Christmas is full of options when it comes to holiday lights and decorations. There are so many ways to decorate for Christmas and I love seeing them all. From the elegant decorations in our friends’ homes to the over the top lawn ornaments in nearby neighbors’ yards Christmas has it all. In Jewish tradition, Chanukah is meant to be a small celebration and there aren’t really many traditions for decorating the whole house. When we were little, Chanukah meant latkes, Chanukah gelt (chocolate coins) and lighting the menorah. We also had stockings but only because my godmother Fran had given me a stocking so we hung in by the fire and the rest of the family used a long wool ski sock. Stockings are definitely not a Chanukah tradition.
My mother was a fabulous cook, and the kitchen was always cozy and full of delicious smells. She hosted parties and cooked all our meals, but wasn’t big on decorations. I love to decorate and can’t wait each year to set up holiday lights. I have found my own ways of bringing the light inside during the dark cold days of winter. I’m not religious, but I love sharing the Jewish traditions with my family, so for me, decorating for the holidays is about a little sparkle and extra holiday lights to push back against the cold dark winter evenings.
Flickering Candles and Twinkling Lights
Chanukah lasts eight days to remind Jews of a time in history when the temple was destroyed and its lamp only had enough oil to last one day. The miracle of Chanukah is that the oil lasted for eight days. This is why we light a candle (and never blow it out) for each of the eight symbolic days. It is also why we eat fried foods like latkes and sufganiyot (Israeli jelly doughnuts). When the kids were little they were given menorah’s with little clay characters. They have since outgrown those childish chanukiahs and various parts have chipped off over the years. A few years ago Henry and I made him a menorah out of Lego and Isabelle chose a more grown-up menorah that she will have on her own mantle some day.
No Blue and White for Us
Blue and white holiday lights seem odd to me (those are the colours of the Israeli flag). Christmas has red and green, but Chanukah has no colors that define it. I think over the years Christmas colours have changed too from primary colours to whites, to metallics and back again to the traditional colours. For Chanukah, I think of glowing candle wicks and the colorful candles, which always included pink, a light green, blue, orange and yellow. My latest obsession are the little strings of LED lights. I love to put them in various clear vessels around the house and near the menorahs for a little holiday bling. It lets us have lights before Chanukah starts and after Chanukah is over. This year I chose pitchers and carafes to fill with white holiday lights and a glass serving dome to fill with colourful ones. In my kitchen I always fill a few of my vintage canning jars with lights as well that are on a timer and go on in the evening as I’m making dinner. Every day objects can become festive with a little sparkle.
Menorah Lights in the Window
My parents always told me that we put the menorah in the window so passersby will see that you are celebrating Chanukah. A menorah in the window it’s a way of connecting with others and also sharing your identity with your community. I grew up in a town with very few Jews and I remember my mom coming into the classroom to show my classmates our holiday traditions with the dreidel and menorah. Just as I love seeing everyone’s trees twinkling by a window I love seeing the menorah in the window and feel a sense of connection when I see the candles flickering down.
Holiday Lights a New Perspective
For the holidays some families stick with tradition, others try new things each year, I like to do a little of both. One very old Christmas tradition, that was popular among wealthy Europeans in the medieval times, was to hang a Christmas tree upside down as a chandelier. I can’t imagine how they went about putting up the decorations! Although I love the plethora of Christmas decorations and holiday lights, when I see people outside with ladders and strings of lights I’m secretly glad we only celebrate Chanukah at our house. I get to appreciate the hard work of others, but don’t have to pull out any ladders or water any trees.
A Wayfair Giveaway
Wayfair and City Living (Boston) have partnered together for a $100 giveaway to help you with this year’s holiday decorations. All you have to do is share in the comments below, which of these upside down trees is your favourite. I’d love to hear about some of your favorite decorations for the holidays too.