A Minute to Myself (121)
A Minute to Myself (122)

First Night of Chanukah

Sunday night was the first night of Chanukah. My daughters and I celebrated in the subdued way that teens and parents celebrate a holiday that has more meaning in the continuity, in the recognition, than anything else. There were no presents, just presence. For me, for us (I hope) that was more important.

I made applesauce in the morning, and if I may say so, it was the best applesauce that I have made in years. And I made far too many latkes right before the candle lighting ceremony, letting them stay warm in the oven as I fried pan after pan of latkes (I made four big potatoes worth of latkes for the three of us).

About two minutes after my younger daughter complained that she was not hungry, she said that she was ready; and my older daughter dutifully (yes, she apparently is able to be dutiful) came to the table immediately to observe the holiday, together.

My younger daughter put the candles in the chanukiyah (menorah): white for the first night and yellow for the shamash (helper candle). I had strewn chocolate gelt (coins) around the chanukiyah—my version of holiday decorations. No plants, no bows, no angels here, no, just chocolate covered in gold and silver foil to look like coins.

Younger daughter lit the candles, and I said the three blessings. The first praises God for commanding us to do the mitzvot (commandments) and instructing us to kindle the Chanukah lights; the second praises God for performing miracles about 2,000 years ago when our ancestors withstood the intense pressure (life or death kind of pressure) put upon them to worship Greek gods and then made the oil that was only to last for one day last for eight days, which was just enough time to get everything ready to resume proper prayer services in the great temple (wish I had that oil for my car); and lastly, praising God for giving us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this day. This last one, the Shechiyanu is said when a person does something important—does a first, or when we return to a holiday after not having celebrated it for a year.

And I kissed both of them on their foreheads after they sat down. They didn’t want that kiss, but how can a mother recite three blessings and not give the one true blessing—a kiss—to her children?

And then we ate potato latkes with applesauce and/or sour cream. To make the table look fuller, I also put down pineapple chunks and Israeli pickles. I didn’t even bother to make brisket, another traditional holiday food, because we all just hone in on the latkes. Maybe another night.

And we talked for about ten minutes. Around a dining room table, as if it were a normal act and not something that we only do when there is a holiday. Praise God for holidays. There was no meanness, there was no tension, it was the three of us. (he was upstairs in the master suite.)

I am not religious, rather I identify with my religion more on a cultural and historic level than on a conversation with God level. But, I must say, if it weren’t for religion, and for the milestones it puts in our year I would feel even more lost as a parent, more untethered and swaying in whatever moods come upon me as I try to steer some kind of course through this divorce and its undeniably damaging aftermath. These holidays, and the Bat Mitzvah, and the classes that the girls took and take, and the classes I give at temple have helped to tether me, and helped to create a family that I was not able to create at home, or at least not feel like I was able to do alone. It has enabled me to found our lives on more than just ourselves, and for that I am thankful—I could light a candle for that.

* * *

You can read my Chanukah story, “Lighting the Chanukah Lights with Emily,” at: +StoryRhyme.



Sounds like a happy Chanukah so far!


I think your presence was the only present necessary. Sounds like a very nice evening.

Stepping Thru

I'm so glad that you and the girls had that special time together. It may not seem like a lot but I assure you that it means more to them than they may ever admit it does. I am not Jewish but love hearing about your holidays and feasts. Be blessed.

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

April, I'm revving up to light the candles tonight. I wonder what colors she'll pick?

JC, sometimes that's all you can do and be, and that, really, is all I want from them, too--to be present when they are with me.

ST, thanks for your good wishes.

May all your holidays be blessed. Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas to you all!

Small Footprints

That was so lovely! Sometimes we get so caught up in the gift giving and decorating and thising and thating that we forget that what makes any of it special is the bond we have with our loved ones. I'm guessing that years from now, long after everything else has faded, what you and your girls will remember is this very special evening you spent together ... enjoying good food, kisses on the forehead and togetherness!

Happy Chanukah!

Small Footprints

jessica bern

Happy Hanukkah my friend. I celebrated with my daughter last night. It was weird. Quiet. She doesn't understand the holiday or know the prayers as I have yet to enroll her in Sunday school which I plan to do for next year.

Thinking of you and those delicious sounding Latkes.

Liz A.

Forehead kisses are my favorite. It sounds like a lovely time spent together.

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

SF, I do hope that that is what they remember from our times together.

Jessica, Happy Chanukah to you and your daughter! Two of my closest friends to this day (after a 25-year hiatus) are temple friends. And my youngest daughter's best friends have been her temple friends for six years now. We get sent for the religion, but we stay for the friends.

Liz, hope you have love times this holiday season.


Sounds lovely, simple and real with those you are closest to. Wishing you much love and peace.


Thank you so much for sharing this. My dad was adopted at birth and his biological father is half Jewish. Therefore, I am always excited to learn about the faith and culture. Your kids sound lovely.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)