Tonight is the first night of Chanukah, Hanukkah, or Chanukkah (however you choose to spell it). In the Jewish tradition, this Festival of Lights is a time for family, food, and celebration. Its a children’s holiday, full of chocolates, games, and gifts. Unlike most of our holidays, this is not a religious time; Orthodox Jews don’t take off work, attend synagogue, or pray. Rather, it is a time to celebrate triumph over adversity, and the strength of a people to believe in both miracles and their convictions.
I happen to love Chanukkah. Why? Because I absolutely ADORE choosing, shopping for, and giving gifts to people, and watching their faces when they open the gifts. I also love throwing parties, feeding people, and having my family around me.
Since I’ve had children, Chanukah has been a big deal for me. I created some what I thought were amazing traditions. We decorated the house with cutouts, pictures and streamers. (Its hard living in a Christmas world, so we’ve gotta make Chanukah as good or better, you know.)
My kids each got a gift a day for the eight days (5 of their own, and then 3 were family sharing gifts like a video or a game). I wrapped each of their gifts in a unique-to-them wrapping paper so they would know which pile was theirs. They would sit and stare at that giant pile of gifts, trying to guess what was in each package (Of course, Little J would rip open the corners of his packages, and one year, when he was about 4, actually unwrapped EVERYTHING). We lit the candles every night on my Great Grandmother’s Menorah. My sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, parents, everyone would come over. It was BEDLAM. And I loved it!!!
Now, I’m struggling with the kids growing up, and just not being interested in our Chanukah traditions. My picture of the perfect Chanukah doesn’t gel with their teenage sensibilities. And Chanukah, with its fun and games, is really geared at little children. My teens (and tween) don’t want to hang around singing songs and colouring Chanukah pictures. They don’t want to bake Dreydl cookies with me. Its hard enough to pin them down just to light the candles every night for a week. Bubba even asked if we could ‘defer’ his Chanukah present until the spring so he could have Lacrosse equipment.
Let’s face it, that ship has sailed. So, how does a Mommy grow up with her kids? I can’t let it get me too far down that my babies are growing up, and are way more interested in their friends than hanging out with Mom (no matter how ‘cool’ I am.) While I’m waiting to be a Bubbie (Jewish Grandmother and it better be a real long while…) it’s time to create some new, grown-up traditions. While they may be more sedate, these traditions will have to do, as yes..the beat does go on.
Tonight we will light the candle for the first night. Big J has a meeting, so my Mom and Step-father are coming over for dinner, which will of course include Latkes. Hopefully, my kids will fight over who gets to light the Shammash (The lead candle that lights the other ones). And, we’ll say the blessings, smile at each other, spend the evening together, and know that we are a family.
How are you adapting your family traditions as the Beat goes on?