Traditionally, we try to make the first night of Hanukah special. We usually invite people over. We make potato latkes and roast or brisket. We play driedel. And we exchange presents. (Since we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukah, our tradition is to exchange Hanukah gifts on the first and last days of Hanukah).
In the beginning, we have started out this way and by the middle of Hanukah we have forgotten to light the menorah one night. Some years we have went to a local synagogue and participated in a Hanukah party—driedels made of marshmallows anyone? Some years (the real early ones), I read a book about Hanukah to our fur babies—chinchillas (now I read that book to Michael and Willow). But, I would say that in the last few years, with Michael firmly on board, we have maintained a fairly traditional 8-day celebration.
So, of course, it was time to get a little off course! The first night this year coincided with two major events. The first was my brother’s 2nd annual (hopefully traditional) family Christmas party. That was easy enough to integrate with. We brought Latkes on a nice Hanukah plate. The party was during the day, so we would still be able to go home and have a somewhat more muted ceremony that night. BUT--the second major event was another snowstorm. When we got home, our neighbor’s car was stuck in our shared driveway, we could not park our car anywhere, and we needed to get Willow home (as she was all fine and dandy until the last 15 mins of panic in the car when we got stuck in a restaurant driveway as we were turning around to pass our house AGAIN to see why our neighbor’s car was in our way). The kids and I trekked up the snow covered driveway while Husband parked the car (SOMEWHERE) and then helped our neighbors (and then shovel us out too). Meanwhile, Michael wondered aloud when we would light the menorah (and when would he get his present).
We spent the next hour thusly: Husband shoveling. I fed Willow solid foods with her Baby’s 1st Hanukah Bib on. Michael assembled a Star Wars Lego kit he got at the party. I did the dishes, got Willow in her pjs, made my husband tea. Michael and I cleared away the table for the festivities. Michael started decorating driedels and I put on a CD of Hanukah music, while amusing Willow with the wooden Hanukah playset.
Husband came in, warmed up with the tea. We lit the menorah, we had the gifts. We did not play driedel—it was too late.
Writing this made me realize that, except for my poor husband shoveling the snow, it was a pretty good first night.
The second night (last night), my husband had to go to a company function. Michael wanted to know when we were going to light the menorah. I established that at 8 p.m., if dad was not home, we would do it. And I videotaped my son saying the blessings over the menorah. (He wanted it videotaped for dad to see when he got home).
So—planned or not planned, hasseled or not hasseled, traditional or not quite traditional-- the holidays come. And memories are made nonetheless.
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