Every winter, my neighbors string Christmas lights along the outside of their homes. Meanwhile, my family hangs ours on the inside. Christmas trees are seen through the windows of other houses, but ours displays a menorah instead. That’s right — my family is one of the few that celebrate Hanukkah instead of Christmas, and we go all-out for the occasion.
Since before I can remember, my mom has hosted a big latke party every year for all of our friends and family. She spends an entire day prepping in the kitchen by grating and frying potatoes and baking Hanukkah cookies. However, most of my memories come from the living room floor, the prime spot for games of dreidel. In this game, a four-sided top is spun and each player either gives or gets something to or from a pot, depending on which side the top lands on. Although the game is technically based on luck, emotions always run high in our house. In the heat of the moment, the small chocolate coins covered in silver and gold foil seem like the most important thing in the world. Nevertheless, when it came down to it, the winner was always forced to share their winnings with the rest of the players.
Over the years, the latke party itself has grown in importance. First of all, my mom’s curry sweet potato latkes became award-winning a few years ago during our synagogue’s inaugural latke competition, a title that she’s sure to share with all of our guests. My friends began to get attached to the party, and my family has always invited our non-Jewish friends because it’s more fun to share our traditions with people who don’t practice the same ones in their homes. Therefore, as soon as my friends at school saw holiday decorations going up, they would start to ask me when they would get a taste of my mom’s famous latkes! Lastly, our latke party has become a time of reunion as my sisters and friends have gone off to college. It will be the first time that all our friends come together this winter break.
I used to be embarrassed to be one of the only Jewish kids in my classes at school. I would complain to my parents that Santa never came to our house, and I would mumble blessings over a candle that He would come. I desired for my friends to know about my Jewish traditions. Now, as I’ve gotten older and my friends have become more familiar with the tradition, our latke party has grown in importance and my embarrassment has faded away. Every year, I look forward to the amazing food, the great company and the opportunity to share my family’s special holiday traditions with our community.