Holidays used to be unqualified fun. I still enjoy them, but there's so much work involved. Cooking, cleaning, hosting family...it's really quite an ordeal.
So I tend to really look forward to the fourth of July. For one thing, there's almost zero work involved. Barbecues are so easy; that's why men are usually the ones behind the grill. I stopped eating hot dogs a few years back, but I eat one a year, super burned, on July 4th. It's heaven. And the seventeen brownies I chase my hot dog with aren't too shabby either.
And of course, it's usually hot, if not searing hot, on July 4th. People are carefree in shorts and flip-flops as they smear sunscreen on their protesting children and chatter about nothing consequential. The only downside is that Independence Day marks the peak of summer and time speeds up afterward, hurtling us toward August and school days. But on that day, in that moment of sunshine, it's a glorious holiday.
Why don't I live in a warm climate? Someone remind me....
While I enjoy some non-religious holidays (mostly for the candy), I wanted to share about some of my favorite Jewish holidays. (I'll spare you from my rendition of Adam Sandler's Chanukah song that involves chick lit authors.)
Purim celebrates our victory over Haman's evil plot to exterminate us. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing. We now celebrate by giving reciprocal gifts of food and drink (mishloach manot), giving charity to the poor (mattanot la-evyonim), a celebratory meal (se'udat Purim), and public recitation of the Scroll of Esther (kriat ha-megillah), during which we make loud noises when the name "Haman" is said (in order to drown it out). Other customs include drinking wine, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration. (Adapted from Wikipedia.)
Sukkot is the plural of sukkah, "booth or tabernacle", which is a walled structure covered with schach (plant material such as leafy tree overgrowth or palm leaves). The sukkah is intended as a reminiscence of the type of fragile dwellings in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. Throughout the holiday, meals are eaten inside the sukkah and some people sleep there as well. On each day of the holiday, members of the household recite a blessing over the lulav (closed frond of the date palm tree, bound with boughs and branches of the willow and myrtle trees) and etrog (yellow citron). (Description courtesy of Wikipedia.)
I'm all about autumn, and Sukkot is the perfect way to kick off the season...provided the weather cooperates. I love when it's chilly out, but comfortable at the same time. It makes eating soup in the sukkah even more enjoyable. We host holiday meals and barbecues in our sukkah. My husband decorates it to look like a cozy (and somewhat romantic) French bistro. The kids also love helping to decorate it prior to the holiday.
|My husband's artsy photo of the inside of our sukkah|
Hanukkah (or Chanukah) celebrates our victory over assimilation and the miracle of the small amount of oil that lasted eight days. Lighting the menorah and frying potato latkes are ways to celebrate this miracle. Children usually receive gelt (chocolate coins) and play dreidel (a spinning top with four Hebrew letters). Gifts are usually exchanged, as well.
I really enjoy the warmth of Hanukkah and love lighting the candles with my family, while we sing the blessings together. Seeing all the candles lit together is so beautiful and comforting. I also love the smell and taste of latkes and the feeling of festivity throughout the week.
Fun fact: What we refer to as a menorah is actually called a Hanukkiah. (Hah-noo-kee-ah.) There are menorahs, but they usually have seven candles as opposed to nine.
Amy and I wrote about Hanukkah a while back and I even included a latke recipe.
|The first night|
Happy holidays (any and all)!