Friday, December 11, 2009
Tonight begins Chanukah, a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, but festive and filled with light.
As I polish the menorah and wrap Hedgie's first little gift, I'm in my usual strange December state of mind. I'm Jewish, but surrounded on all sides by Christmas--because, of course, I don't live in an 18th century shtetl. But as I do every year, I begin to feel stirrings of rebellion somewhere deep inside.
It helps me to remember the old pennies. Every year at Chanukah, in preparation for our game of dreidl, my Grandma Eva pulled out the bag, sagging under its own weight. The pennies smelled funny, felt funny. But they held strong symbolism: of our family together, our precious faith and tradition that set us apart from others. A tradition that we had to be brave enough to hang onto in the face of the temptations of over-assimilation.
Our December holiday, though its story is grand and momentous, is truly humble in its celebration--potato pancakes, a game of tops, little presents, candles flickering in the early darkness, and, of course, the bag of old pennies.
No, Christmas is not my holiday. And these little Chanukah traditions are all I want--these, and nothing more, exactly as it should be. I don't mind being different.