Archive for December, 2011

And we have reached the final night. I have enjoyed my little experiment in logging my practice of the experience. While I certainly would have loved to share each of the nights with my close friends and family, I simply appreciate the holiday. I am also lucky that there were latkes on Christmas Eve/night #5 because I am not sure if my cousins are going to be available to celebrate at all this week. There has been no attempt to schedule a time.

I will be returning to my randomness of posting soon, but I am thinking of taking a couple days off to do other things with my time over this holiday break. Enjoy the rest of the holiday season!

So the major Christmas extravaganza was the whirlwind I described and now all that is left is the closure to the celebration of Hanukkah. I lit the candles with family for two nights and now am back in my apartment for this seventh night. I don’t have anything bigger to talk about this evening so I will simply post my pic for the seventh night and return tomorrow for the final night.

Today wraps up the overlap between Hanukkah and Christmas. While the day was dominated by the insanity and spirit of Christmas, I still finished the day off with the lighting of the menorah with my family.

It is interesting that when I look at my family, there is a lack of religious or cultural tradition outside of the practices on my Jewish side. While my dad’s family has not shown strong connection to religion in the past several years, they used to be involved in Sunday School and regular attendance at church. I have actually experienced more church services than I have Jewish services at synagogue. I remember in a sense going to those Sunday Schools sessions but I never felt a connection to following the Christian faith. Judaism always felt like more of my identity and therefore became the “religion” and culture I decided to follow.

The Christmas activities today were completely void of any sense of religion. There was no prayer at breakfast, no attendance of a church service and not even one mention of anything but the breakfast and opening of presents. Meanwhile, Hanukkah has been void of any exchange of gifts. Although last night was the first night that most of my family had even lit a menorah this year, they at least participated in the tradition. There is actually no real way to celebrate Hanukkah without having even a hint of the religious element mixed into the festivities.

Only two more nights left. Happy Hanukkah!

 

Tonight brought together two sets of traditions: Christmas Eve dinner and the middle of our Hanukkah celebrations. My stepdad put together a great combination of holiday treats. It is definitely far from kosher but we had latkes and ham. It honestly was excellent so you will get no complaining from me. His parents also joined us and engaged in our typical conversation of sports and pop culture. All of this was preceded by the great fall/winter activity of watching football. My Redskins unfortunately did not fully show up to this game, but I will forgive them this time. Maybe we will get the draft pick I hope can propel the team forward. But I digress…

After dinner came the lighting of the menorahs for the fifth night, but this made the first night with the family for this season. A fun little game we play is to watch the candles burn down and see which one survives the longest. My little sister won this time, but I get another chance tomorrow during round two of the Christmas/Hanukkah celebration. It is interesting to share this holiday with family that come from a Christian background and values, though they are very open to understanding and participating in the festivities. After the candles were lit, we engaged in our traditional Christmas Eve activity of opening our stockings. Mine was a little light, but I just joked about it. I honestly do not care about how many gifts I get or how much money people spend on me. The bigger family gathering and sharing of love and appreciation for each other is what makes the holiday season great.

Happy Hanukkah! And now Merry Christmas!

And we have finally made it to the winter vacation! While work has been extremely tedious and frustrating, I was able to get everything in order so I can start to relax and enjoy the holiday.

Tomorrow begins the tradition that is Christmas and Hanukkah together. Every year, I end up in a whirlwind between the houses. Starting on Christmas Eve, I go to my mom’s house for dinner, which sometimes will include my stepdad’s family. On years like this one, football gets to be included in the festivities. The night culminates with a fantastic dinner and the start of our gift exchange. Though we focus mostly on the stockings, there is sometimes a small exchange between us siblings because they cannot wait to give their gifts. The next day bring the true whirlwind adventure. Starting from my mm’s house, I travel to my dad’s and open gifts with him and the sisters. These leads to the group of us traveling down to my grandmother’s for Christmas breakfast, which includes chipped beef and gravy. While not a big fan, it is one of those family traditions. We head back to be dad’s to then go back to my mom’s. At this point, it is at least 11am, if not 1pm. We do the gift opening there too, but the day already feels long so there is a family napping session. That evening, we head back to my dad’s and have a Christmas dinner (though this year it will be at my sister’s).

This craziness highlights a very important aspect of my family: we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. While only the former is filled with culture and tradition, the latter is in the spirit of the holiday season. I admit to loving the Christmas spirit and the beauty of the symbols but I do not hold any religious connection to the day. The spirit of giving and family are what drives many families to inherit the traditions. For Hanukkah, I feel some of the similar elements of togetherness and family, but I also feel that significance of my culture and its celebration.

Tomorrow begins the excitement, so I should probably get some sleep.

While today was a rough day, I did have my time to enjoy the little things and some of the people in my own little corner of the world. For lunch, I was able to try out a newer place in the area, Busboys & Poets. They have a very open style for the restaurant and a menu that includes a number of more natural and health-conscious meals. The menu had a great selection, but I focused in on the sandwiches, particularly the blackened maui maui with lemon aioli. It was quite good and convinced me that I need to go back and try more of their selections. I went with some of my co-workers to celebrate the end of another semester. Though the work days have been hard and have been testing my patience as a supervisor, I can appreciate some of the common experiences of my peers and the support they provide me.

Later in the day, I met up with a good friend and her visiting mother to go to one of my favorite places, Ledo Restaurant. I have grown up on the square pizza and have not found a better pizza anywhere. It was particularly nice because I had a chance to pull myself away from work and enjoy good conversation over dinner.

Afterwards, I finally found my way back to my apartment to set up for the third night of Hanukkah. While I will have to rush through the experience tomorrow with plans in the evening, I will make time for the ceremony, tradition and reflection.

Today was quite a day…Working in Student Affairs is sometimes very rewarding, but it is can be just as tiring at other times. Today was one of those tiring times. Closing a housing program at the end of a semester can be quite challenging, but then add to it the requirement for students to follow a specific set of directions and everything goes out the window.

Still, I found about five minutes to bring my menorah into the office and sit in peace and quiet. I am not always a fan of celebrating Hanukkah by myself. Since I lived away from home for five years and had not found the right Jewish community for me, most of my lighting moments have been in solitude. For today, I was comfortable with getting the moment to sit in peace and watch the flickering of the flame. It was one of those moments that allows me to get a better sense of serenity and spirituality. The simplicity and the calm are extremely soothing and allow me to get a sense of perspective.

Hopefully tomorrow brings a chance to not shove this tradition between work projects and I can truly and fully enjoy my third night.