I’d like for us to start a new Chanukah tradition. Chanukah indoor sukkot. Look at the pictures. Aren’t they beautiful? Some of these are actual Orthodox Sukkot (the holiday) sukkot and the one with the Chanukkiah is the one we created at the synagogue last year for my Live and Learn class: Chanukah – A New Spin.
Now hear me out. This is not a Hanukah Harry or Chanukah bush idea. Those well-intentioned ideas came from a desire to mix Christmas and Chanukah. They have no basis in Judaism. However, the idea of a sukkah at Chanukah is based upon the opening verses of 2 Maccabees verses 1-9. It is a letter to the Jewish community and after the salutations, there is the edict below:
1:1 The Jews in Jerusalem and those in the land of Judea,
To their Jewish kindred in Egypt, Greetings and true peace….
1:9 And now see that you keep the festival of booths in the month of Chislev, in the one hundred eighty eighth year (124 B.C.E.)
There really is validity in creating a tradition of building sukkot for Chanukah, since technically the holiday of Chanukah is not only the rededication of the Temple, but it is also the celebration of the eight day Festival of Sukkot that was unable to be celebrated at its prescribed time since the Temple was not under our control during the month of Tishrei (when Sukkot was supposed to be celebrated).
I think indoor-sukkot could be the answer to all of us who want to decorate for the season. We envy the lights and now we have something to hang them on. I propose that we build a sukkah over our dining tables, since the commandment is to sit (lashev ) in the sukkah, and decorate it with lights, fruit (real or fake), palm branches and other greens. The Sukkot lulav consists of branches that grow in different climates: the willow by water; the myrtle in the mountains; and the palm in the desert. Could our new tradition use other branches that represent those climates? All of these trees have interesting and beautiful flowers that could also be used as decorating inspiration. All of these beautiful, natural materials could create some magnificent images for the season that are based in our Jewish traditions.
Let’s also establish a festive meal in our new sukkah. Let’s set a time and date that we always get together. How about a new tradition of Chanukah Sunday brunch or Sunday dinner, Friday night services and then dinner, or a first (or last) night holiday dinner. During the festival of Sukkot, it is a time of z’man simchateinu – season of rejoicing – so let’s bring friends and family into your new tradition.
And let’s create some new smells for the season. What about aromatherapy candles or oils in addition to our Chanukkiah candles. A different scent for each night or maybe a combination of oils that build each night to create new odiferous delights e.g. 1st night vanilla, 2nd night vanilla and cinnamon, 3rd night vanilla, cinnamon, and cardamom or clove.
And how about the food. Have you thought about BBQ for Chanukah? Let’s put all that fire from the candles to work? Why should the oil get all the attention? There should be challah since part of the rededication of the temple was the showbreads. And how could we incorporate the etrog? We could create an etrog marmalade that goes with delicious scones for our newly established Chanukah brunch.
And speaking of food, don’t forget the desserts. How about some kind of 6-piece dessert that represents Mattathias and his 5 sons: Eliezer, Simon John, Jonathan, and Judah? This could be 6 different kinds of fillings in eclairs that are decorated as the 6 people, or how about some kind of a pull apart sweet bread (think filled Danish rings).
For the kids, what about creating a bubbling liquid (representing the soap) and a cookie for them to dip into it (representing the sponges) in which to clean the temple. Or Judah was known as the Hammer, so how about a chocolate hammer – perhaps a large straight pretzel with a hollow chocolate block shell at the end filled with deliciousness. And for the adventuresome, there are flaming desserts – e.g., cherries jubilee, banana flambé, and baked Alaska.
And for gifts, create a tradition of writing letters to friends and family expressing what they mean to you and/or expressing your admiration for a unique quality they possess. This could be parents to children, friends to friends, siblings to siblings, grandparents to grandchildren. An additional gift or art project could be creating a keepsake book in which to keep those letters. And if the tradition sticks, pens, stationary, and beautiful papers could be well employed.
I think its time to rethink Chanukah and create some new traditions. I’d love to know what you think. Let me know if you start a new tradition and, better yet, send me a picture. If we grow the traditions here, who knows where they will go.
Chag Urim Sameach – Happy Chanukah