I don’t talk a lot about religion on this blog because I feel like it’s a pretty personal thing to bring up. Faith is intensely divisive and if someone doesn’t understand what you believe or agree that your beliefs are valid…well, that’s an uncomfortable conversation right there. Growing up in Salt Lake City, I learned that it’s usually a good idea to just let all of that hang out in the background most of the time.
Of course, Kyle and I have faith and we had Eva baptized because we want her to have options for her faith in the future. We made a joint decision, however, not to limit her options to those things that we’re already familiar with or things that we believe in. So, on the off chance that her path takes her to Judaism, we celebrated our first Hanukkah last night.
Celebrating Hanukkah does feel a little bit odd when there isn’t a Jewish person attending the celebration. I admit that I YouTube-d how to light the menorah and then I had to send out a last minute Facebook blast because I couldn’t figure out the timing of when the lighting should occur. We also had a meal that was in spirit with the occasion, but only about half of the food was Kosher because the local grocery store had a less than impressive selection. It turns out it’s probably a little tricky to celebrate Jewish holidays in Salt Lake City, Utah.
In fact, I hit a stumbling block weeks ago when I tried to buy a beautiful menorah from Crate and Barrel. They just opened a store here in Salt Lake, so I was lazy about ordering the menorah I wanted online. Finally, about a week and a half ago, I braved the holiday crowds and hit the mall only to find out that the SLC Crate and Barrel was stocking one less-than-lovely menorah. I searched the store but couldn’t find the one I wanted so I tracked down a sales clerk. This happened:
Well damn, lady, I wanted the one in the shape of a Christmas tree.
The worst part about the story is that it was too late to get the one I wanted and the only place I could find a menorah in town was at Target where I spent too much money on the world’s most cookie-cutter menorah as I simultaneously shopped for the breakfast-for-dinner Christmas party I was throwing the next day. Yep, I bought a menorah, menorah candles, and a large package of bacon.
Oh well. The menorah I didn’t want still looks quite lovely with the lit candles.
We skipped the prayers in Hebrew and some of the more traditional elements. I was on the fence about including them, but something felt wrong about going through the motions of prayers that aren’t part of my faith. I might at least recite the English versions as Eva gets older, because the words are meaningful. We can’t celebrate Hanukkah in a traditional way because we aren’t Jewish, but we can still tell the story of the miracle and recognize a religion that has so much history. We really want her to understand that it’s a holiday about renewing faith and believing even when it seems impossible. No matter what she ends up believing, that’s a pretty nice thing to celebrate for eight days.