This colorful booklet lists all the ritual items needed for the Passover table. The history and significance of each item on the seder plate is explained, as are the customs that have been handed down through the generations.
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Wonâ€™t you help to sing /Â These songs of freedom?
Weâ€™re currently in the middle of one of the most widely-observed Jewish holidays, Passover.Â One of the Shalosh Regalim, or three pilgrimage festivals (literally â€śthree legsâ€ť), in ancient times Jews throughout the land of Israel would gather and make sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem. Passover celebrates the Exodus from Egypt, and is one of the few holidays mentioned in the Torah.Â In modern times, it is observed by abstaining from the consumption of items with leavening (e.g. bread, cake, beer), and with a festive meal on the first two evenings, which is called a seder.
When I was growing up, we would have the first night seder with extended family.Â Between grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and my nuclear family, there would be about fifteen of us crowded around the table, hearing Poppop recite the story of the Hebrewsâ€™ exodus from Egypt.Â It was always fun running around with the cousins, searching for the afikomen, and staying up way past our normal bedtimes.Â We still meet at my uncleâ€™s place every year on the first night, and although lately weâ€™ve had a couple faces missing from the table due to cousins living abroad, or away at college, usually at some point we would Skype them in.Â Also, as some of the older cousins have become involved in serious relationships, there have been new guests at the table â€“ including, for the past three years, Anne.
The second night seder had a very different tone than the first night while I was growing up. My two sisters and I would each get to invite one friend, and beyond these three friends, it would just be our nuclear family at the table.Â We lived in an area that had very few Jews, so most of our school friends had never been to a seder before.Â At the beginning of this seder, we would start by explaining the symbols on the table â€“ the matzah, different items on the seder plate, Elijahâ€™s cup, etc.Â Diana, my youngest sister, would start the explanation; Stacey, the middle child, would add things that Diana had forgotten, and provide additional layers of meaning behind the symbols; and I would continue with the things both sisters had left out.
This year, we invited Anneâ€™s parents and siblings to our second-night seder.Â As an added twist, my Dad had asked me a few weeks ago if I could lead our seder.Â My father, an accountant, was a *bit* exhausted by the night of the second seder, which fell this year on April 15th.Â After a few weeks of reviewing the haggadah and the Passover story, I had committed as much as I could to memory, and felt prepared for what was to come.
Anne and I arrived at my parentsâ€™ house around 5:30, about half an hour before the seder was to begin.Â I wanted some time to settle in, and do some last-minute reviewing of my notes and the biblical Exodus story.Â Thanks to some heavy traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway, I ended up having quite a bit of extra time â€“ Anneâ€™s brother Chris showed up around 6:15, and her parents and two youngest siblings didnâ€™t arrive until nearly 7PM.Â After some brief greetings, we sat down at the table, and the sederÂ began.
Passover Seder with Both Families
We began with my retelling the story of the Exodus, beginning with Josephâ€™s trials and tribulations, culminating in the arrival of the Hebrews in the Promised Land, and hitting all the major high points along the way.Â Unfortunately, due to my nerves, I ended up hitting many of the minor points as well, resulting in a retelling that felt as long as Cecil B DeMilleâ€™s epic film.Â In reality it was probably only 15 minutes, but it felt much longer. At least nobody could say I missed anything important!
After my retelling was complete, we began reading from the haggadah.Â After the first cup of wine, my nerves (finally!) began to ease up.Â We went popcorn-style around the table, each person reading a paragraph.Â As we reached the Four Questions, we broke our order and had Theresa, Anneâ€™s youngest sibling, read them.Â We continued along, with Anneâ€™s parents and siblings asking questions as we went. What foods do we â€śdipâ€ť, as mentioned in the Four Questions?Â Whatâ€™s the egg for? Why is the shank bone, rather than another part of the lamb, used to symbolize Passover offering? Is that really a lambâ€™s shank bone, or just a chicken bone? When do we drink more wine?Â In some cases, the answers were literally on the next page of the haggadah, but I was able to field most other questions without significantly affecting the flow of the service.
