I’m inspired to share my menorahs after I saw Stacey’s latest hand-crafted menorah , so I’m spending my Memoir Monday post focused on menorahs and memories of Chanukah.
The small one in the front comes from Israel. During my year in Israel (1979-1980) I made it a mission to search shops from the north to the south of Israel for the perfect menorah that I could take home and uncork Israeli memories when I celebrated Chanukah back in the diaspora. It took most of the year to find one that really called out to me. The one above, called with an ancient voice and drowned out the more modern voices.
Back home it lived on a shelf, sharing space with other precious pieces in my collection but every Chanukkah it was dusted off and moved to a central spot in the apartment and filled with a candle each night for the 8 nights.
The menorah in back is the one I share with Tuvia. Again, it was an ancient voice that called to me even in a shop in Nyack, New York.
Together, Tuvia and I light the candles on both menorahs
We celebrate quietly, selecting a concert to see in the city as a way of gifting each other. We share an evening with our families on one weekend nighst and we’ve have moved from gift cards to donations for everyone now that there are no more small children in my family, but when I remember my Chanukahs as a kid, I am in awe of how skillful my parents were in creating a wonderful way of celebrating Chanukah while with the rest of America celebrated Christmas in the same month.
For us, the more serious holidays came in the fall so Chanukah, unlike Christmas, was more for fun. A minor holiday, it commemorated a miracle of the lights that lasted, it was believed, for eight days and nights.
My parents had their work cut out for them-eight nights of celebration!
We didn’t have fancy menorahs, we didn’t have eight nights of amazing presents, we didn’t have lots of Chanukah specials on TV to enjoy, but we did have family.
Before dinner, when the sun set, we would set up our gold plated, menorahs with one special one that my mom brought with her from her home,in thick silver, that we could take turns lighting.
My dad started us off, lighting the Shamas, and then we were free to light a candle for each night on our own menorah. By the eighth night we had a bonfire of lights and as we sang the prayers together and songs we had learned at Hebrew School, we were itching to move to the gift time. Often in the early part of the week, we got socks, or fancy pencils, or candy. We knew that the big gifts came at the end. We salivated, but the shared ceremony each night was joyous. That’s what I remember.
I think we all loved celebrating Chanukah. It forced to us to slow down as a family, as we ate lots of potato pancakes(my dad made the best) and then moved to the living room for the gifts and a fire in the fireplace. each of the eight nights. No phone calls, no homework, no kid fighting.
And to make us feel more connected to the rest of the world, every Christmas day we would visit my dad’s childhood friend, Eddie, who satified our Christmas fantasy world with his great tree and gifts underneath, some with our names on them.
Chanukah this year, will be celebrated here,for the first time. My parents, brothers, sisters-in-law and most of the nieces and maybe the nephew will be at my place for the first night.
How can I make this as special as my parents made it for us? That’s my challenge!