Hanukkah starts tomorow night and as I begin my preparations I'm feeling memories warming me inside.
When my sister and I were little, our parents gave us each 8 presents, which were lovingly presented on the dining room table, right next to the Hanukkiah (we called it a "menorah" back then). The gifts were sometimes fun and frivolous, like an easy-bake oven, or Parcheesi game, and there were also the necessities like pajamas and socks. But here's the thing – there were no rules about gift opening. My sister played it fast and loose – she opened every gift on the first night, tearing through the paper in a frenzy. I, on the other hand, paced myself, one gift for each night. Given that my parents got us nearly identical gifts, all the mystery and suspense was gone for me, but I did it any way. By the fourth night, my sister was usually begging me to let her please, just please, open one of my presents. And of course, being an adoring little sister, I did.
My more recent memories include lighting the Hanukkiah with my own children and husband, and doing the lively Snitzer family dance while singing "Hanukkah oh Hanukkah," which was introduced to me by my in-laws. Or frying endless amounts of latkes next to my daughters, using Tante Golda's recipe (great book), splattering oil, making a mess, and filling our house with the delicious tang of fried onions and potatoes.
Every year we get 8 whole days and nights to share this holiday of light -- to give, laugh, sing, spin and create memories.
I met with a group of young moms this week to talk about Hanukkah. One of them asked, "How do you start a family tradition?" There were so many ideas. One of the women talked about how in her house, her mother would put out 8 objects on the Hanukkah table, and every night they would create different gifts for each other using the materials. Another spoke about her daughters making gifts for each other each year, which are saved in a special box. There were conversations about donations to tzedakah, service projects and family experiences.
Each of us is empowered to take Hanukkah traditions and embrace them in a way that's meaningful and special for our own precious family. All it takes is a little thought and intention. What lights you up? Makes meaning? Brings you together? How will you stoke the sparks created by the ancient Maccabees?
I wish you each a Hanukkah that brings light into the world and light into your lives.