Home December 2011 Creating Family Traditions

Creating Family Traditions

To quote the famous song, but change it slightly, “[Chanukah] is the most wonderful time of the year!” It’s no surprise to anyone that it’s my favorite holiday.  Even though it is a minor one and is inappropriately commercialized because it’s around Christmas-time, I still love everything it represents: traditions, celebrations, decorations, giving and more.  The timing of Chanukah this year is the best – I love it when it starts just before Christmas.  It’s so much better than when it is so early in the month that we cannot enjoy it because we are too busy with school/work, and then it is over before others’ holidays have just begun.
In honor of the eight nights, here are eight favorite ways to make the holiday fun and meaningful.  Consider creating some new family traditions this year.
Decorate!  There is no reason that our Christmas-celebrating friends should have all the fun stuff.  Stores (Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, TJ Maxx, Party City) carry a plethora of Chanukah decorations, and you can order decor on-line, even at discounted prices.  Any store that sells decorations features blue, white and silver, including the 99 Cent/Dollar stores.  Our house is referred to as “The Chanukah House,” and neighbors come every year to see it.  The Chanukah signs, flags and décor look so pretty with the sparkly blue and white twinkle lights that adorn our home. Chanukah IS the festival of lights, so who says we can’t put up holiday lights?
Celebrate!  This year’s timing of Chanukah makes it even easier to celebrate with friends and family because kids will be out of school and work slows down.  We often have plans with a different group every night of the eight.  It’s so much fun to light the menorah with friends, play dreidel, sing songs and spend time together.
Give!  We try to place the emphasis on the giving, rather than the receiving.  Our children are certainly not deprived, and they each receive a gift every night (although we’re talking socks, underwear and books, not iPods and Wii’s every night!); however, we make sure to give to others as much as we receive.  Consider adopting a family and have fun buying gifts (and wrapping gently used clothing and other items from your own closets) and then make a fun day of going to deliver the gifts and seeing the joy and appreciation on their faces.  Consider choosing a different Mitzvah for each of the eight days of Chanukah.
Traditions!  We have many Chanukah traditions that we enjoy as a family.  Every night one of the kids selects the Menorah from our collection of over 50 and gets to light it.  While the candles are burning, we read a Chanukah story from our collection aloud, enjoy a treat from our “Eight Nights of Chanukah treat box” and open gifts.
Crafts!  There are many Chanukah themed craft projects that can be purchased on line or in Judaica stores.  A Google search for “Chanukah crafts” will give you ideas.  Crafts are fun to do together, especially the edible ones!
Share!  We have always enjoyed sharing our holiday with others.  Our kids loved when we came to their classrooms with latkes, a menorah, dreidels and books.  Inviting a whole group of our non-Jewish friends to celebrate one night at our home has always been one of our favorite activities, and our friends look forward to it too.
Cook!  It’s important to pass on your recipes from generation to generation, so teach your children how to make Bubie’s latkes, and kids of all ages enjoy helping make special holiday foods together.  If you don’t have children, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy cooking with someone special, plus you get to eat what you cook!
Stay in touch!  Another special thing during the “season” is to send holiday cards to a huge list of family and friends.  It’s the one time every year that we update everyone with photos and newsy letters and enjoy receiving the same from everyone else.
Whatever you decide to do and however you decide to celebrate, keep the miracle of Chanukah in your hearts and minds and enjoy a wonderful season with your friends and family!

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