By Sheliya Hood
I grew up in Prunedale, California, in a traditional Jewish home. We went to Temple. I had a Bat Mitzvah when I turned twelve. My brother had a Bar Mitzvah when he turned thirteen. We celebrated all the traditional holidays: Passover, Shavuot, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Purim. Purim was really fun, as it’s the only Jewish holiday in which you get to wear costumes and disguises! But my favorite holiday, and what I felt was the best part of being Jewish, was Hanukkah! What kid doesn’t love eight days of presents?!
I should expand on that. Yes, there were eight days of gifts, but they weren’t all extravagant. The first seven days my younger brother, Elan, and I would receive small, five-dollar gifts. On the eighth day, we would receive a bigger present. And though that was fun as a child, as an adult, what really stands out in my memories are not the gifts, but rather the time spent with my family.
Family was really important during this time of year. It was so important in fact, that for the first twelve years of my life, my entire family would travel to Israel to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who lived there. We would stay for about a month.We would light the Menorah and say our prayers. We would also play games together. Playing dreidel with gelt – chocolate coins – was so much fun! I also played poker with my dad quite a lot during this time. (He taught me how to play when I was about seven.)
In the featured photo, I was about 8 years old. This was a particularly exciting Hanukkah for me because I was allowed to light the candles by myself! Now, even living 1,000 miles away from my family, I still light my Menorah during Hanukkah and remember those good times spent with my family. It’s still my favorite time of year.
Fun Fact: Hanukkah landed on Thanksgiving this year. Why’s that fun? It won’t happen again for another 75,000 years!
Sheliya Hood is a Recruiter in TERRA’s Portland office.