Hanukkah begins tonight at sundown. For those of you who aren’t up on your Jewish holidays, Hanukkah is an eight-day “festival of lights” to celebrate the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after a group called the Maccabees overthrew their Greco-Syrian oppressors. While Hanukkah has all of the trappings of a perfectly good holiday – battles, a miracle, donuts – it’s actually pretty minor compared to our big’uns. However, over the past 2,000 years or so, the Boxing Day of Jewish holidays has been slowly elevated to commercialized VIP status thanks to its relative proximity to the season of Christmas and the acquiescence of Jewish parents all over the globe to their children asking, “Do I get a present, too?”
Still, even with all of the “I Latke Hanukkah” sweaters and Menches on Benches on the market, the actual tradition of Hanukkah remains relatively simple and unchanged: Light the menorah. Say two blessings. Eat food cooked in oil. “Play” dreidel*. Repeat.
Kyle is not Jewish (he’s Catholic). He and I started dating in January and got engaged three months later (oy vey ammiright) – and so when he and I piled into the car that December for our first Christmastime trip to his hometown in Saskatchewan, Canada, it was also the first time I was meeting much of his very large extended family. In that particular year, the first night of Hanukkah fell on December 25.
It is very convenient to be in a Jew/non-Jew relationship because you never need to discuss with whose family you will spend your respective holidays. Even when I found out that Hanukkah and Christmas overlapped there was never any question in my mind where we’d be on Christmas Day; I figured I’d either celebrate the first few days of Hanukkah in spirit, or just push it back a bit (blasphemy!) and start Day 1 when we got home later that week. Kyle, however, was not having it.
“I packed the menorah and candles,” he said matter-of-factly as we filled the Honda Civic from wheelbase to roof with presents and suitcases, “And we’ll light it up before supper each night.”
“Erm, okay,” I said, knowing full well that I was never going to do that. I felt a little weird that my first substantial trip to my future family-in-law’s house would be wedging into their big’un holiday with my shrug-shrug of a holiday. Like, “Hello, Canadians! I am Amanda, an American who has appeared out of nowhere and claimed your guy. Nevermind that Christmas tree; spin my dreidel, and comply!” I was so set on not Hanukkah-ing up in Canada that I sneaked the menorah out of Kyle’s bag and back up into our apartment as we were preparing to go.
We arrived in Sask late, late that night. Everyone should have been sleeping; instead, they were all waiting at the kitchen table with a giant meat tray and a pitcher of caesars and lovely smiling faces. And right in the middle of the table was a brand-new ceramic menorah, which my beautiful, beloved mother-in-law pointed to and said, “We’re all ready for Hanukkah!”
And wouldn’t you know it, those sweet Canadian Catholics (and one Lutheran) were ready. The Kosior Christmastime traditions began in earnest on Christmas Eve and went through Boxing Day, and smack in the middle of all of it they sat nicely as I lit the menorah, and ate fried potatoes, and played about 200 more rounds of dreidel than any modern-day Jew has ever played.
Kyle and I have been married for 14 years, and my Kosior family has celebrated Hanukkah at Christmas with that little ceramic menorah many more times since that first trip northward. A photo of the menorah is above.
Speaking of lovely smiling faces, this week’s news is about Blessing Boxes, a good night’s sleep, and a miniature Christmas village. Read on.
When Jake the Siberian Husky fell through the ice on a walk, the Dickinson Fire Department and the Dickinson Rural Fire Department jumped in (maybe not literally) to help. (Dickinson Press)
Carrington’s Maartje Murphy has been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for her 100-flavor gelato business, which is getting ready to expand into a creamery. (Grand Forks Herald)
Minot is now how to Blessing Boxes – filled with food and personal care items – thanks to a Boy Scout named Logan. (KX Net)
Forty-eight families now have new mattresses, box springs, bed frames, sheets, and pillows thanks to Slumberland and its supporting volunteers. (KVRR)
Minot’s Dale Ganske started giving away extra merchandise from his store for no other reason but to help others, and was quickly supported by donations from Dairy Queen and Spicy Pie. (Minot Daily News)
The Santa Claus Girls in Grand Forks have packed their sleighs full in order to help families in need. (Grand Forks Herald)
The North Dakota Giving Company has gifts ready and wrapped for 19 children and siblings of fallen North Dakota soldiers. (KX Net)
An anonymous donor gave a class of fifth graders $10 each so they could fill Christmas stockings for those in need. (BHG News)
In the back of the Max Museum is a secret Christmas fairy village filled with 150 houses. (BHG News)
*Dreidel is a game played with a four-sided spinning top and gelt (money, or in much more modern common practice, chocolate coins). It was originally created as a way for Jewish people to communicate during the aforementioned Maccabean revolt and not, in fact, as a fun pastime. It’s a cross of the worst parts of marbles (what kid doesn’t want to play a game where someone else ends up with all of their candy) and top spinning (I mean…). Do you know how long it takes for a top to fall once its spinning? Long enough for a child to shove every piece of their chocolate gelt in his or her mouth and tap out of the game. Ninety-nine-percent of dreidel games end after one round. The rest of dreideling consists of competing to see who can spin a dreidel on its top, or on their foreheads, or on another dreidel, and then leaving the dreidels for some unsuspecting adult to step on in the middle of the night.
(Also…Like the story above? Check out last week’s tale of rye bread or this post from last year about Christmastime for the Jews.)