Countdown to Christmas Day Eight: The First Night of Hanukkah

When you ask young Jewish children what their favorite Jewish holiday is, you will most likely receive the answer “Hanukkah.” For most young Jewish kids, Hanukkah is associated with not only one day of presents, but eight full days of presents, making it an obvious favorite.

As a young child, Hanukkah was always my favorite holiday, just like every other kid in my Hebrew School class at my synagogue. But lately, as Hanukkah approaches, I have began to wonder what the true meaning of Hanukkah really is.

To me, Hanukkah isn’t centered around the presents anymore. When I think of Hanukkah, I think of my entire extended family lighting the menorah and singing the blessings, while watching the Florida sunset through my grandparent’s huge glass windows. There’s always my uncle, the most religious of all of us, leading the way as my big brother attempts to harmonize while we sing the blessings. There’s always my baby cousins, who don’t actually know the words to the blessings, but join in, mumbling and catching every word they can. And there’s always the bickering of me and my little sister, and the calming shush from my parents, as we argue over who gets to be the one to light the candles.

Hanukkah is the festival of lights. It celebrates a miracle: the oil that was supposed to only last for one night, lasted for eight. Now, thousands of years later, I am able to celebrate Hanukkah not only one night, but eight full nights. I am able to light the candles surrounded by my family, and eat warm potato latkes fresh off the pan. I am able to play dreidel and use the homemade menorah I created back when I was a preschooler, when I swore Hanukkah was my favorite holiday.

Today, as we mark the beginning of Hanukkah, I can honestly say that it is still my favorite Jewish holiday. Not because of the presents, but instead, because of all the warmth it brings to my life.