Blogging about my family and our Jewish traditions is something I have been doing for almost four years now. I feel that it is important to share how we celebrate our holidays with my readers, our family, and eventually it will be something for my children to look back at at. With Thanksgiving behind us, Jewish members of the community are now getting ready for Chanukah. This year, we will light the first candle on our menorah at sundown on December 1st.
Being part of the Jewish community in the Capital District can sometimes be a challenge. Several years in a row we have had to cancel plans for community Chanukah parties thanks to Mother Nature. With this in mind, my husband and I have tried to start traditions of our own with our sons.
Our meaning of Chanukah
Growing up, we always stressed togetherness during Chanukah. My husband and I decided that we wanted to keep this going in the next generation. It is too easy to indulge too much during the season thanks to the over commercialism of Chanukah. Instead, we have turned the focus away from gift giving and more to spending time with one another. No need to worry, we do buy a few items for our boys.
In our house, we make it a point to light our menorah together each night before we sit down to dinner. After our meal, we play games, read books, listen to music (our favorites are the Chanukah songs from Barenaked Ladies) and enjoy family time while watching the glow of the candles. During the weekend of Chanukah, we often have a gathering with our extended family to enjoy a meal and spend time with them.
Food glorious food
Let’s be honest, Jewish holidays focus a lot on food! The main star of Chanukah is the potato latke (pancake) with apple sauce and/or sour cream. Nothing says Chanukah more than walking into a house and smelling the onions and potatoes frying up. Jelly donuts and other fried foods often show up on traditional Chanukah plates because of the tie in with the miracle of the oil. No, this is not the healthiest of holidays, but it is all in moderation. Of course, if you plan on playing the dreidel game (a must in our house), you will also need some supplies. Some families use chocolate gelt (money) coins, but we prefer M&Ms.
Learning about Chanukah
As a teacher, I have quite the collection of holiday books. This year, my boys will get a new Chanukah book for a night of the holiday. These books will be welcome additions to our collection. This weekend, we will spend some time gathering all of our Chanukah books to read together in the next week. The tales help to focus the kids on the real meaning of Chanukah. No, they may not detail the battles fought during the historic times, but they show the boys why the Festival of Lights and miracle are so important to Jewish people around the world.
Another tradition I have is thanks to my mother. While growing up she would visit my elementary school to celebrate Chanukah with my classes. She would bring in dreidels for each of the children and have chocolate ready for us to play. Some years, she and another parent would even make fresh potato latkes for all of the kids. As a mother, I have continued on with this. I have gone into my oldest son’s class and sat on the carpet teaching the kids about gimmel being the supreme spin on the Chanukah game. Memories of this time with my son and his friend is something I will always cherish. It makes me feel good that we are sharing with others
As our boys get older, we will likely add new items into our mix. Right now, we love being able to share our heritage and traditions with our kids in a simple way that fits our family. It is more about the memories we make together during Chanukah than the material items that they may get.
Beth writes at TheAngelForever.com about life as a teacher, turned SAHM. She is also a columnist for KidsFunPlaza Northeastern NY that is now distributed at Price Chopper locations across the Capital District.