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What Hanukkah Means to Me

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Judy Gold, author of "25 Questions for a Jewish Mother," shares a Hanukkah memory and one holiday tradition she has passed on to her children.

Judy Gold

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 who 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 moped the second night, and my parents put a downpayment 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?"


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3 comments so far | Post a comment now
wanglinglingaa December 1, 2010, 6:32 PM

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AlanaM December 5, 2010, 10:44 PM

Very nice story and reminder.

I doubt you read this personally Judy, but my husband and I just saw you at Harrah’s on Thursday night (12/2) at the 10:30 show. I laughed so hard, particularly at one joke about the Baby Bjorn =-}

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