Happy Hanukkah: Tradition, gelt and guilt

Happy Hanukkah: Tradition, gelt and guilt

Happy Hanukkah Jewish community! While this isn't one of our most important holidays, it's certainly a time for the traditions of my people to be exhibited in many ways. We are an extremely traditional tribe, we are as many families will gather for this holiday, play games and eat ourselves sick. Because in many historical situations we have found ourselves very hungry, we like to over compensate by preparing more food than a group could possibly eat.

For those of you who aren't familiar with this holiday, the Jewish people had found ourselves in yet another pickle back in second century BCE. We fought and won, now celebrating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. We needed to light candles and only had enough oil for one day. Miraculously it lasted for eight. So we have, according to Adam Sandler, eight crazy nights of Hanukkah. The festival of lights.

Now where latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts) came into the picture, I don't know. This was not covered in Sunday School. We may have eaten them (that was a really long time ago for me) but can't recall the explanation of why. These are just a few of the traditional foods we injest during the holiday and one thing is for sure: there is enough oil to light a menorah for years to come.

Somehow tonight I managed to invite a crew of 24. It started small and then just continued to grow. So planning a menu, in the tradition of my late, great mother meant I had to cook ahead of time. Not as extreme as she did, cooking at least two weeks before any holiday and then proclaiming on that day, "Oy Vey, I am sure there isn't going to be enough!!" That is a purely Jewish thing; making enough for an army and then bringing guilt on oneself for not having enough to feed the hungry guests.

Not sure where the whole Jewish guilt thing started either. But believe me, it is alive and well in just about every Jewish household as our late ancestors live in our brains and continue to make us question everything we ever do!

So here I am preparing for my entourage of guests this evening with my entire house stinking of oil. I spent 11 hours cooking yesterday, (OY VEY my back hurts and OY VEY such dedication) which explained to me once and for all the whole Jewish tradition thing. As I literally slaved over the stove a thought occurred to me. Do we do this for fun? Or do we do this to remind us of the slavery our people went through? I enjoy cooking but I admit I had never made latkes or the donuts. It took FOREVER. Granted, they will kick some serious ass in the taste department but my God, could it have taken longer??? (This is an example of dishing out guilt for my guests who should feel overly appreciative of my slaving)

It also explained the oil thing. I guess since we didn't think we had enough oil back then to burn for one day, somewhere along the line we decided we should use enough oil for this holiday to put everyone at the party on Lipitor. As I write, I have scented candles burning, windows open as I shiver and have had to wash all the clothes I was wearing while cooking. I should probably tell everyone coming to wear old clothes; they're gonna stink.

After we gorge ourselves on fried foods, we will play games. There are a group of children coming that are unfamiliar with the holiday. I will teach them how to play Dreidel, which let's face it people is nothing more than Jewish Poker without cards. I'll give out cash as prizes which we call "Hanukkah gelt". In years past my girls really cleaned up in this game. They won enough to buy a play station. No guilt there in taking that cash.

For the adults we'll play pictionary (maybe I'll change some of the categories to fit the holiday since it's not exactly a traditional game). I'll try to get the guests to guess which Temple I am drawing. Or maybe which Macabee. No? Perhaps we'll stick to the real game. But I will be passing out gelt. And then talk about what I am sacrificing to give out that money as guilt MUST be associated with this or it is not a tradition. (Just kidding for you guys that are coming over).

So, Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends and family. I hope you all enjoy a joyous week of candle lighting, eating and tradition. And don't anyone feel sorry for me tonight as I fall into bed exhausted with an aching back. No, really! It's okay, I do it for my people.

And that my friends is what Jewish guilt is all about.




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