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(I know, shopping for Hanukkah at the Christmas Tree Shoppe, the irony isn’t lost on me. What can I say? They have great papers goods.)
Traditionally, there isn’t much décor associated with The Festival of Lights, which – truth be told – is fine by me. I see friends struggling with wreaths and trees and ornaments and inflatables and lights. How do I get ready for Hanukkah? I go down in the basement and open up one blue bin, take out my three favorite menorahs and a couple of dreidels, and I place these items on a table.
That’s it. No fuss. No muss.
Now, you have to understand. I wasn’t looking for anything, so of course that’s when I found it: a colorful door decoration with the word CHANUKA printed boldly on the front.
CHANUKA? I tilted my head, confuzzled.
Because I’d never seen it spelled that way.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen Hanukkah spelled a lot of different ways. Because the initial sound used to pronounce the word Hanukkah isn’t a sound used in English. The gutteral h is pronounced at the back of the throat, and — when pronounced correctly — sounds like someone trying to hork up a loogey.
So I liked the decoration, but I didn’t want it if Hanukkah wasn’t spelled correctly.
“Okay Google,” I spoke into my phone. “How do you spell Hanukkah?”
As it turns out, the most common spelling for Hanukkah is “Hanukkah” with 8.5 million hits in the Google search engine. “Chanukah” came in with over 3.3 million searches, and “Hannukah” came in with 862,000 hits.
You might be interested to know Xanuka is considered a valid spelling.
So I’m still standing there, clutching this felt decoration in one hand and my phone in the other, trying to decide if I should buy it or put it back.
You know, because it was spelled weird.
(Or at least it felt like it was spelled weird to me.)
And then I laughed at the silly dilemma I’d created in my head.
Because Hanukkah isn’t about decorations or spelling. It’s about miracles.
As some of you know, I was sick for 15 months. During that time, I didn’t know anyone else who had ever been through what I was going through, and those months were terrifying, isolating and awful. Many times, I felt G-d was punishing me.
Some unnameable thing kept me hanging on. Some little voice inside of me – perhaps the G-d part of myself – knew that one day the suffering would end and that I just needed to wait. And pray for a miracle.
What appeals to me most about Hanukkah is the idea that miracles can be found in every day moments, how big and small things that seem impossible can come to pass.
I appreciate the way we gather together to tell and retell the story of how people overcome difficult times, to celebrate the miracle of friends and family whom we love and are loved by; the miracle of having the chance to learn something new everyday; the miracle of our collective curiosity and kindness that inspires us to make meaningful connections with others.
These days, I can even appreciate the eleventy-seven jillion ways we spell Hanukkah.
So it’s decided. Starting now, I’m collecting decor where Hanukkah is spelled any which way.
Because why not?
(So do you think The Christmas Tree Shoppe still has that cute Chanuka door decoration? Or did I miss my chance?)
What are you celebrating this time of year? What kind of decorations, if any, do you set out? What do you love/hate about the holidays?
NOTE: I’m participating in #HanukkahHoopla with 7 other bloggers. In the spirit of the season, we’re giving away 8 gifts to 8 lucky commenters. Click on the menorah to find links to other writers’ blogs & increase your chances of winning!
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