Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The First Night

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah and while I'm thrilled to be kindling the Hanukkah lights -- for me, a reminder that within each of us is the ability to revive the Divine spark of light which resides (at times) hidden within our soul -- I also experience a bit of longing this time of year.... a longing for nostalgia.  To understand this, one must understand that I'm a Jew by Choice, which means I grew up with pine needles on the carpet, christmas carols around the piano, lights (the old school kind with thick bulbs) strung on the tree, twenty some odd ornaments with my name embroidered, etched, or written in marker for every year since 1974 until my grandmother became to ill to continue the tradition, and polyester stockings hung with thumbtacks from the cardboard fireplace that was leaned up against the front wall.  I still have the thank you letter from Santa for the cookies and milk I left for him -- though his signature looked freakishly similar to my mothers.  We didn't celebrate Jesus' birthday, we celebrated a secular christmas.  And I LOVED it!  We piled into the royal blue Plymouth Volare station wagon, the blue vinyl seats freezing cold, and headed to the christmas tree lot.  A blue spruce, my mother insisted.  Bringing the decorations up from the basement was one chore that I never bored of.  One ornament that my mother had gotten as a gift when she was a den mother, smelled like frankincense.  At the time, I didn't know what the scent was, but only that it meant it was christmastime.  It still smells like it did in 1980...and to this day, whenever I smell frankincense, I can see that angel ornament hanging from our tree. 

But then I converted.  Not because I had decided to "commitment ceremony" a Jew, but because I had been on a very long journey of seeking and finally had found what felt right to me. (By the way, if you skipped over that last link, commitment ceremony, because you know what a commitment ceremony is, you should think about taking a look at it, just for laughs).  And now, I don't decorate my home with a tree covered in frankincense smelling ornaments or a cardboard fireplace to thumbtack stockings to... but I still do have a longing for 'decorating' during the month of december.  Over the years my partner, Jenn, has giggled a little when she saw me hanging up a silly blue and white paper "Hanukkah" bunting.  Or when she noticed that I'd purchased blue place mats and white napkins to 'decorate the table'.  Or when she found the hideous Hanukkah table cloth that I found at the thrift store.  Really, even I agree it's hideous, but maybe it's akin to hanging polyester stockings, eh?  

But this year, without giggles, Jenn willingly climbed up on the stool to hang my 'silly' bunting and Avi loves the way it 'flies' when the furnace kicks on. 

So in the spirit of the holiday season... happy decorating and happy celebrating, whether it is next to a Hanukkiyah, beside the cardboard fireplace, alongside a solstice tree or in front of a Kinara.



  1. My stepdad was a non-practicing Jew and every year we would give him a hanukkah bush. Perhaps you could combine your childhood traditions with your adulthood ones...bringing a little fir into you den?

  2. Lisa, while it seems harmless enough... it's more important for me to keep the two holidays separate. Maybe next year I can help you trim your tree instead! :)


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