Rose is balanced on a chair, placing candles in our family’s menorah, while I am hitting the household “hot spots” (couch clutter, table crumbs from breakfast, bathroom sink) before our Hanukkah guests arrive. Rose is wondering about “tardition,” as in, “is it tardition to place the candles from right to left?”
Rose takes a break to twist wire onto a small zoo of teddy bear ornaments, which she hangs merrily (merrily, being code for so earnestly enthusiastic we need to remind her to breathe) on our Christmas tree. She twists wire, hangs bears and sings, “Hang your ornaments on your tree, but it doesn’t have to be a treeeee!”
Indeed. Last Sunday, the kids cut a few pine, spruce and fir boughs, which are now bundled together, strung with lights, stuck in water and sitting festively on our living room floor like many other tree-like non-trees that have adorned our house in previous holiday seasons.
Every night, after kissing the kids and crossing my fingers that I won’t see them again before 6 a.m., I step back into our darkened living room glowing with lights, our little tree trinket-ed and cheery, and I feel a pang of gratitude for the sweet traditions that invigorate this cold, dark time. And really, tradition is just that pot that’s been bubbling on the stove long before we were around, brightened and carried forward by what we add to it right now.
Rose is back to the menorah, changing out the candle colors to better reflect her mood. “Light 1,000 lights!” She sings. Col squints from the couch. “Do you know how many 1,000 actually is?” he counters, being the head buzz-killer of the pragmatists’ society.
Col enjoys the pyrotechnics of Hanukkah, as he sees melting wax and indoor flame as endless opportunity for scientific experiments, which is likely not how my grandfather and his ancestors saw it, but there’s always room for new traditions.
On the fifth night of Hanukkah, after a menorah/hair-burning incident followed by wrapping paper accidentally flung into the lit menorah, Dan sang, “Hanukkah, it’s a phenomena, lets not burn our house down.”
Rose has made an elaborate list of friends to whom she’d like to give Christmas presents, specifically chocolate. I notice that halfway down the list between Tara and Iris, her own name is scrawled in, because why leave yourself out when it comes to chocolate? I think this is known as self-care, which is a crucial tradition to uphold around the holidays.
Every morning during Hanukkah, Rose asks, “Can we open a Hanukkah present now?” And I explain about the tradition of lighting the candles at sunset, bringing light and warmth to the house, and how only after that do we open a present. If this falls short, I invoke my grandfather, Jack Turiel, who was an orthodox Jew and knew something about tradition.
Rose nods, goes back to Legos, and tries again the next morning.
Reach Rachel Turiel at email@example.com. Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.