When we think about Hanukkah, we think about miracles. Well, the first night of Hanukkah, we had our own little miracle. Where I was able to get, from 1 medium to large sized potato, 20 small latkes for our family Hanukkah party. And they were delicious!
Making Hanukkah a celebration for my little family is so important to me, especially since so very many of the Jewish holidays of my youth were hijacked by the Holocaust. DH has amazing memories of these massive Hanukkah celebrations with loads of Uncles, Aunts, Grandparents, cousins, second cousins, etc. My memories of Hanukkah’s past includes my parents, siblings, and Grandparents. My father is an only child, and well, Hitler took care of any of the other relatives that could have been on my Dad’s side. Our celebrations were intimate, small, and very sweet. One night out of the eight, we would go to my Grandparents house where my Grandfather would be busy hand grating the potatoes for the latkes. My Grandmother, meanwhile, was mixing up all the ingredients and frying them in the pan. She never used a spatula, turning each one with either a fork or her fingers. Her fingertips were already numb by then from all the hard work in the concentration camp and then as a seamstress in Manhattan’s sweatshops.
Her latkes were thin, delicious, and perfect. And somehow, the tradition of lighting candles, singing, eating latkes and then finishing them off with Carvel flying saucers were born. My Grandmother made sure we all had our favorite flavor of choice, mine being pistachio, my parents enjoying chocolate and vanilla, my sister liking pistachio, the other sister liking chocolate, and my brother going for the vanilla. We never got together with my Mother’s side of the family since it was usually a school night and my Dad didn’t want to drive into the City. So that was it, our Hanukkah celebration. During the week, we lit candles and then went back to doing our homework. Nothing overly exciting. Sometimes we would get gifts, but for the most part, Hanukkah just wasn’t that big a deal.
So, what happens when you have one person whose Hanukkah celebrations weren’t that big of a deal, married to someone whose Hanukkah celebrations were eight nights of gigantic family get togethers, loads of gifts, gelt, latkes, sufganiot, music, laughter and overall merriment? Well, you have a lot of compromising.
I like to try to incorporate some of DH’s traditions, with some of my low key ones. That being said, I want to make Hanukkah fun and exciting for our kids so they don’t end up riding the school bus in High School and singing Christmas carols at the top of their lungs while looking at all the neighborhood Christmas lights (which are gorgeous!!). I want them to grow up excited about 8 days of joyous festivities, where they get gifts (within reason), spend time with family, learn about the miracles of Hanukkah, and just feel the love of a holiday season.
So, as we work on created new traditions for our little family, we agreed to have a first night of Hanukkah where it’s just us. That made me happy, as we are spending 5 nights of Hanukkah with various members of DH’s family. And, since I have no family on my side in Israel (yet), I have to stand up for myself and insist that small, intimate, little family celebrations at home are also fun and joyous.
I prepared for Hanukkah for a long time. Starting back in August, when we were in the States, and I picked up all the gifts for Baby J. at Target. Everyone laughed at me for doing that, but believe me, it was much cheaper shopping then than it is shopping now. DH and I also decided to tell each other what we wanted as gifts, and they were very reasonable. DH got a book by his favorite author, and I got three CD’s.
While Baby J. was in gan, I got to work on setting up the apartment. I took out our Chanukiah and took a pair of chopsticks to them, getting out as much of last year’s candle wax as I could. Then, I set up the windowsill with plenty of silver foil and tied back the curtains. DH had gone to Roladin the day before and picked up sufganiot, and he got one of each flavor so we could have a sampling! Check out my food blog at FatGirlFoodie in a few days for my review!
I put the sufganiot on the table, surrounded them with an Elite candle full of candy that Baby J. picked up at the supermarket the other day, some dreidels, and put on a CD of Hanukkah music. The house felt warm and festive, but I felt that something was missing.
My Grandmother’s latkes. Sigh. What I wouldn’t give to be back in their tiny, overheated apartment, watching my Grandparents prepare the latkes for us. Unfortunately, my Grandfather has been gone now for a number of years and my Grandmother no longer has the strength to make us her favorite fare. I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we had some latkes too? As I started to reach for the phone to call DH at work to ask him to buy some on his way home, I remembered that I had one potato. The potato that didn’t make it into the Chulent soup that I made 2 weeks ago, had been hanging from the kitchen chair in a pink bag. I peeked into the bag, expecting to see tons of eyes and perhaps some other growths from all this time, but it was almost pristine!
Excitement began to build and I quickly looked around for all the other ingredients. Onion, check. Matzah Meal, check. Salt, pepper, eggs, oil, check! Within minutes, I was hand grating that one potato, marveling at how my Grandfather had the upper arm strength to hand grate all those potatoes for our family, back in the day. I formed small, thin patties, and fried them in oil until brown and golden. I jabbered excitedly at Baby J. and Baby S., telling the story of my Grandmother’s latkes, and exclaiming how these would be just as good. Baby J. barely looked away from the TV to listen to what I had to say, but at least I got a drooly smile from Baby S.
And, a miracle occurred. From one potato, I managed to get 20 small, perfect, delicious latkes for our little family celebration.
And Baby J. didn’t touch even a one.
What type of holiday traditions do you have on Hanukkah? Let me know in the comment section below!
Chag Sameach to everyone celebrating the Festival of Lights!
And may the miracle of Hanukkah extend to little Ayelet Galena, and may she have a complete and total recovery. Please keep Ayelet Yakira Bas Chaya Hinda Matel Nechama in your prayers/tefillot this holiday season.