My Hanukkah Experience

Growing up in a half Catholic and half Jewish family has allowed me the chance to experience both cultures and the celebrations they observe. However, being Bat Mitzvahed myself, I have always felt a stronger connection to my Jewish roots and the holiday season allows me to commemorate the occasion and connect with my Jewish family.


In my house, decorating for Hanukkah is an extravagant ordeal that consumes the whole day. It involves covering tables with decorative blue cloths, hanging lights, displaying dreidels, and exhibiting the menorah on my family’s display table. Setting up the menorah is the most essential part of decorating because it marks the space where we gather to pray and exchange gifts each night.


My family celebrates Hanukkah a little untraditionally. First, during the structured eight days, my immediate family and I will exchange gifts that are themed. Each day is a different theme that is pre-planned such as socks, PJs, or electronics. Everyone gets a gift they wanted that relates to the theme and it allows us to stay consistent and keeps us on our toes when the theme is a surprise. Second, we get together with my extended family, usually after Hanukkah ends, for formal gifts and a brunch. This allows us all to get caught up and celebrate at a time that is convenient for us because Hanukkah doesn’t always fall during winter break.


We always start off the eight days of Hanukkah with a traditional, celebratory meal that my mom and I cook. We make applesauce, chicken, and my favorite, homemade latkes. This meal is the kick-off of the holiday week and marks the celebration for my immediate family. Once we are done with our dinner, we make our way to the menorah to say the blessing and open presents. We each get one gift that is relevant to the theme. Once we are done opening our gifts we usually play a board game or watch a movie together while the candles burn out. Hanukkah is a great way for us to all catch up and reconnect during an extremely busy time of year.


The Hanukkah celebration with my extended family is a huge celebration and although it doesn’t always fall on the exact holiday, we are always extremely spirited. We start the morning by getting brunch at a nice venue where we can socialize and bond. Afterwards, we go back to my house for dessert and to open presents. Exchanging presents with relatives that you don’t always get a chance to see shows them how much you care and appreciate them.


Hanukkah is a time of year that I always look forward to because of the traditions and family unity associated with it. While receiving eight nights of presents is cool, Hanukkah is so meaningful because I get to spend it with people I care about and it brings the entire family together, which is a feat hard to do with everyone’s busy schedules. I look forward to Hanukkah this year to see what funky themes for presents my immediate family will have and to catch up with my Grandparents from Florida during our brunch.