Tuesday, 20 December 2011

My Special Piece of Chanukah

As we prepare to begin the festival of Chanukah, I have been following the excitement all day amongst my friends and family through Facebook, Twitter, email and other forms of social media. It always interests me in how people celebrate holidays and which customs remain important throughout their lives. Whether it is the visceral odour of latkes cooking, the lighting of the Chanukiah, the music, or the gifting that tends at times to go somewhat overboard, every single one of us has a tradition that absolutely must be carried forward or else "it just isn't Chanukah!" Today I was reminded of mine.

This is my mother's Chanukiah.


It is the Chanukiah that we always lit when I was a child and it is the Chanukiah that my parents continue to light and carry with them wherever they are in the world for Chanukah. Today I watched as my mother brought it out and set up the candles in preparation for this evening, just like I used to do when I was a kid. It brought back a hundred different memories all at once. I love this piece. It isn't the most beautiful Chanukiah I have ever seen, but it is the most special to me. I always knew that the piece was given to my mother by her father, but until today I never delved further into the story.

It seems that my grandfather, a jack of many trades throughout his lifetime, was working as a travelling salesman shortly after the war in the late 1940s. He happened upon one of his customers who drew him into conversation and soon discovered that he was Jewish. She brought out this Chanukiah and told him that it had been smuggled out of Holland just before or during World War II. She had no idea what it was but she knew that it was of some significance, and wondered if my grandfather might like to have it. He took it gratefully, and it remained in my grandparents' home until my grandmother moved in with my family after my Zaidy's death. My mother inherited it from her mother.

Years later during one of my parents' many trips, they happened upon other Chanukiot just like it in a museum in Amsterdam. My mother was so excited that she took photos of those to show all of us at home. Until today, she never told me the story and I never knew the significance of the piece.

It has always surprised me the myriad of Chanukiot that are available today, many of which I find to be quite tacky. I could never imagine lighting Chanukah candles with Bart Simpson or Mickey Mouse as the Shamash. When The Husband and I were searching for a Chanukiah of our own, I always came back to the traditional designs that were inspired by this particular and special piece of family folklore. Tonight as we light the first lights together with my parents, I will be marvelling at uniqueness of our Chanukiah and what it means to both my mother and me.

חג שמח to all who observe!!

No comments:

Post a Comment