Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Hanukkah

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, the celebration of the festival of lights in Jewish tradition.

With Sarah approaching the age of four it felt different this year for me to make more of a fuss about Hanukkah than what I was used to doing when growing up. It was my mission to help her see the beauty of this holiday, begin to learn more about its history, and to start to appreciate its traditions, especially those that we create together as a family.

Interestingly, today Sarah asked me if we were going to be putting up Hanukkah decorations inside or outside of our house. She likely asked this question because many people, including friends, relatives and neighbors have their homes emblazoned with colorful lights for all to see with Christmas in close proximity.

In years past, especially before Sarah was born, the only sign of Hanukkah in my home was the symbolic menorah (both electric and the one with actual candles for lighting). Otherwise, I rarely if ever hung up decorations as that was not what I experienced growing up as a kid, and not something typical in Jewish tradition.

It just so happens that while Hanukkah is an important holiday with much significance in Jewish culture, it is not the most important Jewish holiday of the year. Yet, Hanukkah has changed somewhat over the years mostly because of its timing being so close to Christmas.

As parents, it's our job to help guide our children, especially as far as religious and spiritual beliefs go. Therefore, when Hanukkah comes around, especially as Sarah starts to gain a better understanding of this holiday, it seems as if more needs to be done on my part, and Daniel's, to help her see its value, especially beyond the gifts and glamour.

I admit that this year I went overboard a bit on presents, and plan to institute a budget cap next year. It's so easy to get lost in the desire to want to provide our children with wonderful new toys and books and fun stuff. However, one of the biggest lessons around Hanukkah, and Jewish culture, is that it is less about receiving gifts but instead about giving to help others in need. This is called Tzedakah.

Sarah and I have both shared our belongings in the past to help others. That's why tonight, I told her that tomorrow we will go through some of her old clothes, toys, books and more and pack them up to share up with other children who are less fortunate. She agreed, and with a smile.  I will be doing the same of my things, and plan to begin the purge tomorrow.

On another note, this year, while shopping for presents I started to notice that stores were including a robust supply of Hanukkah decorations. It was really nice to see and it made me smile. I was tempted, and decided to begin a collection of items to pass on to Sarah in the future. I stocked up on beautiful decorative wall hangings and paper lanterns with stars and dreidels, among other things.  Hanukkah is indeed a celebration and one that deserves some decorative elements to add to the festivities.

Today, I decided to surprise Sarah with all the decorations set up in our dining room. After doing this I got an awesome feeling of wanting to invite everyone we knew to come over to celebrate in the joy of the freedom we have been given to live and choose for ourselves thanks to the Macabees for their sacrifices and risk taking efforts to help the Jews.

So, as the lights burn over these eight days and nights, dreidels spin, fried food gets eaten, and time is spent with loved ones, let's be reminded of the efforts made in our history to create the freedom we now experience today. And, let's celebrate with the lights of the candles as they flicker and be reminded of what has been done for us, and what we need to do moving forward to help others.

Last year, I wrote a blog post about Hanukkah including several haiku poems to celebrate this wonderful time of year.  Enjoy!

I also decided, with new perspective, to write new Haiku this year. These come from an even greater understanding of this holiday especially as a parent and educator to my child on her future Jewish learnings.

Happy Chanukah
Thanks Macabees for freedom
Tzedakah, help others

Eight days and eight nights
The candles flicker and glow
Freedom and giving

Happy Chanukah!!!

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