Let’s Chanukah!


With only eight days left till Chanukah (Hanukah. Hannukah, Hanukkah, or however you prefer to spell it), it’s time to Chanukah! In my family Chanukah and Christmas both can be verbs. Because preparing/celebrating for these holidays is an active activity. 🙂 I’d like to invite you to share your favourite ways to get ready for the holiday you celebrate at this time of the year, be it Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, or anything else, whether you take a secular or religious approach to your holiday. If you don’t mind, I’ll update this post with your comments. 🙂

One of the things I did as a new thing is making fake marzipan from walnuts. We love walnuts, and yesterday I learnt a recipe from a friend who had just learnt the same recipe from a friend. I made the first batch in less than an hour.

The recipe I used was:

150 g or powdered sugar
150 g of ground walnuts
eggwhite from one small egg

Put everything in a zip loc bag, mix and knead till a uniform consistency forms. Add more sugar and walnut mix if it’s too soft. Roll out, cut with cookie cutters. If it lasts long enough before it’s all eaten, dip in melted chocolate. Very yummy.

 Jon: I do the whole tree decorating. For the last several years I have rotated different themes. This year I am going back to my Disney theme tree already because it’s just going to be me and Maggie. Dad got an invite to spend a few weeks with my brother and his family down in Georgia. So the tree is up, but not decorated yet. :o So far behind this year. :o
Also need to get Christmas cards going. I did get a few over seas ones mailed, but nothing more.
Also need to get some gifts mailed too. Yikes. :o

CiskaNo matter what my Christmas looks like (at home or on a holiday, having friends over or visiting friends, my own home or not), I always make sure I have an advent wreath. It doesn’t have to be fancy (this year, I just put four candles together on the table), but I really need it to have a real Christmas! Other traditions: putting up a tree, decorations, a stable, lights and Christmas music on (or after) Gaudete Sunday. And EATING ALL THE FOOD!!!

Jill P.: I love sending out Christmas cards, making treats and taking them to neighbors, and singing with my family.

7 Quick Takes


— 1 —

It’s been a long time since I listened to Harel Skaat’s Lauf.

With Chanukah only about a month away, we have more and more ads for Festigal. And this will be the first year since we moved here that none of us will actually go to Festigal. While my kids always enjoyed it, we can’t justify the cost and the costumes are weird. The two are not related, but I asked my dad not to surprise us with tickets this year. None of the kids expressed much of an interest to go, so we will do something else for Chanukah. I will have a few days off, so we might take a little trip somewhere in the country. Maybe take my brother Chaim up on his offer and visit him, and camp out in his garden. Or, depending on the snow and war situation, a ski trip to the Golan can happen. We shall see.

— 2 —

Mentioning Chanukah. My dear Christian friends, it’s adorable that you are planning to do Chanukah crafts/activities with your kids, but when you kidnap the activities and add all kinds of Christian symbolisms, it is no longer Chanukah. Chanukah has its own very specific history and symbolism, and adding Christ in the mix (beyond a mention of  John 10:22) is not only meaningless, but it’s also offensive to many Jews. When adding non-existent Messiahnic meaning to Jewish holidays Christians send the message that they degrade Judaism to the status of being a prelude to Christianity. Of course many Muslims consider Christianity to be that for Islam, and I’m sure most of my Christian readers would disagree. Now, if you want to recognize your religion in the tradition, you are very welcome to do it, just please rename the holiday appropriately. Like Christian Festival of Lights. Or whatever.

Christians can celebrate Chanukah, and some people believe they should. I think it is a wonderful celebration of the survival of the children of Israel and our faithfulness to G-d’s word and refusal to assimilate. Celebrating with us makes the party only better. 🙂

Couple of years ago one of my LJ friends posted videos and photos of their Chanukah tradition. They were very enthusiastic to celebrate this holiday that their saviour celebrated. I remember telling S that… they weren’t doing it according the Jewish tradition. She eagerly picked my brain to find the proper way to light the candles and recite blessings, and they changed the way they celebrated Chanukah. They, however, also loved their own family tradition that they continued to do in addition to the Jewish way of celebrating. Their own tradition became a cherished family festival, carrying all the layers of meaning added to it during the years–both personal and Christian religious. The two traditions continue side by side for them, and I think they have doubled the fun!

