This year was no exception -- and since Thanksgiving is already long past and Hanukkah 2015 receding into history after it, I figured that I'd better get the combined holiday postings up on the blog before 2015 follows them into the history books...!
After eating (and eating and eating), we had a birthday celebration for Cousin S (who blew out her candles like a champ) and then everyone waddled into the living room for birthday gifts and an exchange of Hanukkah presents. All us overfed grownups sat watching the kids, catching up with each other and reminiscing while kvetching over having eaten too much... while the family's next generation did all they could to burn off all the calories they'd just consumed. (Hey, who says wisdom always comes with age?)
|They're not dancing -- the kids took turns trying to pick each other up!|
The room was crowded with families chowing down on pizzas, sandwiches, and all kinds of other foods along with the latkes (potato pancakes) available for a small fee. We finished off our sandwiches and Miri, as usual, ate her way around the crispy edge of the latkes and left the slightly chewier centers for her mommy and uncle to finish off.
As the service began to get underway, the rabbi invited everyone who'd brought a hanukkiah with them to place it on a large table (thoughtfully covered with fireproof metal foil!) I headed into the crowd with Miri while AJ took photos from our table on the other side of the room...
That's me in the red yarmulke -- Miri is buried somewhere in the crowd. What the photo doesn't show is the panic on my face as, one after another, already-lit candles kept falling out of the hanukkiah so that I had to keep reaching over other already-lit candles to pick them up and put them back where they belonged. (I had plenty of company with this problem.) We eventually returned to our table with just a couple of lightly-singed hairs on my forearm and enjoyed the sight of 32 hanukkiot as the music- and song-filled children's service began. (The photo above still has a couple waiting to be lit, but there were eventually 224 candles burning on that table -- which, of course, attracted the kids like moths to a flame.) It was also a lot of fun to watch my niece spinning around during the draidel song, followed by a drop to the floor that Sarah Bernhardt herself would've found entertaining.
|Gotta tie all that hair back|
before playing with fire!
Back when AJ & I were children, Mom started a tradition of giving us each one or two small gifts each night of the holiday instead of something really big (or a really big bunch of gifts) one one night. She's continued this tradition with Miri, with a small tweak: she & Dad prepared eight gifts for the Pipsqueak, and had her pick one each night. Since they were all wrapped, Miri had no way to know what she was picking (although she sure did a good job of grilling Grandma for hints!), so it added an extra dimension of fun to the holiday for her. Still, as important as getting a present was for Miri (and she let us know it was important to her!), we're all proud of how she put an emphasis on sharing Hanukkah with the family, and on the very grown-up wishes she made as she lit each of the candles.
|Grownups' hands hovered nearby, but the|
Pipsqueak did it all on her own!
|Everyone commented on how oddly this year's candles|
burned -- we usually don't get such big blobs of wax!
 The hanukkiah (plural: hanukkiot) is a special version of the menorah (a multi-branched candelabrum) that's used for the holiday. The names are semi-interchangeable, but while some menorahs have three branches on either side of a central candle holder the hanukkiah always has four. The central candle, called the shamos or shamash, is lit first, and then it is used to kindle the other candles -- one on the first night, two on the second night, and so on until all eight "lower" candles are lit on the last night of Hanukkah.
[2} Thanks to centuries of transliteration from Hebrew or Aramaic into Western languages, Hanukah, Hannukah, Hanukkah, Chanuka, Chanukah, Chanukkah, Khanukha, and eleventy-seven other spellings are all actually the same holiday!