Much like Hanukkah menorahs, our holiday traditions come in all shapes and sizes. We sat down with members of the Boston Jewish community to hear what makes their celebrations unique.
For Mark, who grew up on the West Coast, Hanukkah is all about family.
When Mark moved to Boston for college 10 years ago, he left his large family behind. Traveling back and forth gets expensive, and while he’s often able to head home for Thanksgiving, he’s usually here in Boston during Hanukkah. But the distance doesn’t stop him from celebrating with his family—thanks to technology, he’s able to videoconference with his family while they light the Hanukkah candles.
Ever have latkes made of plantains?
One way Brenda and Jake bridge their family’s Puerto Rican and Jewish culture is through food—and Hanukkah is no exception. (Our friends at InterfaithFamily have a great video resource on latke traditions!)
Mira’s favorite part of Hanukkah is introducing her family’s traditions to her three young sons.
“My mom and I always read one story a night from Isaac Bashevis Singer’s book of short stories, “The Power of Light: Eight Stories for Hanukkah,” Mira says. “It was one of my very favorite parts of the holiday, and now I do the same with my kids!”
Jen uses Hanukkah gift-giving as a chance to learn a new skill.
A few years ago Jen and her partner began gifting each other experiences over material gifts, and the tradition has continued to grow. The gifts aren’t a surprise—the two sit down together and plan out their new adventures. Last year they took a glassblowing workshop, and another year they signed up for yoga classes together. This year they’re looking at rock-climbing lessons.
“Hanukkah overlapping with other holidays is about to become my favorite tradition,” shares Alex.
“With the amazing bonanza that was Thanksgiving plus Hanukkah a few years ago, and this year’s Chrismukkah, Hanukkah is getting more and more fun each year!” says Alex. Although Alex doesn’t celebrate Christmas, Alex and his roommates enjoy decorating a tree each year. This year they’ll be lighting the menorah in front of their tree.
What’s better than a latke?
How about a dog named Latke? Sarah, who just moved to Boston for college, celebrates Hanukkah year-round thanks to the best Hanukkah gift ever: her family’s dog, Latke. “We love him a latke,” she jokes.
Growing up, Hanukkah was a nonevent for Dan.
His family pushed back against gifts and over-the-top celebrations—for them, the holiday seemed like a commercialized “other” Christmas, and that didn’t feel right. That hasn’t stopped Dan from figuring out Hanukkah on his own as an adult. In college he learned the blessings, and he’s slowly figuring out how to grate potatoes without grating his fingers.
It’s all about sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) for Kelly.
Growing up, Kelly’s mom would make a new batch of sufganiyot each night, and she and her sisters would rate them on a scale of one to 10, never awarding a perfect 10-star rating until the last night of Hanukkah. The tradition wasn’t all fun and games, though. “At the end of the night we all dreaded being the one selected to ‘hold the funnel,’ a phrase that makes us all nostalgic now, so my mom could pour the used oil back into the bottles for reuse the next night,” Kelly says. She and her husband are still figuring out the holiday traditions they will pass along to their 3-year-old son. “Family customs happen organically,” she says. “I realize I don’t have to have it all set in stone or orchestrated. We have time to make our own memories.”