Finally, it was time to eat the main meal.Â Anne had prepared eggplant dip, chopped liver, and potatoes, and my mom cooked up some beef brisket, chicken, and fruit kugel.Â Everything tasted delicious, though it certainly helped that we were having a very late dinner.Â Unfortunately, we werenâ€™t able to go through the post-meal portion of the seder due to a confluence of the delayed start time and Anneâ€™s youngest siblingsâ€™ bedtimes (the following day was a school day, after all).
Iâ€™m certainly in no rush to lead my next seder, a responsibility I hope continues to be held by my healthy father and grandfather for many years.Â However, it was a lot of fun studying the details of the seder and the Passover holiday while preparing to lead it.Â Also, Iâ€™m extremely grateful that Anneâ€™s family is open to learning about the customs and holidays of my faith.Â While we certainly differ on quite a few theological matters, I appreciate that Anneâ€™s parents are willing to join my family for holiday celebrations.Â It displays both a confidence in their beliefs and an acceptance of my ability to practice my faith.
On a completely unrelated note, I listened to this song on repeat while writing this blog.
Just like all beginning relationships, I had plenty of questions. â€śWill he still like me if I eat three burgers for dinner?â€ť â€śWill my parents and siblings like him?â€ť â€śWill his parents and siblings like me?â€ť â€śWill we get along with each otherâ€™s friends?â€ť â€śWill he be ok with my Catholicism?â€ť At first, these questions bugged me. I had doubts that the relationship wouldnâ€™t last because we are so different. However, after talking it over with my friends, something clicked. Instead of focusing on the fact that we were different, I began to embrace it.
I started sharing my hobbies with Sam. When I was with Sam, I experienced things differently than when I was with my other friends. After going to the theater with my girlfriends, we would talk about the rehearsal process, technical elements, and cast and crew. Seeing the exact same show with Sam, we would talk about how we related to the characters and how the acting moved the story along. Sam also started sharing his love of concerts and brewing with me, and introduced me to Judaism.
I began going to synagogue with Sam a few months into our relationship, and it was confusing at first. The service was completely different from the Catholic Mass, and it didnâ€™t help that I didnâ€™t understand Hebrew. After attending a few more services with Sam, I started researching the holidays and cultures and began to find joy in the ways that the Jewish holidays could benefit me personally or spiritually. Creating a menu for Passover became an exciting search, between my friends and I, to experiment with different ingredients within the dietary restrictions mandated during the holiday.
Sam and I started turning activities into exciting adventures.Â Over the past two years we have attended numerous family holiday celebrations; the National Homebrew Conference, several beer festivals, numerous Synagogue events, Philadelphia Folk Festival, and other concerts; stewarded a mead (honey wine) competition; road tripped to Chicago (twice), Boston, and Minnesota; held a game marathon during the two-week black out of Super Storm Sandy; and celebrated a handful of friendsâ€™ interfaith/intercultural weddings.
Sam and Anne (2013)
So when did I know that Sam was the â€śoneâ€ť? The answer is three-fold:
When I found that life is more fascinating with Sam than without him,
When being with him, no matter what we are doing, brings sheer happiness and joy, and
When I realized that I am comfortable with myself around Sam and being with Sam is helping me to grow as an individual.
Since Chris and I have been planning our wedding for so long, it’s strange to think that it will actually happen–and soon! This weekend really put it into perspective how close it is as my bridal shower was this past Sunday. It was held in my hometown, at the home of a very good family friend. Four of my mom’s friends hosted the shower and it was amazing. They truly thought of every detail and made sure the women from both sides of our families felt included.As we’ve mentioned many times before, both of our families are large. So, as one may imagine, the shower was quite crowded with about 50 in all of family and friends–most of whom were meeting for the first time. The event began with lunch and schmoozing. After we ate everyone gathered in the living room to embarrass me (in the most loving way possible) with a quiz about Chris.
