Today is the third day of Hannukah, a minor Jewish holiday that has morphed into more than it was ever meant to be because of its proximity to Christmas.
And that’s fine with me.
Hanukkah, which is spelled many different ways, marks the miracle that took place in what remained of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabees (Jews) rebelled against the Greeks, who destroyed the temple. This was 200-some years before the first Christmas. Got that?
The story goes that the temple was purified with an oil lamp which miraculously burned for eight days even though there was only enough oil for one.
Most Jews, even the atheists like me, own an eight-branched candelabra called a Menorah which they dig out once a year for Chanukka. Where I live, Jews comprise only one percent of the population, and so I have to drive across town to the one store that carries Hanuka supplies.
It’s a challenging time of year for families where part of the family is Jewish and another is Christian. I say, why not enjoy both? My tradition with Vince has been to wrap eight gifts and let him choose one each day. Every year he gets a $2 bill, a pair of socks, a bag of Lemonheads, a couple other jokey little things, a thoughtfully chosen book that he’ll never read, and then a “real” gift like a Target gift certificate.
So we lighted the first candle on Monday night, and Vince got his $2. I opened his present to me and it was an LED light bulb. Clever! Perfect for the festival of lights.
As I drive home in the dark from work, I am loving the Christmas displays on the big houses along my route. Some are garish, some are tasteful, but they are lights–that’s what matters.
I’ve been meeting friends for happy hours in the most beautifully-decorated watering holes, like the lobby bar of the Commodore Hotel. I organize a family outing or get together of some sort every year. Last year the female relations got dressed up and went to Anthony Scornavacco Antiques and Heimie’s Haberdashery, which is located where my grandfather’s haberdashery was before he lost it during the Great Depression.
This year, I’ve invited my nieces and nephews over for a Cousins Cookie Baking Party. Yep, we’ll make Hanukkah hedgehogs, gingerbread men/women and perhaps some transgendered persons or hedgehogs, and there will be some kind of dairy-free cookie for the vegans.
Obviously I’m doing everything I can to make the short cold days of December more bearable. I thought I was doing pretty well. But then I got an email from the Rabbi who is the chaplain for Minnesota prisons. She had contacted me shortly after Vince’s release to offer various kinds of support to him. I don’t know if he responded to her, and I don’t need to know.
She was just writing to wish me a Happy Hanukkah and to say she was thinking of us and hoped we were doing well. I was at work, at my desk with dozens of people around, and I got all choked up. Why? Because she was kind. It’s always kindness that gets to me, not meanness.
She didn’t have to contact me, after three months. By doing so, she acknowledged that our situation is challenging. She offered to help in whatever way she could, but just knowing that someone was thinking of me and Vince was enough. I’m starting to tear up again now, just thinking about it, so if there is someone you are thinking about but you haven’t told them, think about doing so today.