As I get older, the holidays have slowly lost the magic they once had. The warm, homey glow of Thanksgiving and the sparkling lights of Chanukah are somewhat diminished when they’re preceded by weeks of planning, shopping and cooking. Long gone are thedays when I could play all day with my cousins, then sit down to a big Thanksgiving meal all ready for us.
But having a kid changes everything. While I may never be able to recapture those childlike feelings completely, I can at least experience them through Levi’s eyes.
At least, I will someday. While I was excited to celebrate all the holidays with Levi this year for the first time, the actual experiences have been somewhat anticlimactic. Passover seders and Rosh Hashanah services mainly involved nursing and sleeping.
Now we’ve arrived at Chanukah. Levi is almost 9 months old, and although he’s come a long way since the snoozing baby at the seder, he’s still not exactly an engaged participant in holiday festivities.
Even so, I’m determined to make this Chanukah special for him, so I’m modding the Festival of Lights to suit an under-1-year-old. Here’s how I’ll do it:
• The menorah. Levi has his own menorah, a gorgeous gift from my parents’ friends the Josephs. I’ll have to light it for him, of course, but he’ll love to watch the dancing flames (from a safe distance, since I’m sure he’ll want to touch them, too). I’m also making a paper menorah I can put on our window, that Levi can “light” by sticking paper flames on it (with my help). Sure, he won’t understand what he’s doing, but he’ll be able to participate in the mitzvah of lighting candles in his own way. And when he’s old enough to get it, we’ll always have the photos.
• The songs. Chanukah songs are some of my favorites — “Maoz Tzur,” “Banu Choshech,” etc. Levi loves to play with toys that make music when he presses a button or lifts a latch, so it’s a bit of a silly idea, but I’m going to get one of those recordable greeting cards and record a short Chanukah song on it. I think Levi will like opening and closing it to hear the song.
• The latkes. This is an easy one — Levi loves the latke staples of potatoes, applesauce and sour cream (well, plain yogurt, which is a perfect substitute). While I may sneak him a taste of my traditional latkes (made with egg and onion, and fried), for Levi’s main dinner I’ll be making little potato patties baked with a bit of olive oil, and the standard toppings.
• The dreidel. Obviously your regulation dreidel is a serious choking hazard, so all of mine are packed away (though they may come out for a little late-night gambling while the baby’s asleep). But I already have a stuffed dreidel toy for Levi to play with.
• The story. It’s pointless to try and read the story of the Maccabees to a 9-month-old, but I’ve collected a couple of Chanukah board books that talk in general terms about lights and family — and, most importantly, have very pretty pictures.
• The gifts. Levi is too young to appreciate something new (he doesn’t really have object permanence yet), but I’ll still have a few small gifts for him. Everyone knows, though, that the best part for a young child is the wrapping paper — so I’ll be sure to wrap everything like crazy for the fun of watching him tear into the package. I’m sure the actual gifts won’t be nearly as exciting.
• The gelt. This is a tough one. Levi isn’t eating candy yet, so how will he participate in the mitzvah of eating little chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil? I’ll have to take one for the team and eat enough for both of us.
Of course, Levi won’t understand or remember what’s going on over the eight nights. But I hope he’ll still be able to sense that there’s something special in our home as we celebrate his first Chanukah.
Rachel Leibold is a copy editor at j. She can be reached at email@example.com.