As a child some of my fondest memories of Chanukah, was as I am sure many young people were, the receiving of gifts for 8 days. At such a young age I was not able to explain a reasoning behind it to my non Jewish friends who were very jealous, but I simply knew it was because I am Jewish, and that allowed me this special time for me and my family. As I grew I learned it was so much more than that, and I learned to experience all of the pieces that were so special to me, the sights and sounds of Chanukah live deep in my memories. I remember opening up my Chanukah gifts that were wrapped in aluminum foil or newspaper, nothing festive about that, nor did I care. I also loved the lighting of the menorah; it was super special, like getting hypnotized by a wonderful flame. The other sights and sounds of those special days included, playing the dreidle game. Seeing and hearing that spinning sounds and landing on the Gimmel, which was beyond wonderful. Who doesn’t like chocolate or pretend gold? Of course, who can forget the sensory experience of potato latkes? This is a particular favorite of mine, even as an adult. I enjoy the steps of the recipe, the time it takes, measuring, and effort of making them. They were so good, and still are! I love this process and routine of making them; I even enjoy how the smell remains in the house for days after, though my wife does not appreciate that as much as I do. I have also learned it is much harder to relive the same experience now with young kids at home, they are much harder to cook with and create a much messier kitchen, but it provides a whole new experience.
A lot has changed as a parent celebrating Chanukah with the family. We as parents have to think about how to celebrate the festival of lights with our kids a little differently than before. What party will we attend, who to invite, or maybe even when to leave? We always want to make a quick exit before a dramatic scene may arise of a toddler meltdown over too much chocolate, or being over stimulated, but it is always worth it even if that does happen. I now get to be the one to think about gifts for them, what type of surprise and special moments will they have when they unwrap one of those gifts? I now get to share the lighting of the candles and saying the prayers with my children, and listening to them sing the songs that I once did as a young child. It is a whole new experience. I now see and hear the excitement in their voices and on their faces going a million miles per hour For eight nights we get to celebrate Chanukah and relive our youth memories through them, with a whole new passion, and a great reminder of the specialness of this time. So for this time of you I always try to think about how to make the moment last. These memories will stay with you and your children for years to come. It doesn’t have to be expensive, or formal, it just has to be you and the people around you, taking in the moments and the sights and sounds of Chanukah. I hope to see you at Ahavas when we celebrate as a congregation at the end of December, and take a moment to connect with one another with our entire Ahavas family.