Happy Hanukkah! Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. Lighting the candles is a new tradition for me, as I ran from my "religion," even though I grew up in a very non-religious household, where we celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas.

When I was 14, I experienced my first taste of anti-semitism while working at a local bakery. It left a pretty big stain on my psyche and truthfully it made me afraid to admit to anyone that I was Jewish for most of my life. Over the years in the most amazing ways, from the most surprising people, I have heard nasty, stereotypical, ignorant comments made about "Jewish people" in my presence. For many years, I sat cold as a stone, terrified inside, not speaking up and wishing I could disappear. As a Feisty Female™ attempting to live authentically, I now inform the people who make these absurdly ignorant comments in my presence, that I am Jewish. That is usually enough to stop them in their tracks, and hopefully invite them to be more sensitive and keep their ignorance to themselves in the future.


We are a family of mixed traditions. Neither my husband or I ever, practiced the faith we were born into, so we have created our own traditions over the years- for example…getting married at the courthouse during my lunch break and later that spring, planting a tree, while standing barefoot in his Aunt’ Annie’s family farm exchanging our vows, with our dog Feats as the ring bearer.

About 7 years ago, Hanukkah and Christmas fell during the same week, as they often do. My husbands entire family was coming to spend Christmas with us, they are quite the clan. I was so excited to have everyone with us that something extraordinary happened. I decided I wanted to light the Hanukkah candles during the visit, with them as my healing witnesses.

I did not know anything at all about Hanukkah, so I bought a book called The Story of Hanukkah by Norma Simon, (see on my night stand column), so I could attempt to educate myself and share this concept with his nice and nephew who were very young at the time. I also called my mom and asked her to please go and find me a menorah, as I did not have one of my own yet, and look at what she sent me!  When I opened the box, I felt like someone had painted the menorah just for me! It represented everything in my life, music, horses, art, travel. I gasped as I pulled it out of the box. Honestly my mother was so excited that I asked, she was K’velen: To glow with pride and happiness, beam; be delighted (as they say in Yiddish); she ran to the store the same day!

To my surprise when my niece and nephew came that year, they came with Hanukkah Dreidal, pennies and a Hanukkah song in tow! As we lit the candles they sang the song they had learned in school. I was honored. It was truly a healing moment for me. I of course did not-and still do not know the song, although I wish I did.

I will not tell you that I am a practicing Jew. I am an what I call an ecletic pracitioner. I practice a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. It feels like a beautiful, wide path, and I enjoy sprinkling in a little bit of all traditions that capture my attention. After all, that is what makes our world go ’round…

This year I have decided that each night I light the candles, I will say a prayer of peace for our planet. Each candle will be symbolic of hope and transformation for our world.

Contribute: Do you have a special Hanukkah or holiday family tradition/celebration that you would like to share?

8 Responses

  1. Because my birthday is Dec. 3rd, we made a tradition of setting out our Nativity creche on that day. In our family, this is the real beginning of the Christmas season.

  2. Carol, Happy Be-lated Birthday! I hope that is was a fabulous celebration. What a lovely tradition.
    Linda…guess what, I made my very first Latkes last night! WOW! What a project, but they sure were good. I now call them…Jewish Hashbrowns. So what really is the difference I wonder?
    Thank Goddess I invested in a food processor for myself this year. I have to tell you that thing has changed my life!! NO really!!!
    Never being a domestic Goddess myself, I think that the food processor tag line should be, “Food processor’s…power tools for women!” Honestly I love it, but my hubby said-with a very straight face I might add-“I think some women might think that tag line is a bit sexist.” My jaw dropped! Sexist definitions from him. I guess my feminist training series is working!

  3. One year, I decided to “hand down” some family treasure to my kids for Christmas. I gave my youngest a china set that my mother had given me when I was young. And I gave my oldest the first pair of earrings that my husband had given me… They both were overjoyed as they knew that these were treasures to me.
    Also, I am thinking of inviting someone from the nursing home to our house for Christmas dinner…someone who is healthy enough to do it, but has no family. It would be fun to get to know an elderly person and hear their stories on the holiday.

  4. Kathy,
    What a beautiful idea to invite an elder to your home for dinner. What an incredibly thoughtful Gift from the Heart!
    Thank you for sharing.

  5. Ok. I am learning…slowly. LOL I see that I posted my comment in the wrong blog. It should have gone to Gifts from the Heart. Oops.
    Thanks for posting a “how to comment” on a blog. It was very helpful. Now I just need to know what those other things are: Stumble it, etc…

  6. Sheri,
    I too have struggled w/ my Jewish identity for years, Matt (my husband) and i started out our marriage celebrating Christmas because we believed in tne magic of Santa claus for our children. AS we continued having children we stopped celebrating Christmas and embraced only Hannukah. When our youngest son was in third grade he asked if he could start going to Sunday school. We said yes but told him we had no interest in joining a Temple so he attended “Shul” with the Orthodox community at our local JCC. Quite funny knowing our backround. After 3 years of studying with them he decided that he wanted to join the reform Temple. At this time were were ready to make the move to support his spiritual journey together. We have been involved with the Reform Temple for about 2 years now. My husband and I attend services when it is important to my son. The more we attend the more we realize this special time is perfect for quiet meditation and reflection.
    It’s funny that you should mention saying a prayer for the Earth. There are many Jewish Holidays that do just that. The next holiday coming up is TU Bish Shavat…that is the celebration of trees. We will be “planting” a Tree in Israel in honor of this wonderful celebrtion.
    Once the fear of the unknown leaves us, true inner peace can begin.
    Zane will have a be Bar Mitzvah this July. This is something he has chosen for himself, unlike most of the students in his class. They complain about their studies and classes. Zane on the other hand goes with an opened mind and heart and has led me to a more peaceful beautiful world. For this Iam greatful Carrie

  7. Carrie,
    What a beautiful story. We have known one another a long time my friend. Although this miles and the years have separated us, it is truly touching to have the history we do and read this story. Thank you for posting.
    All my love,