December 11th marks the first night of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of
lights, the Feast of Dedication. It also marks the beginning of my very
favorite holiday tradition.
My husband, David, and I grew up with different traditions.
And while neither of us came from particularly devout families, the
holiday season is marked by the pull of the traditions we experienced
as children. Over the years, David has had the opportunity to endure or
enjoy any Christmas tradition that felt important to me (and there are
a lot of them!). I wanted us to also create something special that was
sourced in his tradition.
Early in our marriage, we received
the gift of a menorah, the nine branched candelabrum central to the celebration of Hanukkah. David taught me the Hebrew blessings that are
said before and after the lighting of the candles. And he shared that
traditionally children are given a gift of Hanukkah “gelt”
— gold coins (or chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil) or money. Well,
we really didn’t want to exchange money (we were fresh out of gold
coins at the time) — that didn’t feel quite right. So, what then? And
spontaneously we hit on the idea of exchanging kisses — after the
blessings, 1 kiss per lighted candle. Not a little peck, but the kind
of “I-Love-You-and-I- mean-it!” kiss that requires a bit of time,
attention, and dedication. (By the 8th night, there is some serious
smooching going on!)
Over the years as I have come to understand some of the deeper story of the celebration of Hanukkah and the related traditions,
my appreciation of our special practice also deepens. I find my
thoughts this season going to the idea of dedication, or more
accurately re-dedication; to make once again sacred — through
intention, attention, and simple acts done with love and commitment —
that which has been profaned. And all the while inviting miracles.
What can you re-dedicate through simple acts and loving attention this holiday season?
Catching snowflakes on your tongue. Flopping into a drift and creating
a perfect snow angel. Seeing how long you enjoy a candy cane, without
biting. Decorating cookies for Santa and putting out carrots for the
reindeer. Hot cocoa with marshmallow’s melted just right. Total trust
in the power of love and belief (remember Charlie Brown’s Christmas
Tree? And the Grinch’s expanding heart? And the toys rescued from the
Island of Misfit Toys because of Rudolph’s “non-conformity.”)
This holiday season, I wish for you the gift of seeing again with the eyes
of a child. What if…you shifted from being busy, with so much to do
and were instead compelled by wonder. Today forget what you know and let yourself navigate by your curiosity. Let go of expectations and
give yourself the freedom to play and discover. Expect miracles.
Snuggle up for story time. Delight in anticipation. Create new worlds.
Giggle. Giggle some more. If you’ve forgotten how, put your heart in
the hands of a small child. They will lead the way. Clap your hands if
you believe… What’s that? On the rooftop! Do you hear it?
I’m not usually one to look backwards, but today I am experiencing a gentle yearning to turn the clock back, just a little bit, to yesterday and the loving gifts of the 2007 Valentines Day Blizzard.
I awoke to nearly three feet of new snow, mounded high to create a puffy, fluffy landscape. And while the snowfall really did not impact my plan for the day (I had no appointments that were going to take me out of my snug home), something felt profoundly changed. Maybe it was the combined glee of thousands of school children joyously free for the day to play in the best snowfall this state has seen in some time; or perhaps the added giddy pleasure of skiers, snowboarders, and other winter sports enthusiasts looking forward to cutting first tracks in virgin powder. But, I think it was more. I think the profound difference I felt in the day was brought on by a community in gentle surrender.
We weren’t in crisis or overwhelm. There weren’t any reports of bad accidents or deaths (though sadly this morning some of our farmers are dealing with the real tragedies of barn roofs collapsed by snow). No state of emergency. No widespread power outages. It’s just that you couldn’t hurry. And in most cases, you couldn’t actually go at all. You just had to stay put. So, we sighed a collective, and even happy sigh — and we stopped.
People stopped to share stories. We reminisced about the big storms of our childhoods. We checked in with each other. We joined forces to help someone else dig their car out of a six foot snowbank. Our little neighborhood spontaneously created a behind the scenes hotline to help make sure everyone got plowed out after our venerable plow master found himself in the dreaded
that snagged many — novice and well-seasoned alike. Shoveling the walkway became somehow an act of love. And joy…some of us may even have ridden our snow shovel like an improvised sled down a steep and blazingly fast driveway (or maybe we just imagined it…).
No, this wasn’t a plodding, grumbling, complaining kind of coping. It was surrender, tinged with wonder and awe. It was flavored with warm wood fires and steaming hot cocoa. All of a sudden the world around me was moving at my meandering pace. It was divine.