Dec 7, 2004

Have yourselves a nice little Chanukah

When I left my mom's house after Thanksgiving, she got me to take one of their menorahs and a box of candles with me, to have my own little Chanukah celebrations all week. It is nice. It is the first year since I left home that I will be doing this, so I feel kind of Adult. I remember in college, they had rules in the dorms about no candles/incense/open flame-type-things, but if you were jewish you could submit a special application to the dean or something in order to be able to do your menorah biz. I never did, because I have always hated calling attention to myself.

But now I have the privacy of my own apartment and can light away, starting tonight! For those of you who are in the dark (oh, my sides!) about menorahs, they hold nine candles. One candle is usually set apart from the other eight, and this is the shamus (sp?) which you use to light the main ones. The deal is that, back in the BC years, the jews in what is now Israel were defending themselves against the King's army in order to avoid being converted to Greek Orthodoxy. Eventually, they reclaimed this important synagogue and were hiding out in it. There was only enough lamp oil to keep the synagogue lit for one night, but miraculously the light burned for eight nights, and that is what the eight main candles (which might have a name, but I am no SuperJew so I don't know everything here, people) on the menorah represent.

So for each of the eight nights of Chanukah, you light that many candles, and by the end of the holiday the whole menorah is lit and it is very pretty and fire-riffic. Also you let the candles burn all the way down on their own, so after each night each candle holder is filled with hard wax and you have to scrape it out with a knife before the next round. I am fairly klutzy, so this whole combination of long-burning open flame and chiseling of tiny holder with sharp knife is a dangerous one for me. But I will persevere, because I am a good jew.

One fun part is doing patterns with the candles. Every menorah I have ever seen used the same size candles: these special JewCandles which are very skinny and roped and come Straight From Israel, Ordained by Holy Peoples (or so the box says). When I was little, my mom would always make a game with me of how we would set up the candles each night, in what pattern, because the possibilities are endless! She was partial to alternating blue and white, which are the colors of Israel, but I was a plebian and preferred using one of each color (if memory serves, they are red, blue, white, orange, yellow, and green).

Anyway, I am going home to visit her and my stepdad on Sunday and we will do it up "chosen people-style" with the presents and the latkes (potato pancakes) and the blintzes and matzah ball soup. Wish me luck that I do not burn down my apartment before then and am forced to move back in with them.

Happy Chanukah, everyone! (Also, today is Pearl Harbor Day, but I am not sure what to wish everyone for that. "Safe Pearl Harbor Day," I suppose?)