The Hanukkah Box and Family Traditions

22 Dec

The Hanukkah box is an open cardboard box, wrapped inside and out in Hanukkah paper, where we put our Hanukkah presents.  Our Hanukkah box has the silver paper with the Stars of David, but as you can see, we went overboard with the presents, and they don’t all fit in the box.  The Hanukkah box we had growing up had off-white paper with gold and blue decorations…I can’t remember if they were menorahs or Stars of David.  When I was little, I thought the paper on the Hanukkah box was special,  because I had never seen any other present wrapped in that paper (I later, in my infinite wisdom, figured out that the reason for that was probably because my parents used up that roll of wrapping paper long before I paid much attention to it).

As a kid, We had the same Hanukkah box from year to year.  There was something special and magical about that cardboard box.  This makes a lot of sense because a Hanukkah box is a pain in the backside to wrap.  We don’t have any storage space to keep a Hanukkah box from year to year, so I deal with the wrapping hassle and wrap a new one every year.

My mom loves the Hanukkah box, and especially loves family traditions, so I asked her to share her thoughts and memories.

BeezusKiddo: Where did the idea of the Hanukkah box come from?  

Mom of BeezusKiddo: When I was young, I remember getting one gift each night of Hanukkah.  The gifts were generally small, such as socks or chocolate gelt (coins), but there was always something each night.  We didn’t have a Hanukkah box, my mom brought out a gift each night.  When you and your brother were old enough to understand the concept of “eight days, eight gifts”, I thought it would be fun for each of you to choose the gift that you wanted to open each night.  So I created the “Hannukah Box.”  Most of the gifts were small, and  I came up with some gifts that were always in the box – a book, something related to Judaism, a calendar. Then there were the gifts from each of your “lists”.

The box also gave us a festive place to put the gifts.  It was nicer than just setting them in a corner or on the table.

BeezusKiddo: What are your favorite memories of family traditions? 
Mom of BeezusKiddo: My favorite memories of all holidays have to do with music.  For Hanukkah, making latkes and playing the dreidle game was a lot of fun; of course I really liked getting presents!  But we (my mom and sisters and I) knew a lot of different Hanukkah songs, and we always sang them after lighting the candles and before we exchanged gifts.

My most favorite memories are of Passover.  As tedious as it was, I did enjoy getting the house ready for the holiday.  We would change all the dishes (from the every day dishes to the Passover dishes), and then we would “kasher” all of the pots and pans, tableware, and utensils.  This was done by boiling water mixed with kosher salt, and then either putting the items in the boiling water or pouring the water over the items.  And I loved making the food for the seder with my mom.  We used an old fashioned manual food grinder to make charoset (like the one pictured here)  Prago Deluxe Heavy Duty Meat Grinder
The best memory is that of the seder itself.  There were all the traditional elements, always including lots of singing throughout the seder.  After my sister and I went to camp, we would do the complete grace after meals.  And we always completed the seder – right to the fourth cup of wine, and saying “Next year in Jerusalem!”

One year when I was a teenager, we invited a number of our non-Jewish friends, and after the meal, we all went into the courtyard of our apartment and danced the hora and sang songs from “Fiddler on the Roof.”  That is probably my most favorite holiday memory from my childhood.
BeezusKiddo:  What tradition are you most looking forward to sharing with Baby Beez?
Mom of BeezusKiddo: I guess one of my favorite traditions I’d like to share with Baby Beez is that of music.  There are so many holiday songs, and music is a wonderful way to express the joy of holidays.  Of course making matzoh ball soup and charoset at Passover, and making latkes for Chanukah are wonderful traditions as well.

However, my absolute favorite tradition is one that I started with you and your brother when you about 9 years old. The tradition of saying 2 good things that happened each day, and saying a “bracha” or blessing before the dinner meal each night.  Do you remember – it always had to be phrased in the “positive”, that is, not “I didn’t have anything awful happen to me”, but rather,  I had a great lunch, or I got to see my friend, or I got a great book from the library.  I felt that this tradition gave us all a chance each day to focus on the positive things in our lives, no matter how small that thing might seem.  I still do that each evening, and plan to share that tradition with Baby Beez whenever possible.
What are your favorite family traditions?
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