Then, some members from both families stood up and spoke. This part was so touching. My aunt Liz spoke about my grandmother, who passed 5 years ago, and how much she would have loved Chris. A few of Chris’ aunts read poems or blessings. My sister, who lives in Israel, sent something for my mom to read for her, and Chris’ sister, who lives in England, sent something for Chris’ mom, Judi, to read. Then, for the big finale, both my mom and Judi said a few words, both of which brought me to tears. Chris’ mom read the following poem:
A Mother’s Prayer
I prayed for you Before I ever met you And once I saw you I knew I would never forget you.
There was something about you That was special and rare But I didn’t know yet That you were the answer to my prayer.
You were the answer to the prayer For the one my son would wed I prayed for you from the time he was born And this is where my prayers led.
I prayed for your health Health of body, soul and spirit And I knew always in my heart That God, our Father, would hear it.
And now I know just who you are And how you found your way Into our hearts and homes and lives And to your wedding day.
I have put together this little poem To show you how much we care How proud we are to celebrate together The answer to a mother’s prayer.
Now…if that doesn’t bring you to tears, I don’t know what will! My mom also brought the place to tears, but mostly through laughter. She teased about how the key to a successful marriage is BreatheRight Strips and how it’s best to bake goodies when your children aren’t home so you can lick the batter, ha! Now I know why there was always banana bread and brownies around when I got home from school!
I truly felt like the luckiest person in the world, not only for the amazing gifts we got (!!!) but also for the immense amount of love that surrounded Chris and I. We are truly blessed.
As the Winter Olympics have been consuming our TV watching the past few weeks, Chris and I have been talking about our future children–particularly, our future children and sports. Will we raise a future Olympic athlete? Possibly, but probably not. We are both relatively athletic and played sports as children; Chris was an avid hockey player through high school and I took up rowing in high school and stuck with it through college.
I often ask myself how people get into sports in the first place (this came up often while watching many of the sliding events at the Olympics–how does one become a skeleton competitor?!) I imagine children are first exposed to the sports their parents’ were (or still are) involved with and then make choices from there. Of course, Chris is already talking about buying our future first child a pair of hockey skates, and I know I’d love my children to experience the lifelong friendships and physically active lifestyle I attribute to my years as a rower. Â We both enjoy skiing and would surely expose our children to that at an early age. But…the rest is really up to them.
This made us think about how in many respects, religion parallels athletics, or really any interest that can be passed on from a parent. A child’s first exposure to religion is through their parents and the religion(s) they practice. Clearly this is more complicated when parents practice different religions, as we do. Chris and I do not happen to be the type of believers who find Judaism and Catholicism mutually exclusive, but we know that there are many among both faith groups who would say that you must pick a side.
So what do we do? Try to expose our children equally to both faiths and wait and see which they choose? Will our children have Bar or Bat Mitzvahs or first communions and confirmations? Is it possible for them to choose to practice both? We do not really know the answer to these questions, and in fact think that our kids will be infinitely more qualified to address them. We do acknowledge that exposing our children to our faiths will require us to make some changes, but we can’t exactly foresee what this will mean. Ultimately the best we can hope for is to raise our children with the values our religions have taught us; kindness, caring, loyalty, honesty, and generosity. And if they end up competing at the Olympics one day, weâ€™ll be there to cheer them on.
Sam and I couldnâ€™t be more different. Sam enjoys heavy metal rock music. I like classic rock, jazz, folk and NPR. Sam gets lost in each musical component- the percussion, the vocals, the guitar etc, whereas my music puts Sam to sleep. I use my music to cheer me up, get me going, and to keep me company at work.
I work in the event industry and my background is in arts management. Sam, on the other hand, works in pharmaceuticals and his background in engineering, physics, and computer science. Our backgrounds and training have taught us to think differently about problems, situations, and the world around us. Sam is very logical, he concludes that the fastest way from point A to B is a straight line and A plus B always equals C. My brain doesnâ€™t function that way. The fastest way from point A to B may not be the best way and A plus B may equal purple or square or dog.
