By Guest Contributor, Amy Bermudez of ArmyAmy
These aren’t Hanukkah candles – these are Shabbat candles!”
My husband and I stood dejected in the middle of the grocery store scratching our heads. I had called first and was told that yes, the store carried Hanukkah candles. Located in the ethnic aisle of my local grocery store was a sliver of a section dedicated to Jewish items. I was happy to see matzah, a small pack of dreidels, gefilte fish (well, as happy as one can be to see gefilte fish) but no Hanukkah candles.
I don’t blame the store clerk for the confusion over the candles. Chanukah & Hanukkah, gelt and gefilte fish, latkes and lights – oy vey!
About the time Halloween ends, Christmas countdowns pop up. There are entire stores dedicated to the 25th of December. Songs, ugly sweaters, Pinterest accounts, and parties exist solely to celebrate Christmas. When it comes to Hanukkah, I’m happy just to see the three-foot wide section of Hanukkah items at Party City. (I scored a great deal on some Star of David cookie cutters this year. No big deal.)
With our country on the verge of a Christmas overdose and the admittedly small number of people that celebrate Hanukkah, it’s no surprise that you don’t know a Shamash from Shabbat.
But to those of us who celebrate, these “lesser,” quieter holidays, the ones without a Mariah Carey soundtrack, these holidays still matter.
Traditions are a thread, stitching together families, tying us to our past and each other. Compared to the tapestry that is Christmas, Hanukkah can sometimes feel threadbare. I try not to compare holidays and instead focus on the symbolism and nuance of those eight nights. I celebrate them with pride and appreciation, and I continue to sew my own traditions.
We spent Thanksgiving at a friend’s house this year, and they invited us to bring along our menorah. Born and raised Christians, they were curious and eager to experience Hanukkah for the first time.
There wasn’t much to it.
Two quick blessings in Hebrew and English, two candles lit.
“That’s it?” they asked. “That’s it.”
The whole thing took less than a minute, a small percentage of the entire event that was Thanksgiving and a blip compared to the month-long march toward Christmas.
As we languished on the couch nursing overstuffed tummies and watching the Cowboys eke out a victory, I kept looking over my shoulder to see the Hanukkah lights still glowing in the dining room.
The vision of my menorah in a friend’s house, my tradition welcomed, my holiday honored, it gave me a new perspective. Maybe the movies are few and the ugly sweaters nonexistent, maybe most people will never know the difference between Hanukkah candles and Shabbat candles, but Hanukkah still takes place. Year after year, we light the lights. We carry on the tradition. “That’s it.”
Amy Bermudez is an Army wife, writer, runner, and ice cream-lover. She, her husband, and their dog Geronimo are from Texas, spent a year living in Germany, but consider home to wherever the Army sends them. She appreciates books that make her think, jeans that fit just right, and commas used often and accurately. You can read more of her musings about military life, running, self discovery, and Geronimo’s antics on her blog at www.armyamy.com.