When I was 13 years old I was living with my parents in a two bedroom apartment in Las Vegas, NV just off the strip, but not the best area to live. There were Roaches everywhere no matter how often we cleaned. I was being home schooled and raised in a Jewish/Christian home. My Mother was Christian and my step-dad was raised Jewish and insisted we help him celebrate his traditions along with our own, so as to ensure his memories remained and to teach me of a different culture. So every year we had eight days of Hanukah and one day of Christmas. Traditional Hanukah would be that everyone (mostly the kids) got presents on either the first or last day of Hanukah. However since we were celebrating both Holidays and loved giving presents we had our own tradition of one present for each day of Hanukah to remind us every day is a gift and when we over bought presents the rest went to Christmas along with a new present just for Christmas..
Well in the Year of 1999 the holidays came around and my mom had a job as a cigarette girl working strictly off commission, my dad was really sick and not working, and I was thirteen and not quite old enough to have a job. So that year we got what little we could afford and gave IOUs as presents. Not quite what a kid wants for a gift but I understood that it was hard times and rent had to be paid. But no matter how hard it got we still lit the Menorah, sang the prayers and ate dinner together as a family. I loved lighting the Menorah while saying the prayer over the lights, and then letting Mom read from the Torah the same story of the Maccabees and the miracle that was.
I realize now that the presents were never really the tradition. The tradition I’ve always looked forward to was the family being together and remembering the miracle each day brings. As it is now 2011 and everyone says that the economy is getting back on its feet and we went through hard times I realize that for me these times were never really that hard. We never again had an IOU holiday and no matter how hard it seemed my family has always been there. I’m grateful for that year without presents to give me the humility to see how good we have it now even in the “bad economy”. I hope that the season always brings me an IOU so I may always have something to look forward to.