Every year, it's the same joke: Someone will say, "Wow, Hanukkah is so early this year!" And Aron will say, "Or late. Isn't it late? It feels sort of late, to me." The joke is that it always seems early, or late; it never seems "on time," which I suppose would only happen if it fell exactly on, say, December 25. Then it would be totally on time.
Hanukkah, as celebrated today, is a funny holiday, more American than Hebraic, really--not very important in the Jewish scheme of things (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur get top-two honors, with Passover coming up behind), but vital in terms of offering a Jewish alternative to the kid-friendliest holiday of the year. Every Jewish family makes their own way with the Christmas quandary--celebrate it with a tree, celebrate without a tree, celebrate by going to Chinese food and a movie, don't celebrate it at all. I was raised with Christmas (my Mom was raised-Catholic, now atheist; my Dad is a Jew Who Loves Christmas, of which there are many), and lighting the Hanukkah candles. Presents on Christmas, none on Hanukkah. Aron had Christmas at his Mom's with presents, Hanukkah with his Dad with presents. It's a complicated matrix.
We've decided to make it a little--teensy--less complicated for our kids. We do Hanukkah. We give presents on Hanukkah. But we often end up with one of our three extended families who celebrate Christmas on the day itself. (I just realized that our Christmas Policy is weirdly similar to our Meat Policy--as vegetarians (oh, alright, fishetarians), we don't eat meat, but once the kids are older, we won't mandate they not try it at other people's homes. (Wait, does that fly as a comparison? Santa = chicken pot pie?)
So we've been lighting the candles and saying the blessing every night after dinner. We hide presents--one a night, though I cheated one night by giving one "category" of many books to Sylvia--and play "hot or cold" to find them. So far, Sylvia seems to understand the concept of "hot or cold" exactly not at all, so we spend a lot of time saying, "Col-der, col-der... Syl, colder means go the other way. Okay, war-mer, war- I mean, col-, it's over there, Syl! Under the chair! Look under the chair!" Lena's so far only good at finding one thing, though she thinks it's a numbers game--arch your head any which way, and you may just find a breast.
The story of Hanukkah is--in part, anyway, the part that has to do with lighting the candles--about having more than you thought you did, about making something out of nothing, about good things happening against all reason. In short, about miracles. My life feels full to bursting with miracles: messy, beautiful miracles who sometimes spit up or talk back. And that blessed feeling is always on time.
Join writer Emily Bloch each week as she chronicles her pregnancy--and now, life with a new baby.