Lighting Up Our Hanukkah Nights

| December 8, 2010 | Comments (1)

chanukahOur Hanukkah is feeling a little off this year. Personally, I hate when it starts so close on the heels of Thanksgiving. We had barely digested our turkey when it was time to haul out the menorahs (technically, hanukkiyot). We have seven menorahs, one for each member of our family (including the dog — not my idea). They range in style from a traditional Tree of Life that we got as a wedding gift, to a Noah’s ark for my son of the same name, to the kissing fish that belongs to the dog.

For each of the eight nights of the holiday, we light the shamash (helper candle) and one candle per night. So the first night is the shamash plus one, the second night, the shamash plus two, etc. If you are mathematically minded, you will have figured that means 44 candles per menorah per year, or in our case, 308 candles. As a consequence, we opt for the generic, cheapo Hanukkah candles, rather than the designer, $7.99 a box candles that look so pretty, but make too deep a dent into our celebratory piggy bank. We have stocked up on Hannukah candles over the years and it seemed for a while like we had a never-ending supply. This year, though, we realized by the second night that we were running low and by night three, we could only light two of our menorahs. Once the holiday starts it’s practically impossible to find the economical candles, and I had to scour seven stores before I could scrape together an adequate supply.

Lighting the candles is my favorite part of the holiday. We have a beautiful picture window in the front of our house, and we rearrange the furniture, putting the sofa table right in front of the window. Displaying our hanukkiyot for the world to see is an important part of the holiday tradition. Even better, the glass reflects the lights of the candles back into our living room, filling these darkest nights of the year with the warm glow of family celebration.

Though Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas, we do give gifts to our children each night, usually something they really want on one night, then small tokens or necessities (new winter hats, PJs and sugarless gum were on this year’s list) on the other nights. While socks and underwear may not seem like fabulous presents, we think it’s important to appreciate that it is a gift to be able to buy the things we need. My tween boys’ favorite gifts so far are their cozy new bathrobes ($10 each on sale at Target).

This year when we light the menorahs, we are reminded how much we are missing our girl. This is her first real holiday away from home. Since she can’t light candles in her dorm room, I bought her a window-gel menorah and tucked eight small gifts into her carry-on when she was home for Thanksgiving. Each night, she calls us and we yell “Happy Hanukkah” into the phone as she adds a new gel flame to her menorah and tells us which gift she opened. It’s fun, but it’s not the same. And even though I know she is happy and where she needs to be, the candles here at home just don’t burn as brightly without her.

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Category: New Posts, tweens

About Alma K: Alma started her personal blog,, in 2006--right around the time her firstborn began speaking in sentences. She now has two girls, 5 and 3, and lives in a 100 year old house in Oak Park. Husband Josh works from home part-time, which makes the juggle of working full time as a creative at a large downtown ad shop that much easier. The daughter of a Foreign Service officer, Alma spent her childhood moving from place to place. She moved to Chicago for college at age 18 and never left. If it wasn't for the winters, she'd never dream of leaving. Follow Alma on Twitter @marketingmommy. View author profile.

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  1. The photo is lovely. It must be even more lovely in person. It’s wonderful that you’ve been able to include your daughter in the holiday, even though she’s far away.

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