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The star of the show was always the candle lighting

CindyandMomChanukah image
The author (as a baby) with her mother on Chanukah.

Chanukah is one of my favorite holidays. My mom always made a big deal of it when my sister and I were growing up. We would deck our home out in blue, silver, and gold metallic dreidels and menorahs worn from years of usage. Then, during the festival, we'd fry latkes, play dreidel for pennies, and exchange token gifts.

But the star of the show was always the candle lighting. One of my earliest memories was lighting the chanukiah (Chanukah menorah) with my family in the window of our dining room. Then, through the years, no matter what we were doing, everyone in our household would drop everything to come light the candles during the eight nights in that same window.  

I loved that passersby could see the glow of the lights through the window from the street. (It is in fact a mitzvah to display your chanukiah publicly to proudly show that you celebrate Chanukah.) I loved the scent of the quick-burning candles, melting down into abstract colorful art just minutes after we lit them. And I loved my family's favorite Chanukah songs that we would sing every year, tunes that echo in my head now as I write this. 

My mom even wrote a song about Chanukah for us girls when I was a baby called The Maidel with the Dreidel . I've been singing that same song every night of Chanukah every year since I was barely old enough to talk.

This Chanukah, my husband and I will light the menorah with our 1-year-old baby girl, and I will sing The Maidel with the Dreidel to her--my very own maidel (little girl). And so it goes, from generation to generation--l'dor vador.

My daughter was just a few weeks old last Chanukah, so she pretty much slept through the holiday. But this year, she may begin to sense the magic of it all: She'll attempt to spin the dreidel (or maybe try to eat it), she'll sample the latkes and applesauce, she'll be wowed by the lights, she'll smell the aroma of the holiday candles, and she'll clap her hands and dance to the same songs I danced to when I was her age.  

Of course, she is too young to understand that once upon a time the oil lasted for eight whole nights. But I know that one day she will get it. One day she will learn that Chanukah celebrates not losing our Judaism to the larger culture in the days of the Maccabees--or today. She will understand the resilience of the Jewish people--that through the peril, persecution, and darkness--the Jewish people are still, somehow, burning bright.  

When my sister and I were little, just a few years older than my daughter is now, we'd ask my mom about the miracle of Chanukah.  

"The miracle," she would tell us, "is you." 

She was right. 

The miracle now is my daughter who will get to experience the holiday--the smell, the taste, the music-as we light the candles in our window. The miracle is all your children who will celebrate the Festival of Lights with you in the windows of your homes. The miracle is the children who will light the candles in their homes in Buffalo Grove, in Kiryat Gat, in Mexico City, in Stockholm, and in Melbourne.    

The miracle is that one day our children will light the candles in their windows with their children and so on and so on. The miracle is that the light will never burn out. The miracle is the Jewish people--through it all--endure and glow. 

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