Day 13: Hanukkah helper

Image: Cathi Kern Borushek for mutterhood.

Chag Sameach everyone!

That means Happy Holidays in Hebrew. I know this because I Googled it in honor of Hanukkah, which started yesterday and ends Dec. 20. 

I also Googled the order in which candles on the menorah are lit and what’s appropriate Hanukkah food, because I was sure it wasn’t the pork tenderloin I marinated before I realized what day it was. I knew potato latkes were a go but what else? Doughnuts and other things cooked in oil. Nice!

When this raised-Catholic girl married into a Jewish family, I learned bits and pieces of their celebrations but left the heavy holiday lifting to my in-laws. My mother-in-law in particular organized, cooked, decorated and explained each holiday, and I learned early on that Hanukkah was just a supporting character in the Jewish playbook. Their rituals and traditions were dutifully explained at each annual celebration, not only to me but to their own children, who weren’t particularly religious either. It was beside the point really. Gathering as a family was the real tradition.

My boys were interested in Hanukkah for the reason that children usually are interested in something, the lure of presents. When that didn’t really pan out for them they dutifully lit candles on the Noah’s Ark menorah, a gift from my mother-in-law, but their hearts weren’t in it. The few chocolate gelt coins they got at Hanukkah dinner were nothing compared to the shiny lights and trappings of Christmas, which we celebrated with my side of the family.  

Now that my in-laws are gone there are really only two rituals we never miss. We light memorial candles on important days for those who are no longer with us. And, surprisingly, my boys insist we light the candles on the Noah’s Ark menorah as part of our annual holiday celebrations. My in-laws would be thrilled. Who cares if we have to Google the details? 

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