Sam likes sleeping in; I am an early bird. Sam was born in Pennsylvania; I was born in Minnesota. Sam has 2 siblings; I have 9.Â Sam is Jewish; I am Catholic. I could go on and on listing the ways that Sam and I are different. Through all of these differences, we both understand that we love each other for the whole package.
I love Sam Goodman for the whole package!
I love Sam for his rock music, Pharmaceuticals, physics, logic, Judaism and all. Sam loves me for my NPR, arts background, Catholicism and everything.Â We both understand that it is all of these elements combined that make up who we are.Â If you were to take out any one of these elements Sam would be totally different and not the man that I love. If you were to take out the element of my religion, or family, I would be totally different and not the woman that Sam loves. You canâ€™t say, â€śI love you except_________ (fill in the blank)â€ť or â€śI would love you more if ___________â€ť, because then you would be taking out little pieces of that person.
We love each other because of these differences. As we plan our wedding and our future together, we are learning that we can use our differences to balance out each other. I can help Sam see things from an arts management perspective; he can help me appreciate heavy metal rock music. I can learn about his Judaism and he can learn about my Catholicism. It is in learning, understanding, and loving ALL of these aspects of each other that will help us with our lives together and raising a family. I can just imagine, our future three year old reading the Wall Street Journal and teaching me about physics.
In order for my marriage to Sam to be recognized in the Catholic Church, I have to request permission from the Diocese for a special dispensation in order to marry a non-Catholic who was never baptized.
This document also requires my signature under this statement: â€śI reaffirm my faith in Jesus Christ and with Godâ€™s help intend to continue living that faith in the Catholic Church. I promise to do all in my power to share the faith I have received with our children by having them baptized and raised as Catholics.â€ť
Crap! While we have discussed it on numerous occasions, Sam and I have yet to decide in which faith to raise our children.
With that in mind, we arranged to meet with Monsignor Hopkins, the priest at my familyâ€™s parish, to talk about this special dispensation. We also wanted to discuss Pre-Cana, a Catholic pre-marriage course that discusses spirituality/faith, conflict resolution, careers, finances, intimacy/cohabitation, children, and commitment. In addition, we were looking for advice on how to incorporate both religions into our ceremony.
A few months ago, we had met with Father Hopkins to start talking about these issues. He advised us to hold the ceremony in a â€śneutral siteâ€ť, neither a synagogue nor a church. As a result of this discussion, we arranged to hold our ceremony at the country club where our reception will take place.
Last Saturday, we met with Father Hopkins to discuss the dispensation in further details. He gave us some really great advice that I would like to share with you:
- Deciding which religion to raise our children in is a very large, important decision that does not have to be decided right now, as long as we are seriously talking about it.
- Even if we are currently leaning more towards raising our children in one faith or the other, that may change once there is a baby in the picture.
- In talking about children, faith and our lives together, we should not â€śminimize or trivializeâ€ť the otherâ€™s religion or beliefs.
- â€śEverything will be fine as long as your family loves and accepts Sam and his family loves and accepts you.â€ť
We talked about Pre-Cana. I have heard the amazing revelations (and some horror stories) of going through these Pre-Cana classes. I also feared the number of miles that we would put on our cars if we drove down to Delaware every weekend for 6 months to attend these classes. We floated the idea of taking Pre-Cana in New Jersey; however, I wanted to take the courses with a priest that I was comfortable with. Father mentioned that the class is mainly about communication and because our communication with each other is strong and we have started to incorporate the families into our decision making process, he is not requiring us to attend Pre-Cana.
We then discussed how to blend the different Jewish/Catholic symbols and rituals into the ceremony without offending anyone. Father Hopkins gave us some examples of programs from Catholic/Jewish ceremonies in which he officiated, and a list of readings and blessings to consider.
We still have a lot of decisions to make, and we are just about to hit the 8-month mark!
