Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

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.

So tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. Though I have talked about some of the shortcomings of our society and the amount of growth we as a people still have ahead of us, I will choose to stay in the positive. While this is not the most important holiday on the Jewish calendar (as it is not even a high holiday), it still gets to be part of this time of year we call the “holiday season.” Among the lights, trees and holly, you will find the occasional menorah and Star of David. It is time to grab the dreidels and make some latkes. Celebrate the Festival of Lights!

One of the traditions of Hanukkah for me and my family is singing Rock of Ages. It is a practice that we have been doing since my grandparents passed it down. Below are the lyrics for the 1st and 3rd verses, which are the ones we sing each night.

Rock of Ages, let our song
praise Thy saving power.
Thou amidst the raging foes,
Wast our sheltering tower.
Furious they assailed us,
but Thy arm availed us.
And Thy word, broke their sword,
when our own strength failed us.

Children of the martyr race,
whether free or fettered.
Wake the echos of the songs,
where ye may be scattered.
Yours the message cheering,
that the time is nearing;
which we'll see all men free;
tyrants disappearing.

Amen