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Nov 26 2013

The Santa Dreidel–It’s a Real Thing

By at 12:09 pm

DREIDELSSS copy

Walking down the street in my neighborhood the other day, I glanced in the window of a shop at their holiday display and saw something that made me stop in my tracks. What was it, you ask?

The Santa Dreidel. Seems like it’s this year’s version of the Jewish star Christmas tree-topper, or the Hanukkah stocking.

Ah, assimilation. There’s been a lot about it in the Jewish press lately. There was a huge study that came out a few months back, administered by the Pew Research Center, which noted a few trends in the Jewish population in the U.S. The implications were that Jews are becoming less Jewish; instead becoming more secular, intermarrying, and no longer caring as much about Judaism as a religion. Jewish organizations across the country have been wringing their hands–how can we stop the tide of assimilation? How can we convince Jews to stay Jewish? Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 10 2012

Inspiration for the Sixth Night: A Mexican Hanukkah

By at 4:08 pm

Let’s be honest; by the sixth night of Hanukkah, the magic can wear thin.

Yet Deborah De Costa’s beautiful children’s book Hannukkah Moon reminds us that the sixth night of Hanukkah is a particularly special night of the holiday. The title refers to the appearance of the new moon on the sixth night, signalling the arrival of the Jewish month of Tevet. Jewish tradition celebrates each new month with additional prayers and historically giving women a half day off to connect with the cycles of the moon. In that sense, the sixth night should be doubly important. De Costa’s take goes beyond ancient traditions and adds a wonderful and inspiring dimension to the sixth night. Read the rest of this entry →

Is There a Right Way to Decorate for Hanukkah?

By at 9:59 am

“But why CAN’T we put up blue and white lights?” pleaded Lilly.

It was not the first time that one of our children has asked this question. Nor, as evidenced by the following advice from the 1959 Guide for the Jewish Homemaker, was this the first time a Jewish child had desired to emulate her neighbors:  Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 7 2012

How We Celebrate Both Hanukkah & Christmas

By at 1:16 pm

Each December, I tingle in anticipation of the upcoming holiday season. I savor it all…the songs, the sentiment, the TV specials, the homey smells of cinnamon, apple cider, and cookies, and the spirit of tzedakah.

I’m Jewish, born and raised in New York, married to a South African man who is the son of an Evangelist minister.

In our family, we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 13 2011

Hanukkah: Good for the Jews, Good for the Gentiles

By at 11:40 am

Growing up, entertaining was always such a fun part of the winter holidays. My mother invited family and friends over on Christmas Eve to eat shrimp cocktail, lasagna, and cookies while playing board games. (In case you haven’t read my previous posts, I converted to Judaism a while back.) As my brothers and I grew older it was almost more fun than Christmas morning. Being Jewish hasn’t lessened my desire to host friends in our home and having a family of my own has fueled a strong desire to establish new holiday traditions.

But learning about Judaism (and how, what and why we celebrate things) can be a process. For example, I’m four years in and I’d rather pluck out my armpit hair one by one than deal with the stress of hosting my own Passover seder.  The High Holidays don’t exactly elicit  “let’s get drunk and eat fun-shaped cookies while playing Jenga” kind of feelings. And while a Purim costume party does sound like fun, I think Hanukkah is the easiest time to celebrate with non-Jewish friends and family.

(Disclaimer:  I’m assuming since you’re reading this blog that you probably pee when you laugh and have sticky fingerprints on your refrigerator door, so the following advice is aimed at a kid-friendly party. Feel free to jazz it up if you have the luxury of a babysitter and an alcohol tolerance.)

1. What’s blue and white with light all over? Set the mood for a fun night (afternoon) of Hanukkah celebration. Play The Maccabeats “Candlelight” on repeat or check out Kveller’s top 10 list for some inspiration. Find a blue plastic tablecloth (reuse it next year) and some white napkins. Blue cake plates optional (if you’re super fancy you might be able to find Hanukkah plates but really, blue will do.) If your kiddos are old enough to craft you could make these adorable tissue paper lanterns. Lastly, pull out your menorah and a few dreidels. (Note: vacuuming the carpet and wiping the fingerprints off the fridge are optional but you might want to move the clean laundry waiting to be folded from the couch into your bedroom and close the door.) Read the rest of this entry →

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