A week before Hanukkah, we wrote an essay that was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It was our spin on the Twelve Days of Christmas song, so instead of “eight maids a milking” we had “eight candles burning.” You get the idea.
Right after it appeared, we got a phone call from Inquirer reader Elaine Fein Calvin. She liked our essay but wanted to be sure we knew that there were real, great Hanukkah songs. She sent us links to The Maccabeats and Israeli folksingers on YouTube. Thanks, Elaine. We’ve been singing “I have a little dreidel, I made it out of clay” for 50 years, but it’s always fun to see some new stuff.
This year, Hanukkah arrived right with Christmas. Joyce thought it was great to celebrate the calendar convergence by being able to light Hanukkah candles and say the blessings at her friend’s annual Christmas party. The menorah sat on a table right next to the Christmas tree. But we still didn’t have maids a milking. We don’t even have cows. Here’s how it turned out:
Eight Candles Burning
We wrote about how we’re glad there are more choices for Hanukkah candles than the washed out ones that come in the blue box. We look forward to a lineup of tie-dyed and rainbow-striped ones. Joyce was certain she had a stash of pretty ones left over from last year, so she didn’t buy any new candles. She forgot that she had sent her candles to her son in Denver, so she had to rush out last minute to the local Acme. What was left? The old blue box with washed-out colors. The only good news – there were now washed-out orange candles among the red, white, blue and yellow ones. A small miracle.
Ellen shlepped three boxes of candles and a menorah to New York City, where her tribe of three children gathered. They lit candles in her son Andy’s NYU dorm room because he’s an RA and he was on duty. He had volunteered to work on Christmas. That’s what Jewish co-workers do.
Seven Latkes Frying
Ellen fried up way more than seven latkes. “Andy cooked a million of them,” she says. “He had two frying pans going. We had friends over for dinner and ate latkes and then had leftovers the next day.” Joyce wanted photographic proof, so it’s posted below.
There is, however, no proof that her house smelled like a McDonald’s deep fryer for days afterwards.
Joyce did no latke frying this Hanukkah, although she did latke eating at her friends’ house. Stephanie and Ray served two kinds – potato and parsnip. Joyce was surprised that she preferred the parsnip ones. (Heresy!) With applesauce.
Six Gifts Awaiting
We remember the days when the kids tried to convince us that Hanukkah required eight nights of presents. We used to give them books one night, toys for a few, and then we filled out the rest of the nights with socks and underwear and dreidels and gelt. Ellen’s neighbor, who has two little boys, confirmed this parental practice and proudly showed off the “plastic Star Wars cups” that were night #4 gifts to her boys.
But our kids are older – they’re young adults. And when we asked them what they wanted or needed for Hanukkah, some of them emailed us back links. So we clicked and ordered. Where’s the fun in that?
It’s a little better than going in blind and buying men’s moccasin slippers that we think are “very useful and fashionable” but the boys refuse to wear. That just earned us a trip back to the store to stand in the “returns” line.
Five Kids Arriving
Only three kids actually arrived back at their childhood homes. When Joyce’s son comes for a visit later this month, they’ll have their traditional Christmas Chinese food and a movie celebration. We’re used to moving Hanukkah around on the calendar to suit our kids’ schedules. Just because Hanukkah got the calendar right this year, why should we mess with our traditions?
Four Dreidels Spinning
We hung up the silver dreidel banner and put the laughing Mr. Dreidel on the back door. We bought several bags of gelt – but we didn’t actually get around to playing dreidel. Maybe we’re getting old? Maybe we just forgot? Maybe we like other games better? Maybe one day, when we have grandchildren . . .
We did, however, peel and eat the gelt, but it paled in comparison to the cappuccino truffles and the sea salt caramels we got as gifts.
Three Bubbes Kvelling
This holiday we saw friends and immediate family, but we didn’t get together with cousins, and we missed it. We got our fill of Bubbes – and some Zaydes – at our three book talks in December at local synagogues. And we got an earful from a Bubbe at Trader’s Joe’s when we overheard her stop a young woman who was wearing shorts on a cold rainy day. The Bubbe couldn’t resist warning her, “You’ll catch yourself death of a cold.”
Two Ladies Shopping
Hanukkah was late this year, so we put off doing our shopping. This meant we got caught up in the Christmas shopping madness. We saw lots of ugly Christmas sweaters and fuzzy socks. We resisted most of the sales and all of the half-price wrapping paper.
Hannah comes with a book, which according to her creators tells the story that … “Hannah Maccabee is mad! Her cousins have gone off to face the Greeks and defend the Jewish people, while she’s sitting at the Great Temple, not allowed to help. Luckily, Hannah is smart, strong, and has a heart filled with love. Nothing can stand in her way!“ We’re all for girl power, but we’re kind of glad our daughters are too old for this gift.
All in all, it was a good Hanukkah. We were glad to spend time with the kids. Happy to see our friends. Now it’s time to hope for a not-so-snowy winter and look forward to spring vacations.
The supermarket has already put out a bin of red Valentines hearts. That’s something to be happy about.