Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Hanukkah Shines Bright

Some of the interfaith Berkowitz family’s Hanukkah decorations.
Bernie, the Christmakkah pup.

As an interfaith family, we have always celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas well before children even entered the picture (cue Bernie the Christmukkah pup!). After our children were born, sharing our own childhood traditions became all the more important, between lighting the candles on my husband’s grandmother’s old menorah to gathering with family over roasted pork on Christmas Eve as most Cuban families do. But even though both holidays share equal weight in our hearts and minds, it is hard to escape the behemoth that is Christmas, especially for children. For this reason, it always feels a little extra special when Hanukkah comes early and we can dedicate ourselves fully to it like we did this year.

The night before Hanukkah after the kids went to bed, my husband and I got to work pulling out our bins of holiday decorations and carefully extracting only the Hanukkah ones. When the children woke up, they stepped out into a wonderland of glitzy blue and silver garland, boxes of vibrant dreidels, a blue LED Star of David sign, the Mensch on a bench, and of course, Baba’s old menorah in the center of the table. My eldest and I got to work on confetti sugar cookies rolled in Star of David shaped sprinkles while dad fried latkes in oil. After the matzoh ball soup we had delivered from Canter’s was devoured and cookies were feasted on, it was time to light the candles.

I watched with only slight horror as my husband declared all the kids old enough to hold the shamash candle this year. Our five year old and two and a half year old twins took turns holding it and each child did a wonderful job of holding the lit candle very carefully, feeling the weight of the responsibility we had placed on them. Meanwhile, our eldest recited the prayer repeating each word after us as the candles were lit. Afterwards, we sang a Hanukkah song and opened presents, which was definitely a highlight for the children. Night one brought the twins a dress up set and big sister Legos from Baba and Pa. When we tried to share the story of Hanukkah, our eldest told us she had already learned it at school. We asked if she had shared with her friends that she celebrates Hanukkah and she nodded and beamed with pride.

Every day since, the kids have been giddy with excitement to light the candles (and open the gifts). We have even had a super fun 5am request of “I want Hana!”  And every night, the little ones have fun picking candle colors and carefully passing the shamash candle between themselves, lighting each candle in order as the prayer is recited. And as much fun as our usual multiple holiday-palooza is, for this year, we are enjoying basking in the warm light of Hanukkah, and Hanukkah alone…for a couple more days at least.

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