— 3 —

A couple posts down I wrote about our holiday plans, including Chanukah and Russian style New Year celebrations. One of my readers chatted me up on Facebook, and asked a very valid question. She didn’t want to ask in a comment, because she wanted to avoid any kind of potential drama, but she agreed to me answering it publicly: If we are so secular, why do I not let my kids celebrate Christmas at my BIL’s?

My answer to that is very simple, and it is very much the same message that religious Christians are trying to send: Jesus is the reason for the season. As commercialized it has become, Christmas is a religious holiday, celebrating the birth of, from the Jewish POV, a false messiah. It’s kind of like Christians not celebrating Krishnashtami. At the same time the absolutely secular Christmas replacement of the Russian New Year is part of some of my kids’ culture, so I can convince myself easier to celebrate it.

Of course we also live in a country where Christmas is no big thing. Every Jewish family in the Diaspora has to make the decision about what to do with Christmas. Some will write Christmas songs. As Wolowitz says in TBBT: “Must be the one Christmas song not written by a Jewish guy.” Some choose to ignore the day. Some make some fun traditions since it’s a day off… or just volunteer to cover the holiday shifts for their co-workers who do celebrate.

— 4 —

We are busy getting ready for Chanukah. I haven’t learnt to sew, and I still can’t afford buying gorgeous Chanukah stockings on etsy, so I made up my own crochet stocking patterns. And I made some stockings.

2014-11-14 13.33.24Yes, I believe they can be used for Christmas, too. 😀


— 5 —

Why is it that I start to write seven quick takes on Wednesday, write three in quick succession and then I’m stuck? Here I am on a Friday afternoon, and considering including cartoons and a cute video for quick takes 6 and 7. Of  course I spend a lot of time writing, because it’s November, but then this blog is getting little to no inspiration. I’m sorry about that.

— 6 —

Last year at Rosh Hashanah I promised myself I wouldn’t knowingly eat pork and not-kosher seafood. 5774 happened to be a long year, with a leap month. At times it was hard, because I love shrimp and bacon. Now 5775 has come and now I could eat all these without breaking my resolution, but suddenly… I don’t really miss any of it. Weird. Maybe finding the best fake bacon helped. 🙂 Today I’m making chicken liver and prunes wrapped in turkey bacon. Good thing I have help in the kitchen, because we can eat a lot a lot of it!

— 7 —

Writing so much about Chanukah put me in a great Chanukah mood. Did you know that the best Chenukah song was not written by Adam Sandler but by Steve Page of the Barenaked Ladies?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Things I’ve Learnt During Chanukah 5774

  • I had a dream that I was singing. At an X Factor audition. The judges were actual X Factor judges: Ivri Lider (Israel), Róbert Alföldi (Hungary), Mika (Italy) and Gary Barlow (UK). I got four yeses. This dream taught me that I am watching too much X Factor. But there is no such thing as too much X Factor.
  • Three days of latkes are more than enough for me. But I could eat sufganiyot every day of the year with my chocolate milk or coffee or tea. Currently I am making sweet potato latkes for my yam fans.
  • It's kind of funny to watch speculation about the Mayan calendar ending a year after the end of the world.
  • Christmas M&M's are sold in Tel Aviv.
  • I am really, really bad at Rock Band. No matter what instrument I have, I suck. I am, however, pretty darn good at playing some of those songs for real. Not that it would help my non-existent coolness factor.
  • I crochet very, very slowly. If I wanted to pay myself US minimum wage for my ultra light, 2 m scarf, it would cost around $80. And it has several knots and what not. There is, however, a forum friend of mine, who does awesome crochet jobs and fast. She also has reasonable prices, so I just love to hang around her Etsy shop and her blog. That turkey hat? Simply awesome.
  • Amazon keeps telling me to buy awesome Black Friday deals (even though it's already Saturday), and then gives me links to products that do not ship here. Weird. By the way, Amazon charges me an average of $3 more for Kindle books than Americans, and I find it annoying. To support my reading habit, and the $3 penalty for being Israeli, please consider using any of the Amazon affiliate links I have on my sidebar to do your Amazon shopping. I get a small percentge of whtever you buy within a set period of time after you click through any of my Amazon links.
  • Mentioning Amazon, I think I decided I am done with Jo Nesbø translated to English. Somehow the books just drag on, painfully chapped and slow, while the Hungarian translations seem to flow. Infound the same to be true for several Scandinavian books, so it might just be tradition in translation.
  • Congratulations to those friends, like Jen, who won/are winning NaNoWriMo this year!
  • It's next to impossible to leave a comment on a Blogspot blog from my iPad. As soon as I hit backspace, I can't type in the comment box any more without doing lots of woodoo with the drop down of the commenter identity… If it lets me do that at all. Same thing if I move the cursor. So it's not that I don't love my Blogger-using friends, I just can't comment on your blogs. Fortunatelly Disqus and WordPress work just fine.