Before meeting Samâ€™s extended family, I had met his parents very briefly for a slice of mid-afternoon pie.Â I was very nervous about meeting his parentsâ€”I think it took me over an hour that day to figure out what to wear!Â This meeting was so brief, that we didnâ€™t get a chance to talk about much, therefore the topic of faith didnâ€™t come up. I was (and still am) very amazed at how sweet and genuinely nice his parents are! I donâ€™t remember when the topic of faith first came up around his parents, but they knew that I wasnâ€™t Jewish when I attended the PassoverSeder.
Sam first invited me to join his family Seder a few months after we started dating.Â I had only been to one other Seder before, five years prior. The meal was slightly awkward and uncomfortable.Â I didnâ€™t understand what was being said, nor did I understand the traditions around what was being done. Also, because I was the youngest person there, I had to say some of the prayers, find the Afikomen and open the door for Elijah. Â I was nervous that the Seder with Samâ€™s family would be equally awkward and uncomfortable. Sam reassured me that most of his familyâ€™s Seder would be in English and that I wouldnâ€™t be the youngest person there.
In the weeks leading up to the Seder, Sam re-emphasized that the youngest people there would be his cousins, who were growing up in interfaith households.Â Both of his dadâ€™s siblings were in interfaith marriages and their children (Samâ€™s cousins) celebrate both sets of holidays. This calmed my fears a little, but I still thought it would be awkward and uncomfortable.
The awkwardness started when I arrived empty handed because I was told not to bring anything. Whenever I go to a fancy dinner party, I try to always bring a dish or something. I asked Sam what I should bring. His answer was, â€śNothing. There are very specific foods and everyone has a specific dish that they always bring.â€ť This didnâ€™t satisfy me, so I asked Sam repeatedly only to receive the same answer over and over.
On the day of the Seder, I put on my fancy clothes, my best behavior and attended the Seder empty-handed.Â There were 13 people there (a normal crowd for me), and the topic of my faith wasnâ€™t brought up.Â We talked a lot about my family and what dish I could eventually bring to future family dinner parties. There was no awkwardness nor discomfort, only really nice people with a lot of funny stories to tell.
We began the prayers and rituals surrounding the meal. After getting used to the way the Haggadah was read (from right to left), I sat back and listened to his Poppop tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. During his story, his little cousin, Jason, started singing and the escape to freedom became a musical!Â We even Skyped Samâ€™s sister Diana, living in Israel at the time, so she could chant the Four Questions. After the prayers were said, it was time for the holiday meal.
This particular Seder fell on Good Friday. It is a Catholic ritual to fast and not eat meat on Good Friday. Catholic fasting means eating only one full meal during the course of a day. I had refrained from eating all day, which would allow me to eat the Seder meal.Â While I was helping to serve the Matzah ball soup, with Samâ€™s aunts and female cousins, Sam made up a plate of food for me. When I got back to my seat, he had served me a little bit of everything- including the beef brisket.Â This was the biggest internal conflict of the night: do I eat the meat because itâ€™s on my plate, or should I put it back, risk being rude and interrupting the flow of the meal? I saved the beef brisket for the last thing to eat to prolong my decision-making. I ended up eating the meat, justifying to myself that this was the right thing to do in this particular case.
This Seder meal was not like the one that I had experienced five years prior. It was neither awkward nor uncomfortable. Everything seemed natural and everything somehow magically â€śfitâ€ť.Â Although this was the first time that I had met his extended family, I remember his Mommom telling me that I fit very well into their family. I think that my response was telling her that my cheeks hurt from laughing & smiling too much!
I still donâ€™t fully understand the symbols and rituals behind the Seder meal, but I have the rest of my life to learn about all of the Jewish customs.
Hi–it’s Chris here. Following a Facebook link early last week, I reach this articleÂ which discusses a “Jewish” style of conversation which the author of the study refers to as “cooperative overlapping,” and which I and many other people who are not Jewish–and, I’m sure, a lot of Jews who don’t practice this conversational style–would call interrupting. [Note: I used the quotations because, as the author notes, "Jewish conversational style" is not a very precise term, and it seems to refer more to Eastern European Jews from the general New York area. In fact, I might go as far as to call this harried conversational style more typical of New Yorkers in general than Jews specifically, but I digress.]
