Hanukkah has always been an informal holiday, in the chaotic house-hold I like to call home. I was never taught to believe in any single religion. The reason behind this strange fact was partially because my parents own beliefs did not reflect upon one religion, and they had adopted four girls from drastically different countries. Instead, my parents decided it would be simpler to introduce us to many different religions, which lead to us celebrating almost all of the holidays on the calendar. Hanukkah and the other Jewish holidays were among the favorites.
One of my favorite Hanukkah memories happened more than a few years back. It was one of those years when Christmas and Hanukkah overlapped. And because my family celebrated both we had a Christmas tree fully decorated with lights and candy canes on one end of the room, and menorahs lighting up the opposing side of the room. It must have confused the few who dared to look upon the peculiar sight.
Because the holidays coincided that year, we opened Christmas presents on one morning and then waited until sundown to light the Hanukkah seven candles that lined our menorahs. My sisters and I spent the day comparing gifts and playing with our new toys, showing them off whenever someone stopped by to visit. I had gotten a new red fleece jacket and would not remove it from my twelve year old torso, since the moment I put it on over my pajamas that morning. I loved it more than anything else in the world, I could not wait to show all of my friends! My smile must have been from ear to ear that entire day! Well, that is until we went to light the Hanukkah candles.
My family gathered around the four menorahs, carefully placed on a table in front of the giant window that consumes a sizable portion of the house. We began to sing the blessing, “Baruch atah adonai…” and quickly half the front room was filled with the soft glow. This was the first year that I was allowed to light a menorah all by myself, so of course I was extremely proud, which also made me somewhat careless. I had not been paying close enough attention when placing the Shamash back to it’s rightful stand. Suddenly, my arm becomes the victim of a blaze of hot light. My new fleece, the one I adored more than life itself, was quickly submerged in flames and everyone around me began to holler and yell! It took me a second to realize what was happening, but thankfully my mother was quick and grabbed a towel to wrap up my arm before I became fully submerged in the fire. No harm was really done, though I could not wear that fleece again. I cried for a little while, but my mother just held me to her heart and told me “I would rather have you than that silly old fleece any day.”
Ever since this accident, we have made sure that no one wears any extremely flammable clothing near the candles, but it was still a fond memory that we look back on every year. Happy Hanukkah (Chanukah) and Merry Christmas to all!