Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights.  This year it coincides with Christmas, starting at sundown on December 25th.

(Note: Some who have read my occasional tirades against organized religion (like here.) might find this post curious.  But I felt that it was something that I wanted to do, especially since my 7 year old is abundantly aware of being out of the mainstream during the holiday season.)

The holiday celebrates the rededication of the Temple and miracle of one days’s worth of oil lasting eight days.  (The oil was used to light a candelabra in the Temple)  These were occasioned by the military victory against Syrian Greek forces.  Link  The Greeks were attempting to impose their culture on the Jews.  Although the military victory is not emphasized, the resultant freedom is.

But this isn’t intended as a history lesson.  That is something for others much more qualified.

Growing up, my family always observed the usual customs of the holiday.  We lit the menorah for eight nights, starting with one candle and gradually adding one each night.  (There is a place for a ninth candle but that is used to light the others.) On the eighth night all eight are lit.  There are also brief blessings/prayers that accompany the lighting of the candles.

My mother made latkes or potato pancakes for us.  I always ate these with sour cream (Never applesauce. Sorry, AndiF!)

Gifts were never given the emphasis that seems to have taken hold lately.  We would usually get a single gift or possibly a few small gifts.  In proof of that, after all these years, I find that few are actually memorable.  The only one that stands out is the portable 8-track player that I received.  (8-tracks!!! boran2, you’re, like, older than Yoda!)  I supose that with 5 kids, my parents didn’t have lots of funds to splurge though I’m not sure that things would have been terribly different had they  been wealthy.

Tomorrow, my child will light the candles.  We’ll say the blessings and have latkes.  (My wife prefers applesauce with hers.  How barbaric!)  My son will get a few gifts, more than I would have received but still rather less than more.  And the cycle will continue.

Oh, my son has noted the great disparity between Christmas and Chanukah acknowledgements.  I’ve taken great pains to point out Chanukah menorahs when we pass one.  I’ve explained that there are less Jews.  But one day he will fully realize, that even here in New York, he is a minority.  I can’t actually remember making that realization myself but I’m sure that it won’t be easy for him.  

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