Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Happy Hanukkah: a tribute
Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, the festival of light when Jews celebrate the miracle of one oil lantern burning in a ruined temple for eight nights. To celebrate, I dug out my menorah and lit the first candle and the Irishman and I shared some Cadbury chocolate coins (gelt to the Heebs). I'm only half Jewish, culturally at that, so marking the holiday is more of a symbolic gesture than religious celebration. Mostly, the practice centers on remembering how two smart women in my life have did such a good job of helping me to fully understand my faith. My mother is Catholic and my paternal grandmother is Jewish, and throughout my childhood they collaborated to make sure that I learned all facets of both faiths. At Christmas time, we always had a tree and a menorah, Christmas cookies and latkes and dreidels, and read books about Hanukkah while listening to Christmas carols. Around Easter time, we always went to grandma's for Passover and even today at 26 my brother has to do the youngest child part; after not eating meat on Fridays, we cut out bread for the week. I am so proud of my family for being so liberal and magnanimous in my and my brother's religious education, and for giving us the breadth and depth of religious understanding and tolerance of two of the world's oldest and intertwined religions. Even in the 21st century, it can be hard to reconcile interfaith relationships and people of different beliefs living side by side, so every year around this time I remember how trailblazing my parents were to raise me straddling two beliefs and allow me to choose my own way.