A Pre-Hanukkah Meme

It has been a long time since I got tagged for a meme. Amy over at Homeshuling created what she calls a “Jewish mama meme” for the upcoming holidays. I haven’t been tagged for a meme in a long time, so I was happy to participate.

One menorah, or several? Hillel or Shammai? (just kidding about that part)
Several – the more light, the better. That said, we only have two, so we have to have a bunch of other families over the last night, then the big windowsill in our living room is completed lined with them.

Hillel, for these words: If I am not for myself, who is for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?

Do you buy your children gifts for every night of Chanukah?
We’re learning. Last year, we went overboard and bought all manner of tchotchkes and small gifts, only to get deluged with gifts from family. I wound up stashing several of the things we were going to give them. But yes, they do open a present each night. And then they get Christmas at Grandma’s, but I see that we’re saving that question for later.

Do you and your spouse/partner or any other adults in your life exchange gifts?

Special family Chanukah traditions?
This too is evolving as we go. Since neither Greg or I grew up celebrating Hanukkah, we are inventing family traditions and rituals from scratch. A few come to mind that we have done consistently for the last few years. We always hang a few strings of lights – white lights, colorful lights – inside and outside. It’s a holdover from our childhoods, and I find it beautiful and festive and warming. We also create a Hanukkah calendar together to hang on the living room wall. It’s actually a practical matter; if we get invited to various Hanukkah parties or plan to have people over at all, it’s helpful to have it all visually laid out somewhere. But it’s also a fun and creative way to anticipate and plan for the holiday with the kids.

We always designate one of the nights as “tzedakah night.” Basically, instead of giving each other gifts that night, we get a cardboard box and go around the house, each of us choosing several items – clothes, books, music, stuffed animals – to put in the box, which we then bring to a homeless shelter in town that houses families with young children.

Finally, we play some mean games of dreidel – with gelt of course – after dinner every night. Gimel, nun, hay, and shin are the four Hebrew letters our kids know so far, and this is why.

Latkes or sufganiyot? If latkes, sour cream or applesauce?
I’m partial to latkes myself. Thin, crispy around the edges, with all the fixins. But generally only if someone else makes them.

Favorite Chanukah book?
Thanks to the PJ Library, our shelves are crammed with Jewish children’s books, including many good ones about Hanukkah. Aviva loves When Mindy Saved Hanukkah. Pearl loves Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat. I’m partial to anything by Patricia Polacco, including The Trees of the Dancing Goats. A Hannukah Treasury is a beautiful, hardcover collection of stories, fables, poems and songs.

Do you actually play dreidl? If so, what do you use for counters?
Yes! We play with gelt! No messing around here.

What relationship, if any, do you have with Christmas and all things Christmas-y?
That’s a joke, right? Oh, where do I start? Maybe here. Or here. Or what the hell, come find us on Christmas Eve at my mother-in-law’s house three miles from here. We’ll be the ones with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads.

As for tagging folks: If you have a blog and a relationship with Hanukkah, go ahead and play along.

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