November 27, 2007
I find myself thinking more and more about the visual representation of traditions now that Lara is old enough to begin to understand the idea of holidays. For me, as I'm sure is true for most people, this means an attempt to recreate - reimagine - the traditions of my own childhood. I have already been doing that in a way with my cooking, much of which is an attempt to eat my grandmother's food without flying 3000 miles.
This is why Hanukkah is an odd one for me still. When I was a kid in Russia, the big winter holiday we celebrated was New Year's Eve - a tradition to mark the turning of the calendar. There was a decorated New Year's tree, and the highlight of the evening for my cousin and me was clapping our hands together and intoning, "Little tree, light up!" while an adult surreptitiously stood near the outlet. I still clearly remember the tiny fake tree my grandmother set up every year on top of her piano and the beautiful, magically small ornaments that would come out of a special box to decorate it. One year I stayed up late to see whether it was true that Grandfather Frost and his granddaughter Snowflake Girl put our presents under the tree. It was not true. I wasn't particularly surprised. In any case, this holiday was universal for Russian kids, and was entirely secular; and I was a little shocked when we moved here to discover that all the trappings of New Year's were now strictly reserved for Christmas. A fat man with a bag and a pine tree? Not quite sure why.
I've now married into a family with a delightful Hanukkah tradition, and I'm thrilled to pass it down to Lara as she gets older and is able to participate more in the creation and solving of gift clues (they are really quite elaborate, though I think my no-zealot-like-a-convert enthusiasm keeps upping the ante every year). But still... I'd really love a tree. But for now, a garland made with Martha Stewart's melted crayons and wax paper recipe. This craft was sponsored by Lara's crayons, which I cut up, and which prompted Misha to say, "but those are her good crayons!" Um, ok.