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Short on Decor, Long on Miracles: #Hanukkah

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I stopped into The Christmas Tree Shoppe to pick up last minute items for our Annual Hanukkah Party.

(I know, shopping for Hanukkah at the Christmas Tree Shoppe, the irony isn’t lost on me. What can I say? They have great papers goods.)

Traditionally, there isn’t much décor associated with The Festival of Lights, which – truth be told – is fine by me. I see friends struggling with wreaths and trees and ornaments and inflatables and lights. How do I get ready for Hanukkah? I go down in the basement and open up one blue bin, take out my three favorite menorahs and a couple of dreidels, and I place these items on a table.

That’s it. No fuss. No muss.

The extent of my Hanukkah decorations.
The extent of my Hanukkah decorations.

Now, you have to understand. I wasn’t looking for anything, so of course that’s when I found it: a colorful door decoration with the word CHANUKA printed boldly on the front.

CHANUKA? I tilted my head, confuzzled.

Because I’d never seen it spelled that way.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen Hanukkah spelled a lot of different ways. Because the initial sound used to pronounce the word Hanukkah isn’t a sound used in English. The gutteral h is pronounced at the back of the throat, and — when pronounced correctly — sounds like someone trying to hork up a loogey.

So I liked the decoration, but I didn’t want it if Hanukkah wasn’t spelled correctly.

“Okay Google,” I spoke into my phone. “How do you spell Hanukkah?”

Yummy, yes.
Yummy, yes.

As it turns out, the most common spelling for Hanukkah is “Hanukkah” with 8.5 million hits in the Google search engine. “Chanukah” came in with over 3.3 million searches, and “Hannukah” came in with 862,000 hits.

You might be interested to know Xanuka is considered a valid spelling.

And Channukka.

And Chanuqa.

So I’m still standing there, clutching this felt decoration in one hand and my phone in the other, trying to decide if I should buy it or put it back.

You know, because it was spelled weird.

(Or at least it felt like it was spelled weird to me.)

And then I laughed at the silly dilemma I’d created in my head.

Because Hanukkah isn’t about decorations or spelling. It’s about miracles.

As some of you know, I was sick for 15 months. During that time, I didn’t know anyone else who had ever been through what I was going through, and those months were terrifying, isolating and awful. Many times, I felt G-d was punishing me.

And yet.

Some unnameable thing kept me hanging on. Some little voice inside of me – perhaps the G-d part of myself – knew that one day the suffering would end and that I just needed to wait. And pray for a miracle.

What appeals to me most about Hanukkah is the idea that miracles can be found in every day moments, how big and small things that seem impossible can come to pass.

I appreciate the way we gather together to tell and retell the story of how people overcome difficult times, to celebrate the miracle of friends and family whom we love and are loved by; the miracle of having the chance to learn something new everyday; the miracle of our collective curiosity and kindness that inspires us to make meaningful connections with others.

These days, I can even appreciate the eleventy-seven jillion ways we spell Hanukkah.

So it’s decided. Starting now, I’m collecting decor where Hanukkah is spelled any which way.

Because why not?

(So do you think The Christmas Tree Shoppe still has that cute Chanuka door decoration? Or did I miss my chance?)

What are you celebrating this time of year? What kind of decorations, if any, do you set out? What do you love/hate about the holidays? 

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NOTE: I’m participating in #HanukkahHoopla with 7 other bloggers. In the spirit of the season, we’re giving away 8 gifts to 8 lucky commenters. Click on the menorah to find links to other writers’ blogs & increase your chances of winning!

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33 thoughts on “Short on Decor, Long on Miracles: #Hanukkah

  1. Renee, I love the plate that you have for Chanukkah, Hanukah, Hannukkah, OK how many ways can we spell miracle. I believe that you and I have been blessed in a very strange way to truly appreciate the every little thing that makes life so special. I really believe that someday we will look back and realize that this was a test, damn I hated this test of my faith. Have a beautiful day and I hope that the light keeps on shining.

    1. Liza, it is weird how being ill gives you a new perspective on what’s important in life. My faith is strong these days: I’m just trying to figure out what The Big Guy wants from me! 🙂 Hope 2015 is filled with heath and happiness for you!

  2. Happy Hanukkah, Renee! I’m so glad you’re finding health in this holiday season. We celebrate Christmas in our home. I’m rather low-key with decorations; I’m a “less is more” kinda girl!

  3. I don’t decorate, though I have a cajillion things in storage. But it’s just an overwhelming hassle for it just being me here to enjoy. Then I think, but I am enough reason, right? This always comes to me at the end of the season though, and there’s no way I’m doing all that now. Maybe next year…

    1. Hi Michelle! Less is more. The holidays aren’t really about decorating. Maybe deep down some part of you knows this. Sure the stuff makes things look festive, but it isn’t really necessary, y’know? And like you said, if you REALLY want to decorate, well… there’s always next year! I hope that 2015 is a year of good health and good things for you and those you love!

