Tales and tails on Hanukkah

Hanukkah in our home is filled with unique family traditions. It’s a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar, but over the years we have found ways to make it special and meaningful.

Years ago, I inherited numerous boxes of old candles from my grandmother–who probably bought them when they were on sale after the holiday. We sorted them by color and stored them in a huge box. Each night we choose the candles for our individual Hanukkiah, based on a theme. For example, one of us might choose yellows, oranges, and reds for the sunset or blue and white to represent the Israeli flag. We spend a few minutes before we light the candles trying to guess each others’ themes.

Over time, we’ve gotten quite creative. So far this Hanukkah we’ve had themes representing a taco, a banana split, red Jelly Belly jellybeans (and one is cinnamon, but which one?), Moby Grape, pepperoni pizza, the devil and the deep blue sea, and the sun on a partly cloudy day.

Even if we’re not physically in the same place, we use Skype to light candles together–and play the Guess My Theme game–every night. I’m always impressed with the sparks of creativity that are lit along with the candles. It unites us in a shared moment of warmth and imagination every evening for eight nights.

My mom and my daughter Corinne joined Brian and Aaron and I in person this past weekend. We ate potato latkes, lit candles, played some games and made time to talk. Both Corinne and Aaron really enjoyed spending quality time with their Grandma Bev, hearing stories about when she went to college as a young married woman, and comparing it with their own experiences in school.

And of course we lit the candles, with my mom jumping in the fun and coming up with her own theme: America.

Lighting Hanukkah candles with the family

Aaron, my mom, and Corinne

Without my dad, it felt different–a little subdued, but still still celebratory. And of course, the dogs and cats joined in.

Because my mom spent the whole weekend with us, normally shy Calvin decided she was on the Approved list, and came out to visit.

Grandma petting Calvin the cat

Calvin enjoyed the attention from Grandma Bev.

He even pondered shoulder surfing. He put one paw on my mom, and then decided he had business elsewhere. Maybe next time.

My daughter and my mom: animal lovers all

Quite comfortable on Corinne’s shoulders, Calvin gets love from two generations.

We tried to play dreidel with the dogs and cats like we’ve done in years’ past, but it didn’t work as well as we had hoped.

Jasper was vaguely interested.

Jasper watches Hanukkah dreidel

Lilah watched from a distance, probably placing mental bets on how long it would take before someone ate the dreidel.

Lilah of Life with Dogs and Cats

Lilah watches.

Which turned out to be about 1.72 seconds once Tucker joined us. We had to stop the game because it looked like he was going to pounce right through the coffee to table to Get That Spinny Thing. We thought it would be prudent to discourage that activity.

Dog intently watches dreidel

Tucker is about to pounce.

Elsa Clair kept tabs on the action.

Cat peeks through stair bannisters

Elsa Clair stares from the stairs.

Brian took a moment to relax and check Facebook, and report the day’s happenings to Jasper and Tucker.

Jasper and Tucker have kindly left room for Brian on the couch.

Jasper and Tucker have kindly left room for Brian on the couch.

Athena, who had been unhappy with the inconsistent availability of high-quality laps, decided to try out Grandma’s lap. Apparently it received the Athena Seal of Approval; her purrs could be heard across the room.

Athena the cat on Grandma's lap

I can’t tell who’s happier–Athena or my mom. I’ll call it a tie.

All in all, a happy Hanukkah for all, full of tails and tales.

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What family traditions do you have to celebrate holidays this time of year?

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4 Comments on "Tales and tails on Hanukkah"

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  1. What a wonderful Hanukkah celebration! We love the tradition of guessing the theme of the candles. What an amazing idea!

  2. meowmeowmans says:

    Happy Hanukkah to you, dear friends! Grandma sure looks happy with Athena on her lap. :)

  3. It looks like everyone got into the celebration. Happy Hanukkah!

  4. Sandy says:

    What a lovely and warm family celebration – happy holidays to you and your family!

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