Favorite Chanukah or Thanksgiving traditions

by | Nov 27, 2013 | Other News

A large and emotional gathering at Thanksgiving
David Abraham

Every Thanksgiving, we travel to Indianapolis to be with my side of the family. This has been a long-standing tradition that my family loves to do. We have a tremendous amount of fun and camaraderie.

I am one of five siblings, so you can imagine how much fun it is when we are all under one roof! We also have a family tradition at Thanksgiving to tape a special message on what Thanksgiving means to everyone. Since we are at my brother’s house, he goes around the room as he is filming and asks every member of the family, as well as invited guests (tends to be around 50 people), what they are thankful for. As you can also guess, it tends to also be an emotional time as well. GREAT FAMILY FUN!!

Raising the flag
Kim Simon Fink

Thanksgiving day couldn’t have been better dressed, better behaved, better celebrated than at our family’s beloved Oakland farm. Fall was always in fullest bloom. Trees and grounds were in technicolor brilliance—yellows and oranges just as nature intended for this special tribute to the days of bountiful harvests. And speaking of bountiful, the Rockwell setting in the dining room brimmed beyond imagination! The turkey in all its glorious roastedness had to compete with bubbling souffles, butternut squash concoctions and the hands down, uncontested best fried chicken ever! (It was purchased from the country Texaco station up the road that also served as a post office, but that’s a family secret so….)

Visitors new and old were swept away by the beauty and the bounty shared with such pride, love and grace by their hosts, Marilyn and Marvin Simon. But the stand alone Thanksgiving tradition, the one still, collective moment in the otherwise scattered pace of company busy to feast, to play, to catch up with one another, was when our father called us before the flag pole out back and down by the dock. Years of this tradition went into herding every man, woman and child into compliance. There wrapped in our fall/country finery, and in each other, we stood together as Dad and the youngest of our pride unfolded the flag. The onlookers felt the same awe as did the children helping Pops with this sacred responsibility. Two clips and several tugs from all those little hands and Old Glory was flying free in the clear blue sky. And then we sang. Transported by the setting and the songs, God Bless America…America the Beautiful…You’re a Grand Ol’ Flag every one of us shared our pilgrim’s pride and understood the importance and the beauty of coming together as a community. Our father, our Pops put it out there for us to “get” and we did.

Tradition. It is a powerful motivator and teacher. Seven years since our father’s, our Pop’s passing, the tradition of coming together dockside to raise the flag and sing its praises continues. Our numbers have grown to more than 70, (a four turkey, two tenderloin, one lasagna and all the trimmings feast), but the intimacy of the message and the meaning lives on.

Chanukah in Israel
Zohar Ben Moshe

I’ve been 15 years here, and Chanukah is very different in Israel than it is in the United States. In Israel, a lot of people don’t give gifts on Chanukah—they give them on Purim. Here—there are eight gifts for Chanukah, and nothing for Purim! Now that I’m here, I’m going with the flow, and I exchange presents with friends.

Growing up, we celebrated—we’d have parties and play music and dance. One thing that was very special and that I remember so well is making soufganiyot—the special donuts Israelis eat at Chanukah. The making of those goodies was part of the celebration—it was fun and delicious!


Alene Kaufman

Ron and I had been dating for about nine months and I decided to buy matching work shirts (that was the fashion) for us as a Chanukah gift.

I was on winter break from Hofstra. Since the dorms had closed, I was staying with his family in Queens for a few days so I could finish teaching at Hebrew school before going home to see my family in Richmond, Va. Ron lived and worked in Newburgh, N.Y., 75 miles from his parents and he planned to come “home” to see me before I left for Chanukah and Richmond.

We planned to exchange our gifts before I left and I, always the hopeless romantic, was so excited that we would have our matching shirts. Ron arrived at his parents at midnight on Saturday night, awakened me to tell me that he had arrived, and slipped an engagement ring on my finger!

That was 40 years ago and every day has been a gift! (And I bet we still have those shirts somewhere….)


Anne Kramer

When our kids, Carra and Franklin, were young, we always celebrated Chanukah for eight days. After a while, it just became too much, so we decided that on one of the nights we’d give up presents for ourselves and instead, shop for others who might not get as many gifts. For a few years, we went to the mall and would take an angel off of the tree and buy for that child; then we started buying toys for Ohef Sholom’s Religious School’s collection to give to Jewish Family Service. Ultimately, it was fun to buy for other people and I believe our kids really did enjoy the process.


Lighting Chanukah lights for all to see
Farideh Goldin

I remember my father, a Persian living in Iran, lighting the Chanukah candles in the corner of the kitchen where no one could see from the outside. He mumbled the prayers so that no one could hear beyond our family.

I light my menorah by an unobstructed window. Let the light of the candles, glowing more intense every night for eight nights, brighten my house and the faces of those walking by the window. Let the neighbors and passersby know who I am—a Jew, no longer afraid.

And for my dear father of blessed memory, I add an additional prayer when I light my menorah. I pray that once again the Iranian Jews, Muslims, Christians, Bahais and Zoroastrians should have the opportunity to share his vision of a free Iran—a light unto other nations.


Michael Cohen

When I was 16, I got a car for Chanukah. It was mainly for my birthday—which is at the end of November-—but since it’s so close to Chanukah, when my parents gave me my present, I was told, “Happy birthday AND happy Chanukah.” When I was 18, I got another memorable Chanukah present—a trip to Rio. We have relatives there and I got to visit them. Two great presents.

Dana Cohen

I didn’t really know about Chanukah when I was a child. As an adult, in my family, we mainly gave money for Chanukah so we could get the gifts that we really wanted. I do have a Chanukah gift I would like to get: On my wish list is a trip to Paris. That’s it. A trip to Paris!


Spinning Chanukah and freedom
Sandra Porter Leon

One of my favorite Chanukah traditions is the gift of the dreidel. Whether from the Boardwalk Art Show in Virginia Beach or the Shuk Carmel in Tel Aviv or the Dohany Synagogue in Budapest, the dreidel reminds us of our extended Jewish community and the gift of freedom we celebrate during the holiday.


Hannah and Molly Mancoll

One of our favorite Chanukah presents was a bean bag chair for each of us from Uncle Benn Advocat. They were kind of like two presents in one because the ginormous boxes they came in were just as fun as the chairs we each get to keep in our rooms!