A Hanukkah Tradition From My Christian Mother-in-Law

December 18, 2017Ann Imig

Sometimes we create our own traditions, sometimes we carry on a tradition we inherit, and sometimes a tradition can come from unexpected places.

Ours began with a cut-crystal dreidel. My mother-in-law, Sue, gave it to me the first time I went home with my then-boyfriend for their family Christmas. My Jewish upbringing didn’t include holiday decor of any sort, beyond lighting the menorahmenorahמְנוֹרָהSeven- or nine-branched candelabra; commonly refers to the nine-branched Hanukkah lamp; plural: menorot. or weekly Shabbat candles. Our traditions comprised mainly of food, presents, food, family, observance, and food. Mmmmmmm fooooooood. I received the crystal dreidel in the spirit intended; a loving and thoughtful gesture, as well as a recognition of my heritage.

I had no idea in 1996 that what Sue actually handed me was a family tradition, especially because in 1996, I did not yet know we would become family. I suspect Sue had an inkling.

Despite our best intentions, not all of our traditions take hold. On Tuesday night – the first night of Hanukkah – we unwrapped each dreidel. Our display numbers 19 and counting, one for each year of our union. As we marveled over the artistry of each one, I told my 11-year-old that someday, when he and his brother live in their own spaces, they could divide up the collection. Of course, he began staking his claim immediately, arguing about who would get first pick.

I don’t tend to brag about my children’s developmental milestones, but this one seems advanced in arguing with siblings over heirlooms. May it serve him well.

My favorite part about our dreidel collection is that it comes from the Christian side of our family, and that Sue (a.k.a. Grandma) takes time every year looking in galleries and museum shops to find yet another unique Hanukkah gem to add to our collection.

From the inside of a culture, it’s easy to take it for granted. Sue has not only given us a new tradition, but has helped us elevate the Hanukkah spirit in our home.

This year, Grandma gave each boy a dreidel fidget-spinner.

Thank you, Grandma.

Happy holidays, everyone!

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