Posted on: November 29, 2010
I’m planning a Hanukkah party with Mirs for the 3rd night of Hanukkah. I’ve not quite settled on my menu, although I know that it will have very strong Middle Eastern influences. My two Jewish cookbooks are Sephardic and I’ve always been a fan of Middle Eastern flavors, so it seems appropriate. The third night of Hanukkah is also Shabbat so there will be a lot of candles, wine, and of course challah. We each have individual menorahs and have asked our friends to bring their own as well. I’m excited to see her apartment lit by soft flickering lights of the Shabbat candles, the menorah, and the dozen tea lights I plan on buying.
I’m tempted to purchase a lot of Hanukkah decorations but when I start to think about silver and blue garland hung in Mirs apartment I feel sort of like I’m trying my best to not decorate it like Christmas while decorating it like “Christmas.” I’m just not sure that I want to treat Hanukkah in the same way that I’ve treated the 30 Christmases I’ve celebrated. Christmas only happens for one day but for the days leading up, the house is ready for its debut. People are stringing lights, the Christmas trees are lit and plastic figures will start to grace the lawns and porches of neighborhoods around the world.
I remember watching old Christmas movies or reading old books where folks put the Christmas tree up the day before Christmas. Now, in my mother’s house at least, the Christmas tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving. Every year she tries to put it up before hand and when we were living at home, we wouldn’t let her. Now, that my sister and I are gone she’s left to her own devices not one, or two, but three Christmas trees are up (and have been for weeks) and decorated in her house.
I will admit that I’m missing Christmas carols. I’ve actually decided that Christmas Carols that don’t mention Christ, Savoirs, Children, or Angels are perfectly acceptable songs. I’m also a big fan of lights and I suppose that lights are way more Hanukkah-themed than Christmas-themed. It’s a slippery slope, though. It could start with lights and garland to make my apartment feel more “festive” and before you know it ornaments will start showing up. Where do you draw the line? The Christmas tree is actually pretty pagan rather than Christian and ornaments don’t have much to do with Christ’s birth…yet they all feel like Christmas, not Hanukkah.
When I start to think of it like that the question begs to be asked-Beside the menorah, what statement piece does Hanukkah have? More importantly, does it matter? The mitzvah of Hanukkah is the lighting of candles and the proclamation of the lit candles. According to most sources I’ve read the menorah’s light is supposed to be visible for the world to see. It’s not supposed to stay on your table in the living room but in the window. I always scoffed at the idea of an electric menorah but now I feel like I want to buy one for the purpose of putting it in the window.
While Hanukkah is not a major holiday, the idea of 8 days of “presents” is obviously appealing. For the past 2 years Mirs and I have exchanged presents for the 8 days of Hanukkah after lighting the candles and reciting the blessings. This will be the first year that I’ll be doing it as a Jew-to-be. It’s also the first year that we’ll be celebrating with friends. I’m going to celebrate it in a major way, with drinks, friends, candlelight and music.