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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Chanukah: Creating Tradition

As the holidays rolled around this year, I found myself a bit more teary eyed than I expected. My mom and I were doing Thanksgiving at a Chinese restaurant and there wasn’t a turkey in site. For comfort, I made a pan of stuffing and we ate it for breakfast with cranberry sauce.

Now I’m just a week from Chanukah and I’m not sure what to expect. Granted, I didn’t grow up Jewish so I have extra tension around the December holidays, but as I inch closer to my thirties, all of my traditions are changing.

Was it when my grandparents retired to the Texas coast from Indiana? Or after college when I moved to Colorado making attendance at every winter holiday fiscally impossible? Or was it when we looked around and realized that nobody lives in the same town anymore?

I checked in with other Shebrews in their late 20s and early 30s to see if their Chanukah traditions are changing or if things have stayed the same. Hannah Pivar splits her time between Chicago and San Francisco, with her family in New Mexico and Colorado. She remembered being the only Jewish kid in school and her mom coming in every year to make latkes with the class.

When I asked her about how she celebrates now, she said, “As I moved out from my family’s home, went to college, and now on my own, I deemphasized the tradition lighting the candles, which always centered around immediate family. When I have a family of my own… I’ll do it again for sure.”

Dahlia Fritz, also of Chicago, echoed Hannah’s desire for what Chanukah would look like in ten years. She said she would be “lighting candles with my kids – making latkes, having friends (with their kids) over and celebrating together.” Dahlia said that she’s working toward that now by, “Building strong relationships with other young Jewish people in order to have a good Jewish network, and other friends with Jewish kids when the time comes, when I am older.”

On the other side of the country, blogger and teacher Tamara Eden is getting ready to celebrate her first Chanukah without her mother, but also her first with her Canadian boyfriend, blogger Tikkun Ger. Tamara wrote that her family has gotten too large for one giant celebration during Chanukah and this year, they’ve pushed back celebrations until January.

Tamara said, “To be little again, when Chanukah was about guessing what was in each present. When it was about eating gelt and spinning dreidels. When it was about figuring out how to light a menorah without getting burned. When it was about handmade cards and wrapping paper. I can’t wait until I have children and a husband and can recreate our own family traditions and memories.”

While getting married and having children isn’t universal, the in between stage certainly is. In our 20s, we are desperate to be adults, but still miss the traditions of our childhood. We look forward to a time when we can be the masters of our own traditions and at a calendar this year that includes juggling friends and families, postponing holidays and celebrating new holidays.

Wherever you are in your tradition building, may you have a joyful and blessed celebration. Take time this season to remember a joyful Chanukah past and imagine a joyful Chanukah future.

Originally published 2006,

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