Monday, December 29, 2008

Eight Happy Nights: Hannukah 2008 Is a Wrap!


The sun has just set today, ending the minor Festival of Hannukah.
Although it is a minor festival according to the Jewish calendar, it is a major holiday in our hearts. That may be because it is a festival of identity and freedom, celebrated amidst the American Christmas. It may also be because it requires no long worship services, no intense preparation; it is relaxed, and people can go about their usual business during the days. It is only while the candles burn that we pause to enjoy the growing light each night, to enjoy songs and presents, to relax with one another.

On the first night, we lit candles at the house of friends in Edgewood.

Latkes--potato pancakes-remind us of the miracle of the oil. They are also warm and crisp on a cold winter's night. And nobody can eat just one!

There is a legend that Mrs. Maccabee's latkes were responsible for the Hannukah lights!

On the second night, the Engineering Geek led us in a rousing version of Maoz Tzur -- Rock of Ages.

He then reminded us of a family Hannukah story: how and why the Shammash (candle used for lighting the others) stays balanced on his musical Menorah. And how he convinced a gullible friend one Hannukah that it was by balance and magic that it does not fall!

On the third night, we saw that the light was growing. Little by little, the glow was beginning to fill the room.

On that night, the first of two snowstorms for the week had ended, but the Engineering Geek, the Boychick, and his friend A., and I were all snowed in together. This was the night of our best discussion about the Maccabees.

On the fourth night, we had been able to venture out for an hour, and A. was able to go home for he had to visit his grandma the next day.

This was a peaceful night. The three of us sang songs, and then settled down to listen to The Festival of Light CD (Produced by Six Degrees). This eclectic collection has jazz, klezmer, blues and Israeli, including my favorite version of Maoz Tzur on it.

The fifth night was December 25, and because it was during Hannukah, the Synagogue Men's Club did not put on the almost annual Movie and Chinese.

So after spending a quiet day at home in the snow, we made our own Chinese Dinner and we watched an Israeli movie after the candles burned down.

The sixth night was on Shabbat. We lit the candles just before dark, and enjoyed them in the dining room. We ate our Shabbat dinner and sang Shabbat songs, while they burned.

After, it was dessert, the Birkat Ha-Mazon (Grace after Meals) and then a quiet walk in deep snow. No movies on Shabbat!

On the seventh night, we began when we could count three stars in the night sky. Before lighting the Hannukah candles, we said good-bye to Shabbat with the sweet ceremony of Havdalah--Separation-- and sang of a good week to come.

Here, the Engineering Geek and the Boychick look at their fingers in the light of the braided candle as we chant the blessing for fire. The Hannukah candles stand ready in the Menorot.

On the last night of Hannukah, we celebrated many things. The Boychick's 15th birthday. The Chem Geek Princess's return home from England. And the presence of A. and his mom to celebrate with us!

By the eight night, the room is filled with the warm light of candles!

We remembered the miracles and wonders the deliverances and battles fought by our ancestors in those days at this season . . .


Melora said...

What a beautiful holiday. The last night, especially! Your daughter must have so much to tell you all about.

SabrinaT said...

What a wonderful celebration. I truly enjoyed your pictures. My sons and I are learning a bit about Hannukah. I am saving your post to show then in the morning when they wake.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

Thanks so much for this post- it was a lot of fun to read it.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful family and a blessed holiday celebration. :-)