The sunlight is reflecting off of the metallic Chanukah decorations hanging from my windows, creating jewel-toned prisms on my walls. Every dreidel we’ve ever owned is piled into the ceramic dreidel bowl, waiting to be spun. The electric menorah, which I hate, sits in the window ready to be lit, where it will compete with the blue and white Jewish star lights our neighbor down the street has already lit. Chanukah snow globes and music boxes and candles—who decided we needed decorative candles for this holiday and why do I have them—are placed on display strategically around the house. Decorative plates are stacked, waiting for the homemade gelt, latkes and fried Oreos to be made. The only thing left to do is to put out our personal menorahs and candles when Chanukah actually arrives.
There is a fine line between decorating for this holiday and making my house look like the Chanukah fairy threw up in it. No, there’s no Chanukah fairy. Chanukah’s miracle is the oil that lasted eight days, rather than one. It’s the victory of the Maccabeas over the Greeks. And for me, it’s the fact that no matter how much people have inflated the holiday in an attempt to compete with Christmas, it still remains a non-commercialized fairly minor holiday.
That’s not to say I won’t insist on celebrating it with my family. This year, it falls over winter break and we’ve already had the discussion about whether or not the Princess can go out with her friends at night during Chanukah. My response? Of course, as long as you’re home to light the candles first. Because there’s a difference between a minor holiday and an unimportant holiday. And if we let the celebration slide, the miracles disappear.
I think we’ve taught that lesson well. It was the Princess who asked me last week when we were going to decorate for Chanukah. Sure, the “we” really meant “Mom,” but even she wants the decorations up. The wish lists were made, but it’s the traditions we’ve established that the kids talk about: making latkes from scratch, making fried Oreos, decorating, inviting friends over to celebrate with us—this year, the Princess even wants to invite her non-Jewish friends.
So I’m going to add to that list of Chanukah miracles. I’m going to add my children’s desire to celebrate the holiday, when so many other things have fallen by the wayside. That even though there aren’t a lot of gifts being opened, they’ve separated out the gift-giving from the holiday-celebrating, and they still want to participate. They’re growing up, but not out-growing, this holiday. And that’s what I will be thankful for these upcoming eight days of Chanukah.