Not a Merry, but Yet a Very Happy Hanukkah

26 Dec

Holidays are known (notorious) for triggering sad memories of family missing in our lives. So, of course I have been thinking about my mom and, yet, fortunately focus on memories of celebrating Chanukah with her. My thoughts rambled and I came up with one memory or lesson for each night.

1.  Lesson, learned very young: Chanukah is NOT as important a holiday as Christmas. I grew up knowing that Chanukah celebrations mimicked Christmas due to societal pressure. My parents were dedicated to recognizing the holiday and carrying out the standard rituals, without Christmasizing it.  Even as a child, my parents somehow helped me feel that the story of the Maccabees, lighting the Menorah, dreidel games and latkes were more important than gift-giving.

2.  Gifts for Children Only:  My mom was adamantly opposed to children giving Chanukah gifts to adults. They were happy to give us gifts, but believed the gelt-giving tradition was intended to be non-reciprocal. As a child and young adult, I might have felt relief at being spared the expense and shopping agony, but the true test of admiring this “rule” is that I pay it forward—I am very happy to not receive gifts from my children and I am truly happy to give.

3.   Chanukah gifts: Not usually bountiful, but, even in tough years, my mom and dad gave us each one gift we requested. They joked that if we wanted one gift each night we’d have to settle for  Crayola’s box of 8 distributed over the holiday. Rebelling against this and starting with my daughter’s first Chanukah,  I decided to indulge my children the way I wish I was…. Whether it is a relative’s, friend’s or our gift, I make sure my children have at least one gift to open each night after we light the candles.

4. Shopping for Sales: We often waited to buy gifts until the Old Bridge Drug Fair lowered prices hourly before closing on Christmas Eve. Sometimes we even ventured to Toys R Us the day after Christmas for the best sales.  Some years our gifts were delayed until the monumental sales began. It was, of course, more fun to go when we had already been appeased with Chanukah gelt and gifts and the trip filled our rooms with extra toys. One problem with my parents’ plan is that I do recall being really sad in the Barbie aisle when NOTHING was reduced. Those were the days of fewer sales and deals. As an ardent sale shopper, my mom would be overwhelmed with today’s current state of sales. I wish my mom could have seen Target on Dec. 24, 2011!

5.  Better than any gift: My parents’ surprise announcement just before the holiday—we’re driving to Florida. I wonder how crazed the last minute decision made my mom—preparing for the long car ride and stay in Miami or Orlando. I knew the reason for this surprise was due to either a bonus paycheck or some other “found” money. The impetus did not take away even one bit of the euphoria I felt when the trip was announced.

6.  Grandma Ray’s latkes: I can see and smell them now—meaty potato patties coated in heavy oil and fried until all of the oil soaked in. During holidays my mother lifted her usual ban on my Grandma’s food treats. My grandma was even allowed to bring the fruit slices, sweets I still crave (and must admit, buy).

7.  Dreidel games: I often think about the very simple fun my sister and I had while playing dreidel on her floor—before her 1970s green shag carpeting was installed. The tiles were a drab and cold brown during the winter, but spinning for pennies (or even luckier, Hershey’s Kisses) was a tradition I relished. I still have our plastic dreidels, the bigger shallow dreidel that held the tiny ones and the piece of paper reminding us how much gelt we give or get from each letter.

8.  Keeping it simple: In keeping with the effort to celebrate Hanukkah in a non-Christmas way, we had very few decorations.  The most significant symbol of the Macabee miracle was prominently displayed—a brass electric Menorah in the window and an old-fashioned brass Menorah in the family room. I have proudly displayed the same electric Menorah, my Grandma Ray’s candle menorah and one that we received as a gift. I must admit I have decorated with Chanukah ribbon and streamers and use napkins decorated with Hanukkah symbols during the 8 days.

I wish my mom could see that she taught me well and her guidance/lessons live on. Happy Hanukkah!

Special thanks to my sister for helping me with accurate recall!

Now go read a wonderful Hanukkah Hoopla post by The Culture Mom !

I would like to thank Streit’s and Doni Zasloff Thomas a.k.a. Mama Doni, the lead singer/songwriter of The Mama Doni Band for providing each of the 16 bloggers involved in #HanukkahHoopla with a little cyberswag.

How can you win? Leave me an awesome comment. On January 5, 2012, I will select one winner at random. Be sure to subscribe to my blog or subscribe to comments on this page so you can find out if you are the winner! If I don’t hear from you within 48 hours, I will select another winner.

Prefer to be contacted via Twitter? Leave your Twitter handle in your comment and I will tweet you if you win.

Not interested in winning? You can still leave a comment! I love to read your words. Just write: “No prize necessary” in your comment.

Don’t make me work too hard to find you. That will make me kvetchy. Oy.

15 Responses to “Not a Merry, but Yet a Very Happy Hanukkah”

  1. Leah December 26, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    Really nice post! I completely agree with you and your mom that Chanukah is for kids and they are the only ones that deserve gifts. My sisters and I used to give gifts to each other, but over the last few years, we realized it’s not about us. It’s about our kids. They should have the magic. Not us. Happy Chanukah! Glad your mothers words are still present with you now.

  2. Deborah the Closet Monster December 26, 2011 at 5:47 am #

    I bought Li’l D some dreidls last week; he’s been having a blast with them, but not via any traditional use. I should watch some videos and make that part of our celebration, because he very clearly gets a kick out of them!

    I should also check into proper use of gelt. Which I could do by asking Li’l D’s “Stu” just as well as by watching videos, I suppose! 🙂

  3. Galit Breen December 26, 2011 at 9:16 am #

    I love the way that you wove eight lessons and memories. So very lovingly told!

  4. Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson December 26, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    “I wish my mom could see that she taught me well and her guidance/lessons live on.”

    As long as her lessons live on, she is with you!

    We are all about making sure the kids get the gifts. None for adults, please. And we joke as some of the oldest cousins have turned 21, “You don’t get jack, and now it’s time to give back.” 😉

    I have loved meeting you, Shari. Best part of the #Hoopla as far as I’m concerned. Off to tweet you.

    • Shari Danzig Stein December 26, 2011 at 9:37 am #

      Thanks Renee for setting us up with a wonderful opportunity to meet and share our thoughts. #Hoopla has brightened my holiday and advanced my dedication to blogging. xo

  5. Sara at Saving For Someday December 26, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    “I wish my mom could see that she taught me well and her guidance/lessons live on. Happy Hanukkah!”

    I’m sure she does. And I know this because I think the same thing with regard to my mother.

    Your post is lovely and it’s heartwarming to read that others grew up celebrating Hanukkah as I did.

    • Shari Danzig Stein December 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

      Thanks for making a connection with me and for your sweet thoughts!

  6. Meghan December 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

    Such a sweet post – love the memories you shared! And I’m a big believer that every single person leaves a legacy. Some, like Presidents, do so in a big way. Most people affect their children, but that has the chance to be equally lasting as family traditions are carried on.

  7. Andrea December 26, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    Shar…as always, loved reading your memories and thoughts. Happy Hanukkah from down South (and no prize necessary)!!

    • Shari Danzig Stein December 27, 2011 at 9:42 am #

      Thanks Andrea! Hope you’re soaking some warm sun for me. Enjoy!

  8. Nina Badzin December 27, 2011 at 12:05 am #

    I loved reading this, Shari. It’s amazing how all of our experiences are different but still similar . . . it’s why we all feel like cousins. 🙂

    I’m so with you on no gifts for adults! Just unnecessary!

    I’m really glad we were in this #hanukkahhoopla together. It was my first blog link up.

    No prize for me, of course!


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