Here's my story about Hanukkah and what it means to me. I have Jewish ancestors that hail from Austria and luckily fled before it was too late in the early 1900s. I say this because I am ethnically part Jewish from my father's side. I have never practiced Judaism, I wasn't married Jewish, nor did I have a bar mitzvah. That said, many of my cousins were married Jewish and had bar and bat mitzvahs but my immediate family did not grow up religiously. However, my mother was raised Catholic.
As a child we always celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas (or Christmukkah as I call it). It was a great tradition in our family. I think it is important to note that I never felt different from the other kids in school during Christmas because I did enjoy and celebrate that holiday with them. I also never really thought about being Jewish as a kid growing up in California. I enjoyed celebrating Hanukkah and lighting the candles and reading the stories about the Maccabees fighting the Greek armies and of course there were presents. Not large, extravagant presents because we also had some hiding under the Christmas tree but there were gifts. It was a great tradition. But as I grew older that tradition went away.
It wasn't until I became a parent that Christmukkah was revived. As parents we make decisions on which traditions we liked as children and those we want to start as our own. It was around that time that I started to realize the importance of my ancestry and embrace not only how that shaped me but how it could shape my children.
I love that my kids love to celebrate the same way that I did as a child. They argue over who gets to read from the book and who gets to light the candles and then we talk about our ancestry and why it is important to know where their people came from and the sacrifices and battles they fought so that we could be here today discussing them and living our best lives. I hope that they will carry on the same tradition with their families as they grow older.
I'd like to wish all my friends and family a Happy Hanukkah and hope that you find peace, love, and joy in this holiday season. And remember to give Blessings and Respect to everyone regardless of the holidays they are celebrating!