Comedian and author recounts a holiday memory.
"As the youngest of three children, I remember lighting the menorah with my family. Since there are eight nights and there were three of us, one child only got to light the candles twice. I was the youngest, so guess who got the short end of the stick? Now, as the mother of two boys, I don’t have that problem (but I have plenty of others). My mother would make latkes and we would spin the dreidel and sometimes even exchange presents. You see, we weren’t the ‘get a present every night’ type of family. There were so many kids that would defend Hanukkah over Christmas in the public school I attended. They’d say “Yeah, well, we get presents for eight nights in a row!””
Not in our house. My mother kept the emphasis on the meaning of the holiday–the miracle that a day's worth of oil lasted for eight whole nights. “Judith, where does it talk about giving gifts in the story of Hanukkah?” When asked what I got for Hanukkah, I would undoubtedly hear, ‘Oh, that’s it? Wow. I got a TV the first night, a mo-ped the second night, and my parents put a down payment on a boat for the third night…’ Well, you get the idea. Since my kids are growing up in an apartment in New York City, with a huge extended family (I swear it’s like a kibbutz), they get lots of presents from other people. I stagger them over the eight nights and they usually get one–that’s right – one present from me. We play dreidel, eat lots of greasy food (you’re supposed to eat food with lots of oil), and generally have a great time. If they complain about their one gift, I use this line I heard many years ago from a very wise woman, “Henry and Ben, where exactly does it mention gift giving in the story of Hanukkah?”