Reading this article got me to thinking about our often unthought-of cultural heritage, the unspoken set of assumptions and standard operating procedures that all of us walk around with. In my education classes this is referred to as your “cultural knapsack” to emphasize how pervasive it is; we carry it with us everywhere. I remember the first family Channukah party I attended, and while I would not accuse any member of Dana’s family of practicing the not-so-delicate art of cooperative overlapping, I do recall being overwhelmed by the constant conversation, trying very hard to keep pace–and I thought my large Irish-Italian family could talk!
Conversational style is just one of perhaps a million things that we are coming to learn about one another and our families. Little did I know, for example, that it was “a gentile thing” to eat dinner early! Or that Jews are the true masters of ordering Chinese, and that, at least in Dana’s family your Chinese food is always shared. These small things, whether they are cultural or merely family traditions, are part of what makes this union so exciting. Dana and I are constantly learning new things about one another and our culture and background, and have learned to be more sensitive about insisting that our way is the right way or the only way. In addition to just learning about how the other half lives, we’ve both expanded our horizons by attending multiple religious services of the other person’s faith. But I suppose that’s a blog entry for another time…
Typically, when I tell friends, coworkers, and acquaintances how many siblings Anne has, responses range from â€śWow,â€ť to â€śGod bless her mother,â€ť to â€śIs her family Catholic?â€ť
2013 Keefe Family Back Row: Dad, Carolyn, Stephanie, Andrew, Michelle, Chris, Nicole, Dave, Nephew: Ryder. Front Row: Mom. Theresa, Anne, Sam, Nicole, Grandpa. Missing from picture: Laura
Luckily for me, I wasnâ€™t introduced to all three brothers and six sisters at once, which would have been overwhelming. I first started meeting her siblings just a few weeks after we started dating. One of Anneâ€™s friends was playing in a jazz band at a bar in Asbury Park, and Chris (second-oldest) and Stephanie (sixth-oldest) were in town. The subject of religion came up fairly quickly, as Chris was a former seminarian, having left high school to pursue a path towards priesthood. Although he has since left the seminary, Chris has a deep faith informed by his theological studies.
Every few weeks Iâ€™d meet more of Anneâ€™s siblings. Theresa (the youngest, now 13) came up to see a show at the theater where Anne worked. Dave (the oldest, now 32) stopped by Anneâ€™s apartment for dinner one night. I was on speakerphone when Nicole (eighth-oldest) called Anne to say sheâ€™d decided to attend Anneâ€™s alma mater, studying in the same theater program as Anne had.
However, it was Anneâ€™s parents who I was most concerned about meeting. We set up plans to gather at Yards Brewery for a tour and a pint with Chris, Michelle (fifth-oldest), and Anneâ€™s mom and dad. In preparation, I looked up her fatherâ€™s CV (heâ€™s a professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Delaware), read through some of his recent research papers, and in general just tried to gather as much information as possible to feed potential discussions and avoid awkward silences. The outing went well â€“ I bonded with everyone over music, and had plenty to talk about based on the venue and my hobby as a homebrewer.
The topic of my religion didnâ€™t come up with Anneâ€™s parents until a few months later, when I was invited to celebrate Easter with Anneâ€™s family. As it fell during Passover, and I try to keep Kosher (-style) for Passover, Anne worked with her mom to develop a meal that IÂ would be able to eat. While they did have a ham, rolls, and beer, there was also chicken, matzah, vegetables, and corn syrup-free juice. The additional foods â€“ and my declining to drink beer, my normal beverage of choice – spurred quite a few conversations about Jewish dietary restrictions, both during Passover and at other times throughout the year.
