This year, for the first time ever, I am going to celebrate Hanukkah. I am not Jewish. I don’t know if I even know any Jewish people (??). But, I do believe in God and miracles and Hanukkah is a celebration of both. So, I hope that the Jews don’t mind me joining with them in lighting a few candles in remembrance of God’s providence and grace.
In the last few weeks, I’ve felt myself sort of step back and sense the hugeness and smallness of my life. While we were sailing, my world became so small and, at times, it seemed all I could see was myself and sometimes even that wasn’t very clear. Although I was sleeping under the biggest sky and on top of the biggest ocean, I had lost all perspective. But, recently, I’ve sensed the grandeur of the universe and how silly our lives can seem in the midst of it. This has made me ask, again, the question of “what is it all about?” I won’t go into what answers I came up with, but all of this deep thinking has made me realize that it is important to me to mark the passing of time – to recognize and acknowledge my place in it, and to participate in traditions that nourish the soul and connect me with the past.
One of my current long-standing traditions is to go to the latest possible christmas eve church service I can, so that, ideally, I will walk out of the church minutes before midnight. I LOVE exiting the pews, everyone quiet or maybe carrying a lighted candle and singing “silent night,” and emerging out into the the cold night air, snowy white blasts of breath lingering on our lips, hands clasped together for warmth then reaching out to clasp a friend, arms hugging ourselves momentarily before opening wide to embrace another, voices ringing out like church bells, calling “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!” over and over again until the last car door is shut, the last child bustled in, the soft glow of the church lights turned out. THAT to me, is Christmas. That moment of happiness and pure joy when presents and turkeys and old family arguments and thoughts of who-is-taking-care-of-what and how-much-did-I-spend are far, far from anyone’s mind. All that matters is that It’s Christmas! Joy to the World! That moment is what I now look forward to the most.
Oh, and of course, cookies and eggnog and crazy family get-togethers and little tags with my name on them 🙂
I don’t know yet exactly what I’ll do or how I’ll celebrate Hanukkah, what that tradition will become for me. For the first couple of days, we’ll still be here in Australia and for the second half, we’ll be staying with friends in the States. I don’t have a menorah or dreidles or gelt, and I’m not sure about making latkes, BUT, I do have a pretty little vanilla-scented candle that I’m going to light each night and a prayer of thanksgiving to say and, for now, that will have to do 🙂
What are your favorite traditions?