Uncle Irving

Our First HanukkiyahForty-four years ago, Muri and I celebrated our first Chanukkah together in Bristol Rhode Island.  I had never had a menorah in my house and she had certainly never had a Christmas tree in hers.  I know that having the tree bothered her more than having the menorah bothered me.   I didn’t understand then but I do now.   I would be willing to bet that no one reading this has ever read an editorial against lighting a menorah during Christmas time, or against emulating Chanukkah traditions like potato latkes or dreidels.  That’s the advantage of being the majority religion.  But if you are Jewish and you attend services … or if you receive Jewish literature, like Jewish Life magazine, you are certain to hear how fundamentally un-Jewish it is to have a tree or to emulate Christmas by making what is a minor Jewish holiday into an extravaganza.

So, that first year, we had a menorah and a tree in our living room.   And I bought Muri a gift on every night of Chanukkah.  I would leave it next to the menorah when she wasn’t looking and our little joke became that it was left by Uncle Irving.  I suppose someone could have said we were creating a Jewish Santa but we were just having fun.  Still, when we had kids, we dropped Uncle Irving, not wanting distort their view of the holiday.   We tried to keep the holidays separate but equal, which didn’t work because they aren’t.   Muri probably didn’t know that the Christmas decorations would spread like a virus and even though we decorate with a snowman motif (Muri loves snowman), if you stopped by to visit these days, you’d likely call our home a Christmas house with menorahs.   I’m still more comfortable with the menorahs than Muri is with the tree and that’s fine.  She’s a better sport about things than I am and I think she knows that I love the Chanukkahs we’ve spent together just as much as the Christmases.

Muri has always made a nice dinner for the first night of Chanukkah, but this year, Uncle Irving is making a surprise visit.  After all, there are no kids to confuse with our imaginary Chanukkah Uncle.  Tonight, Uncle Irving isgelsons bringing in a catered Chanukkah dinner from our local Gelson’s Market.  Dinner includes Beef Brisket with Julienne Vegetables and Gravy, Chicken Broth & Matzoh Balls, Potato Pancakes, Tzimmes, Chopped Beef Liver with Egg, and Noodle Kugel.  Tzimmes is a delicious sweet side dish consisting of sweet potatoes, carrots, pineapples, and prunes treated with margarine, orange juice, honey and cinnamon.   Noodle Kugel is a traditional Jewish noodle desert baked with apples, pineapple, raisins, sour cream, butter, eggs and sugar, all seasoned with cinnamon and vanilla.   After dinner, we’ll light the menorah and exchange gifts and it will be nothing like Christmas, which is the way I like it.

To those of you who celebrate, Happy Chanukkah.   To those of you who don’t … Happy Chanukkah anyway.

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3 Comments on “Uncle Irving”

  1. territerri Says:

    You’ve made Chanukkah special in your own way with Uncle Irving. I think that’s a good thing.

    Tonight’s dinner sounds delicious, especially the Tzimmes!

  2. What a wonderful story, Bud!

    Happy Chanukkah!

  3. Did we talk about this last year? I can’t remember if I’m repeating myself: I think Christians forced Chanukkah to be a big deal because we felt guilty about going nuts with Christmas at the same time as an eight-night holy occasion for the Jews. Our bad. 🙂 Glad Uncle Irving is preparing a good meal! Happy Chanukkah!

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