To Hanukkah, Or Not To Hanukkah?

It’s Hanukkah season, and you know what that means. No really, do you? Can you tell me? Because I don’t.

What I do know is that this year, Hanukkah commenced on December 24th, which also happened to be Christmas Eve. As a new Jew, I am only vaguely aware of what Hanukkah is all about. Sadly, I failed the Hanukkah quiz on My Jewish Learning, so clearly I am in the dark regarding the holiday of Hanukkah. I am at least aware that there was light involved, hence the need for a menorah.

Speaking of which, do I need one or not? There are some beautiful menorah’s out there, though I haven’t seen any lit up in my neighborhood. I never realized there were so many styles of menorah’s available: electric, battery-operated, silver, brass, pewter, plastic, wood…there seems to be a menorah to match any Jew’s desire. They are everywhere, even on Craigslist and Amazon.

This is my first official Hanukkah season as a “Jew,” (although only through DNA). To commemorate this occasion, I purchased a Hanukkah-themed decorative plate at Goodwill. I must admit, it was a beautiful bargain. I decided that I could not let this holiday pass by without acknowledging it in some small way.

Initially, I decided I would be honoring Hanukkah with some type of cookies, which I would then place on my newly purchased plate. (I have a baking skills deficiency, so I considered choosing store-bought cookies). However, this led me to wonder, where does one buy local Hanukkah cookies? I have no Jewish bakeries in my neighborhood. Likely no Jews, either. I then thought it might be fun to try some sort of family Hanukkah recipe. So, where does a newish Jewish gal find such a recipe? By contacting DNA cousins via Facebook of course! Lucky for me, I have some helpful Jewish relatives who were willing to share a family recipe for latkes and a simple sauce. They claimed these latkes were easy to make and delicious, so I decided to go for it. However, first I had to tackle the task of buying the necessary ingredients. It turned out to be a painless process, including making my very first purchase of matzo meal.

My other dilemma, besides being the lone Jew in the family, is that I also celebrate and honor Christmas. As it turns out, I learned I was going to be hosting a large Christmas Eve gathering at my home. So, I thought maybe this might be the perfect opportunity to harmonize the two holidays. (I did realize that Hanukkah and Christmas don’t usually go hand-in-hand, but it was important to me to observe both holidays in some way, even if only through food).

To be honest, I haven’t truly enjoyed celebrating Christmas since the mid-1990’s. For various reasons over the years, Christmas became a time of stress, sadness, and depression for me. The magic of the season slowly dwindled away, as did my desire for decorating and reveling in merriment. These days, I obligingly honor Christmas by putting out Christmas towels in the bathrooms, plugging in a small pre-lit tree, hanging décor on my front door, and attending the in-laws Christmas gatherings. I have tried to muster the magic back without success. Perhaps the addition of Hanukkah traditions will invoke that old feeling again. To bring a little bit of light to the darkness.

Chanukah Sameach!