7 Quick Takes Friday Chanukah Edition


— 1 —

On the sidebar of my blog there is a countdown thingy that I put up last year the day after Chanukah ended. You can tell I was really looking forwards this year’s Chanukah! We, as a family, got a very special present, a new foster son joined us a few days before Chanukah. He is less than two weeks older than Craig, and he is really awesome. When I asked him what I can say about hm on my blog, he said, “I’m a Shiri Maimon fan and I root for Hapoel Tel Aviv and I like yams.” So there. With his arrival we are officially “full”, at least for the next two weeks till Bella turns 18.

— 2 —

Just before Chanukah Arik Einstein passed away. For those of you, who don’t know him, he was an Israeli singer and actor, a cultural icon. He has greatly influenced Israeli pop and rock in the last four decades. His funeral was on Wednesday and some of my older boys went to the viewing on Rabin Square.

— 3 —

To add to the excitement of Chanukah, Justin, my budding stunt man, dislocated his shoulder. He wanted to do a handstand on the edge of the bunk bed, and the edge decided otherwise. He is doing fine now, trying to figure out how he could replicate Jean Claude Van Damme’s epic split in the Volvo commercials. I think it’s time to join acrobatic gymnastics classes.

— 4 —

Uncle Nathan was working in the States for a few days, and while there, he managed to fulfill one of Shiri’s dream, and he got her the twin baby dolls from American Girl. She was very very excited to get the dolls, and pretty much so was everyone else. Ever since she got them yesterday, someone has been carrying the itty bitty twins, who look a whole lot like Shiri and Ezra. They also are getting involved in adventures, they already met dinosaurs, and evidently there is a trip planned to the center of the Earth (or under the dining room table).

— 5 —

We had two turkeys yesterday for Thanksgivukah, but there were no leftovers besides some gravy and stuffing that was devoured for breakfast. Now turkey #3 is defrosting, so we can have turkey sandwiches tomorrow.  Maybe that would leave us some leftovers to make turkey pot pie.


— 6 —

I decided not to dye my hair any more, but I also kind of didn’t want to look like a zebra, so Kevin cut all the brown off my hair, and now I have a very weird all white hairdo. My kids think it’s extremely funny, and they say that I should keep my white hair forever. We shall see. At least it matches the blue hat I got from the kids for Chanukah! 😀 

— 7 —

Chag Sameach! Shabbat Shalom! One of our Chanukah Shabbat traditions is to bake gingerbread. Yeah, I get it, it is not Torah compliant. We will bake gingerbread zombies this year, thanks to Jill!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Five Favourites – Chanukah Songs




1. The Barenaked Ladies: Hanukkah Blessing

This video only has singer Stephen Page, performing the song after he left BNL.

2. Yerachmiel Ziegler: Days of Light

3. Peter, Paul and Mary: Light One Candle

4. The Maccabeats: Shine

5. Matisyahu: Happy Hanukkah

And the bonus, I can’t go without: Harel Skaat and the Chanukah blessings.

Happy Chanukah, everybody!

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