  4. Hi Renee. Thanks for a great and entertaining read! Everything you write is so true about life. I do hope you go back and find that misspelled decor. Maybe they still have it!

    Chanukah decor has its own flavor in my house. I love the menorahs and the messy oil bottles and tin foil. Drippy mess. Burnt matches. That’s chanukah decoration in my book! I love the warmth of the lit up menorahs each night. And getting emailed photos of my grandkids lighting the menorah is great too. (I don’t like or actually hate the tons of tempting food around me on the holidays) . Happy h-ch-x-anuka!!!

  5. I love your favorite part of the holidays, which reminds me a bit of Einstein’s quote, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

    Joy and togetherness are my favorite holiday perks. I know it’s a tough time for many folks, and stress can get in the way. But for my family, it’s always been a time of happy togetherness — I suppose because we choose for it to be, and have worked hard to maintain that.

  6. I love the idea of collecting decorations showing all the different ways to spell Chanukah! I’ll try to keep my eyes open for anything unique for ya. 🙂 We have a few Happy Chanukah banners, and other than that, we use whatever the kids bring home from school to decorate the house. It’s a fun activity for the kids and helps them get in the mood for the holiday.

  7. This reminds me of an experience i had last week. I went to the dreaded Hobby Lobby. I am a good liberal Jewish lawyer so don’t tell me friends or I fear I’ll be shunned! It was just that I had some ribbon that I bought there long ago (before the Hanukkah goods scandal and the Supreme Court case) . I needed more to finish a project, and so I went (just this once). Guess what? They now have a Chanukah/Hanukkah section!! Somehow I felt I had an obligation– actual obligation– to buy something. It were as if I didn’t, somehow all Jews would suffer. The Right Wing would win and say, “I told you they are wouldn’t buy Channukah even if we sell them. ” So I did, and its precious–just don’t tell my rabbis!

  8. After years of wondering whether Chanuka was something separate from Hanukkah, I’m glad to hear a Jewish girl was in some confusion over it, too.

    I see miracles everywhere I look. Have you ever wondered how a tiny sperm from your husband attacking your egg produced a human being? A wonderful young man reflecting many qualities from each of you while still being a totally unique person? Pretty good miracle right there.

    Kristen Lamb posted a time photo of FB today showing the sun at the same time every day for a year, and it turned out to be the sign for infinity. Another miracle?

    God bless you and your family, Renee. Have a Happy Hanukkah while I have a Merry Christmas.

    1. Oh im confused about plenty of things, David. But i do know that i don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. So Happy Hanukkah or Chappy Chanukah and Merry Christmas! I hope the spirit of the season infuses everyone with greater love and greater patience for one another. As gar as the infinity sumbol, that is cool! Ill have to check out Kristen’s FB page. I hope your wife is doing well!

  9. Renee, weren’t you tempted to buy it simply as a novelty? I avoid The Christmas Tree Shoppe at all costs as I get nervous and jerky around the thousands of tchotchkes (sp?). My hat’s off to you for braving that place! 🙂

  10. You sell yourself short….. You always did a great job of decor and good food to celebrate joyous occasions. I know this year is especially joyous since you are feeling better. You asked what I am doing this year….. I am lighting the menorah that Mark’s grandfather made out of a floor lamp and electrical sockets. Also I made 72 Latkes for the Brighton Seniors group, which they seemed to like very much. That made me happy! Like you said, it’s not about the spelling, but the LOVE. Shirley J

  11. Freilichen Chanukah! The biggest problem I have with the holidays this year is the fact that I just lost 18 lbs, and lo and behold, the losing has gone on a halt for now, a possible pound or two gain. May this be the worst! My sister was sick for many years, and it’s funny how when we are challenged with mortality is when we most think about our Creator. Is that the reason for illness, or perhaps punishment? However, I don’t believe anything is for “punishment,” it’s all for good, some good is just a bit more revealed than others. May you only have revealed good and simchas!

  12. So funny, because when I see it spelled Hannukah, it just feels too Americanized to me. The Ch is standard in place of the “Ches” in my head. I actually know some ultra-orthodox kids, who when learning to read would come across the word chair and the like, try pronouncing it gutturally, not sure why the word made no sense to them!

    1. I attended an an Orthodox Hebrew School and heard the CH (as in the chet) on Tuesdays, Tursdays and Sundays — but I went to public school where the holiday was pronounced and spelled with the H. (((shrug))) As I said, none of this stuff really matters, as long as we are sharing the story — passing it from one generation to another — and remembering miracles, big and small.

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