutely—it just grits my teeth to hear Hanukkah called “The Jewish Christmas.”
NO. No no no no no.
Hey! He didn’t use the shamash. And he blew out the, uh, not-shamash. Is that it? I kind of like the foil.
You got it. I’m surprised they didn’t sing, “You say shamash. I say sha-mash. Shamash. Sha-mash. Let’s call the whole thing off.”
That’s next year’s song! 😀
My best friend is Jewish, her husband is Catholic and the ceremonies performed for their kids…it’s a production. I’m going to have her read this and file under “See? It all works out in the end!”
The kids are being raised Jewish (between it being the mother’s line and that she is more religious than her husband), but she feels it’s totally undone by the Christmas relatives and all of the excess. Poor gal.
I told her to focus on Santa as a cool dude bearing gifts that would happily deposit them under a Hanukkah bush. She can at least have that, right?
If she wants it, she can have it.
Christmas is tough to beat, but at least the High Holy Days don’t have a lot of over-the-top commercial competition.
My friend Jill and I used to talk about the Passover Platypus that would hide matzoh balls under bushes . . . only no one ever went hunting for them. The search for the afikoman at least makes a little more sense.
Talk about confused. We’re a family of heathens, borrowing holidays where we can. That’s the thing. People need the traditions to anchor the rest of the year, to celebrate and gather ’round. And it’s lovely to hear the music and be uplifted by the festive atmosphere. But that shopping nonsense has reach new levels of American excess in recent years, and it spoils the fun.
Here’s my eggnog, raised in solidarity for the celebration of family.
Yeah, my husband is an atheist, his mother is a Catholic, and my family came to Episcopalianism from easy-going agnosticism.
It gets surreal at times—and the scheduling can be complicated—but we all come back home (after shopping).
Well, whatever you celebrate and however you celebrate, I hope you and your readers have a happy, peaceful time.
Thanks, Sarah! You, too!
A belated thanks for the best present yet. Just knowing that something in your childhood took and was saved. Reminded me of your Grand Pa teaching you Hebrew and that he always had to have three presents to unwrap Christmas, Hanukkah, and his birthday. Remember the boxes of overripe smoochie bananas.
I don’t remember the bananas, but I remember the bowties.
Love you, Mom!