Hanukkah – a family celebration
As the twilight fades, a family gathers around the Menorah. A special prayer, the shehechiyanu, is recited as the first candle is lit. The first night of Hanukkah, an eight-day celebration of a victory and a miracle, began at sunset Tuesday.
For each of the following seven nights, the Taylor family will celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights. “It’s more of a victory celebration than a religious celebration,” Pam Taylor said.
Though Pam was raised in the Jewish tradition and her husband, Chris was not, the family sees it as an opportunity for exposure to different traditions. Daughters Amanda, 8, and Melody, 10, religiously are being raised Jewish, but are also educated in traditional differences.
“I like my kids to know they come from a family rich in tradition,” she said.
Like many Jewish families, the Taylors experience their traditions on a practical level. Prayers are said and the Hanukkah candles are lit each evening, which is the normal time for the family to be together. Dreidel games are played, traditional food eaten and Hanukkah stories shared. Most Hanukkah celebrations and rituals have remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years.
In their own tradition, the Taylors have a list of issues to focus on each night. One night may be a study night for learning a new Hebrew prayer, one a night of singing and stories, one a night of gathering items to give to those less fortunate. Presents are given, but not in the same fashion as Christmas.
“The presents really have nothing to do with the holiday,” she added. “It’s not large and extravagant, it’s a thought.”
The Taylors will also be spending Christmas with their relatives in Dayton, Nev. There is no friction between families, just an acknowledgement of differences in which holidays they observe. The Taylor home has a variety of symbols around as a representation of the season. The children know they are celebrating something different than most of their classmates. To help understanding, Pam has gone to both of their classrooms to share Hanukkah stories and what they mean. She has also found it comforting that co-workers will go out of their way to find a Hanukkah card, rather than overlook their culture.
“Just to acknowledge that you are celebrating something, even if its different is special,” she said. “That’s why I enjoy celebrating and sharing with others.”
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