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AVIVA-BERLIN.de 2/29/5782 - Beitrag vom 15.01.2020


Hanukkah Is
Mia Szarvas

During my time in Germany, I´ve been repeatedly asked the question: What is Hanukkah? At first this question caused shock, then irritation, but as time moves on, I´ve decided to use it as a prompt for reflection. Here is an epic poem on what Hanukkah is to me.




Hanukkah is a festival of lights.
Hanukkah is, to quote Adam Sandler, "eight crazy nights".
Hanukkah is bringing light into the darkness.
Hanukkah is a celebration of miracles (nes gadol haya sham / a great miracle happened there).
Hanukkah is eating oily foods (to commemorate the miracle of the oil) and drinking, a lot of, sometimes too much, wine (to have a good time).
Hanukkah is sour cream and applesauce (garnishes for traditional potato pancakes, latkes).
Hanukkah is powdered sugar running down my shirt as jam threatens to run out of my mouth, after I´ve taken a much too big bite of sufganya (traditional jelly donut) at a party.
Hanukkah is playing dreidel (a gambling game involving a spinning top and candy bets) and eating way too much gelt (chocolate coins).
Hanukkah is getting bored of dreidel and inventing my own game, which is just trying to make sure one from my grotesquely large collection of dreidels (tops) is spinning at all times.
Hanukkah is when, in highschool, I rebranded my Hanukkah party as a Latkes party to get my non-Jewish friends to attend.
Hanukkah is lighting the menorah (candelabra with nine arms, one for each night of Hanukkah and a ninth for the additional candle that lights the others) with progressively more candles each night.
Hanukkah is remembering to light the candles every night.
Hanukkah is watching the candles burn low.
Hanukkah is everyone singing a different melody for the prayer sung while lighting candles, because we are Jews, and no one can agree which one is right.
Hanukkah is forgetting the story of Hanukkah and hearing it again, every year, as if it were the first time.
Hanukkah is about the Maccabees, Jewish warriors who led a revolt against an ancient Greek-Syrian oppressive regime in the second century B.C.
Hanukkah is about justice.
Hanukkah is about the restoration of the second temple.
Hanukkah is about returning home.
Hanukkah is about religious freedom.
Hanukkah is about lighting a candle in the darkness.
Hanukkah is about oil meant for one day miraculously lasting for eight long nights.
Hanukkah is about miracles born of desperate times.
Hanukkah is about hope.
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday.
Hanukkah is celebrated at a different time each year according to the Gregorian calendar, because it follows the Hebrew calendar, which is lunar.
Hanukkah starts at sundown on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev each year, and lasts eight nights.
Hanukkah is not "Jewish Christmas", but Hanukkah often falls near the winter solstice (in the northern hemisphere) and Christmas.
Hanukkah is lighting a menorah by the Christmas tree, at a Chrismukkah Eve party, because my family celebrates multiple traditions.
Hanukkah is my non-Jewish friends singing along as I light the candles, because being Jewish is something normal where I grew up.
Hanukkah is trying to remember if I light the candles from right to left or left to right.
Hanukkah is having an argument about this while I light the candles.
Hanukkah is dripping wax all over my kitchen table and trying to scrape it off the next morning.
Hanukkah is forgetting how to spell Hanukkah every time I write it.
Hanukkah is making sure that the oil doesn´t burn while I´m cooking latkes.
Hanukkah is gorging myself on latkes at a party and going home with a stomach ache.
Hanukkah is teaching my Dad´s Israeli friends the English words to a Hanukkah song they´ve only ever sung in Hebrew.
Hanukkah is being told to have patience in four different languages: shvoye shvoye (Yiddish), le-at le-at (Hebrew), langsam langsam (German), slowly slowly (English).
Hanukkah is, to quote Jewish comedienne Rachel Bloom´s TV Show "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend", "remember[ing] that we suffered".

Hanukkah is spending the eighth night of Hanukkah explaining what Hanukkah means to me.


About: Mia Szarvas was born in Vermont to an Israeli father and Italian-American mother, raised in California, and currently lives in Bremen, Germany. Her grandmother, Marta, escaped from Poland in August of 1939 with her parents and sister, with whom she set up a new life in Palestine, while the family they left behind perished in the Holocaust. Mia has a degree in Political Ecology from the University of California, Berkeley, and works in tech to create empowerment in unexpected places. She is curious about multiculturalism, languages, feminism, and how our intertwined histories inform the present.

Follow Mia´s art project "Humans Who Inspire" on Instagram @humanswhoinspire. Mia draws portraits of humans who inspire her as a meditation on the multitude of incredible humans working to make the world a better place. She also accepts requests and submissions.

Read more by Mia Szarvas at AVIVA-Berlin:

"Mias column. The Magic of being Jewish"

"A German Christmas: Jewish Stars and almost no Jews"

"A Resolution for the New Year." Reflections on Being Jewish by Mia Szarvas

"Uncovering Jewish Venice." Reflections on Being Jewish by Mia Szarvas

"Let´s Get Uncomfortable …." Reflections on Being Jewish in Germany by Mia Szarvas

"I Answered All Your Question About Jews, so You Don´t Have To (And so I Don´t Have To)" - reflections by Mia Szarvas

"I Don´t Want Your Shame" - reflections by Mia Szarvas

Yom HaShoah - reflections by Mia Szarvas





Photo of Mia Szarvas by Elena Sloman




Jüdisches Leben > Mias column

Beitrag vom 15.01.2020

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