Those discussions with Anneâ€™s parents and siblings throughout Easter were all very respectful. Iâ€™d been concerned heading into that particular holidayÂ that some of Anneâ€™s family might try to attack my beliefs, and it was a huge relief when their questions were more directed towards gaining insight into the differences between our belief systems. This tolerance of and respect for my rituals and practices has continued as Iâ€™ve become closer with Anneâ€™s family. This past Easter, Anneâ€™s father asked me to say the motzi after he led the family in the Catholic grace before the meal.
Iâ€™ve enjoyed the process of meeting and getting to know Anneâ€™s family. It took over a year for me to meet the last of her siblings â€“ Laura (the fourth-oldest) currently lives in the Virgin IslandsÂ â€“ and I met her over Christmas last year.Â Spreading out these introductions worked very well, limiting the number of new faces and names I had to remember at each meeting, and giving me the chance to have deeper conversations with her family members.
Last week, we took a road trip to Minnesota to meet some of Anneâ€™s extended family. During this trip, I was able to meet her grandmother, 11 aunts and uncles, and 20 of her first cousins. Unlike the spread-out process of meeting Anneâ€™s siblings, there were a few times during the trip when a few dozen relatives were hanging out at her one of her unclesâ€™ houses. While some faith conversations did come up they all seemed to know that I was Jewish. Even when the topic came up, it was always a curiosity question, never making me uncomfortable. Her family, extended and immediate, is just interested in learning about my beliefs, traditions and lifestyle.
Itâ€™s been fun getting to know and share my faith with Anneâ€™s family, and I look forward to continuing the process as I meet more of her relatives.
I have always known December as a time to prepare for Christmas. Now that I am in an interfaith relationship, December is a time for many holiday celebrations. Sam grew up in an interfaith household celebrating Christmas with his mom’s family and Hanukkah with his dad’s family.
Growing up, Sam’s family all picked one day to give their Hanukkah gifts. For example, on the first night his dad gave his gifts, and then on the second night his mom gave out her gifts and so on, as to make the excitement of Hanukkah last. I think I like this idea of gift-giving and would like to continue this tradition as Sam and I start having a family of our own.
This year, we were able to exchange all of our gifts with each other on the first night of Hanukkah.Â Each night thereafter we gathered on Google Hangouts. The image above is his parents (who live in Pennsylvania), his sister, Diana, on the right (at the University of Maryland), his other sister, Stacey, (in Brooklyn) and Sam and I (in New Jersey).
This holiday is unlike all other holidays that I know. All the holidays that I grew up with, we got together as a family for a day or two, but we were hardly ever together celebrating a holiday for many consecutive days. There are 12 days of Christmas and 3 days in the Easter Triduum, but we are never all together celebrating during all of these days. During Hanukkah, each evening, for 8 days, we gathered together to celebrate, by chanting the blessings over our respective menorot. For these consecutive days, we are in touch with each other on a daily basis: wishing Sam’s sister well on her exams and then hearing how well she did on them, hearing of his parent’s quest to find a nice December movie, or his other sister who always has several stories about living above a modeling agency. It is comforting to know that even as adults, my future-in-laws parents still want to hear how my day is going. Somehow his family makes my humdrum day-to-day life more exciting!
Two weekends ago, Sam’s extended family had their Hanukkah party at his aunt’s house and exchanged gifts with everyone in a Pollyanna. In my family, we do a Secret Santa on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure which one I enjoy better, the element of surprise in the Secret Santa is always fun, but then again, there is less stress in knowing who has who in Sam’s family. I love hanging out and talking with his family. The conversations at this year’s Hanukkah party seemed to always circle back to wedding planning. It was so much fun hearing the different proposal stories and how his aunts and uncles met each other!
It’s still a little strange to me, to go into someone’s house during December and not see a Christmas tree. It’s also a little strange having a Nativity scene and a menorah as decorations. I guess I am still getting used to the differences in the December Holidays. Sam and I will have to figure out these holiday traditions when we start having a family of our own, but until then- it’s Christmas with my family and his mom’s family and Hanukkah with this dad’s family!
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