Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winter Holidays: The Early Years

Here I go again, regressing to the 'good old days.' This time, I'm asking you to indulge me as I pull out a blog post from ten years ago. Back then, my now smart-mouthed, wise-cracking 'tween was a young innocent, just grasping the meaning of the holidays for the first time. As I spend this week with my fingers in my ears, walking around the house going, "la la la la I can't hear you!" to tune out his requests for Uber Strike and other M-rated video games, I will wistfully be remembering those days that seem to have happened both yesterday and a lifetime ago. This was originally posted on 12/17/2001.
This week we celebrated Hanukkah with Jacob. This wasn't the first he'd heard of the holiday though. Last year, to celebrate the differences in my husband's and my backgrounds, our thoughtful neighbors gave Jacob two books for the holidays: My First Christmas and My Hanukkah Alphabet, which we have read all year. But Jacob's interest in letters dictated which book we would read more often, so even in August we were reading guessed it. Hanukkah.

While I'm not crazy about the book's inclusion of several pages about presents, it's a pretty good reference. Even I learned a few things about Hanukkah, and Jacob has all but memorized the entire book. That a two-year-old would know the words menorah, latke, shamash and dreidel is pretty amazing to me, so I figured he was really absorbing what we read.

But he didn't really understand the concept of the holiday being a once a year event, so when it was time to take out the REAL menorah and light the candles, Jacob was psyched. As soon as we put it on the table, he knew what it was.

"That's a menorah!" he smiled proudly.

"Yes it is, and what are we going to put in it? Do you remember?"


"That's right, and then we're going to light the candles and sing the prayer!"

At this point, I guess Jacob put the concepts of singing and candles together from what he knew and started singing:

"Happy birthday dear Jacob..."

"Well, we are going to sing, but that's a different song. We sing that on your birthday."

We proceeded to pick out candles with colors that looked nice in the menorah. Then Dad lit them and sang the prayer while Jacob watched, mesmerized, and David and I looked at each other, so proud that our little boy was learning about the things that had given my husband such happy memories growing up.

At the end of the prayer, Jacob clapped his hands and said,

"Make a wish! Blow out the candles!"

OK, so we still have to work on the Hanukkah candles vs. birthday candles concept a bit.

The best part of all of this was that each night as we lit the candles, Jacob got excited. He couldn't wait to be with us, to see the candles being lit, to listen to the prayer and then watch as the candles burned down. And it had nothing to do with presents; we didn't even give him a gift until the second to last night. By that time, it was just an extra perk, an added bonus to an already cool holiday ritual.

When we celebrate Christmas next week, we will be surrounded by my family, holiday lights, good music, a warm fire and delicious food. And Jacob is already looking forward to that too. It's nice to see the pure joy that comes from holidays without consumerism, expectations and wish lists. In Jacob's eyes, at least for now, the holiday season is all about family and traditions. As it should be, for all of us.

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