Hanukkah isn’t always convenient. There have been many years when we postponed our celebration until winter break when our kids could make the trek home. This year, thanks to Jewish holiday drift, the calendar is cooperating: Hanukkah begins on Christmas Eve.
If we turn on the radio that night when we are frying up the latkes, we’ll undoubtedly hear “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” While we don’t have lords a-leaping or swans a-swimming, we do have dreidels a-twirling. So join in and sing with us, the song of the eight nights of Hanukkah.
Eight candles burning
Like sneakers (Keds) and coffee (Maxwell House), there used to be only one choice for Hanukkah candles: the blue box with the washed-out yellow and almost-red candles. Now we have beeswax candles in vibrant colors, tie-dyed striped ones, and artistic ones from the candle factory in Safed, Israel. We love to mix them up in the nightly lineup. We don’t go for symmetry; we go for ongepotchket (thrown together, not matching).
We have a silver hanukkiyot (Hanukkah menorah) from a trip to Italy and a ceramic one from the synagogue, but our favorites are the ones our children made. Every year our kids search for the one they crafted — out of clay or cardboard toilet paper rolls. We know better than to choose a favorite. We clear a space on the table and gather all the menorahs.
Seven latkes frying
Our families demand tradition, which means potato latkes grated by hand and fried in oil. No zucchini. No parsnips. No newfangled variations. For toppings, the grown-ups prefer sour cream. The younger ones favor applesauce. If you can’t decide? We say you can designate some latkes as the “main course” and eat them with sour cream; then you can eat the “dessert latkes” with applesauce.
Six gifts awaiting
It used to be so much fun to wander the toy store aisles in search of Star Wars Legos and a princess dress-up set. Our kids have outgrown plastic toys; they prefer the kind of plastic that fits in their wallet. But transferring money to their bank account or giving them permission to use our Amazon password just doesn’t seem that festive. We search for something tangible that Millennials will enjoy and that can fit in their 700-square-foot apartment. We have a feeling we’ll be gift wrapping socks and underwear again this year.
Five kids arriving
It’s not a holiday unless the kids come home. We’ll fill the refrigerator with all of their favorite foods so they’ll be thrilled with how thoughtful their mother is and want to come home again soon. If we’re lucky, we’ll convince them to stick around until Dec. 31 when we will light all eight Hanukkah candles, drink champagne, and watch the ball drop.
Four dreidels spinning
We will scrounge up pennies or M&M’s so we can play dreidel. Anything we can do together that doesn’t involve an iPhone is a sacred tradition. That’s why, when one of our kids showed us an app that let’s you play virtual dreidel, we weren’t impressed. Tapping the screen to spin isn’t the same as twirling a dreidel on the floor. And the prize is a picture of gelt! We’ll take the real thing, thanks. Pass me a dark chocolate coin.
Three bubbes kvelling
When we were young, we loved our Hanukkah parties with the whole mishpuchah (extended family). We ate latkes, played dreidel, traded presents, and giggled a lot. We’re lucky to have cousins who carry the torch.
It’s nice to attend a family get-together with no dress code and no synagogue attendance — just a chance to ogle new babies, meet new significant others, and catch up on a year’s worth of gossip. It’s especially nice to see your distant relatives somewhere other than at Levine’s Funeral Home.
Two ladies shopping
Every year we pull out our box of Hanukkah chazerai (junky trinkets) — and then we go shopping for more. We’re happy when we find one lonely aisle of blue and white tchotchkes (souvenirs or decorative knick-knacks) sandwiched between the snow-covered ceramic villages and the wooden Santas. We’ve seen a glass dreidel too fragile to spin, a “Peace, Love & Hanukkah” pillow, and a Star of David cake pan, but our delight turned to dismay at the “four-piece Hanukkah ornament set.” We aren’t hanging a blue glass ball on a tree.
And … sing it together now …
A Gutsy Judah Macabee.
Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic are The Word Mavens. They are the authors of a new book, “The Whole Spiel: Funny essays about digital nudniks, seder selfies and chicken soup memories.” They present a humorous Jewish program to synagogues and communal groups. Connect with them at www.thewordmavens.com.