All Wrapped Up
Never heard of Gauntnakkah before?
I don’t blame you. It’s a new holiday our family devised based upon the request of a gift hungry 12 year old who calculated that if we were actually Jewish, he would be receiving eight days of Hanukkah gifts along with the Christmas gifts that were an inevitable part of our visit to Grandma’s.
At first, I laughed it off and congratulated him on his creative thinking skills. (That kid is sometimes no match for me)
But with a little thought, I was able to match his wily wit.
His persistence in getting what he wants is truly unparalleled. I could either listen to the daily onslaught of begging to open just one gift before the holidays or I could react creatively in a way that would satisfy his desire for gift opening while expanding our horizons as a family through bonding activities and education.
“I refuse to have Hanukkah unless you know what it’s about and how to celebrate it!” I said meaning every word.
“Okay, I’ll go look it up!”
And he did. Spontaneous reading and research for my child, in and of itself, is nearly as miraculous as the oil lasting eight days for the Maccabees 2000 years ago.
Agreeing to this new holiday tradition, I reached out to a friend who was kind enough to tell us a little about her Jewish faith and loan us a Menorah and nine candles (one is the shamash lit first and used to light the other candles). Since the beginning of Hanukkah, we have said the blessings (my Hebrew is getting better!) and we have read the stories. We have played the dreidel game with gelt and yes, our son has received the traditional small gifts. Since he was not able to buy us gifts, he chose to write me daily “love” notes and do a chore each day for his dad.
We have christened our makeshift holiday Gauntnakkah because a) We really don’t know what we’re doing and b) We’ve consumed the ham generously gifted to us by my husband’s work, which is illegal procedure for true Jewish folks and is – very literally – not kosher. We hope our Jewish friends will understand.
And do you know what has been most meaningful? We have learned that Hanukkah is really about standing up for truth, stamping out oppression, and bringing light into darkness. Given recent happenings in Ferguson and New York, the teachings are still timely and relevant. It has spurred family discussions about current events and a new appreciation for what we have grown up believing. We have researched so much about our own faith that I can answer questions I would not have even asked before this unique experience.
Never mind the family bonding that occurs when we awkwardly light the menorah and get rowdy over a homemade dreidel!
Being open to new information, perspectives and traditions can literally blow your mind.
When I was in France this summer, I had a similar experience. I went to Napoleon’s tomb (an enormous sarcophagus for such a little man) and then wandered over to the World War II museum. I like to think of myself as fairly knowledgeable and considerate of other cultures, but I was constantly agog at the things I didn’t know about WWII or had not considered as I looked at the history from another country’s perspective. From the involvement of Africans to the occupation of France, I had just never given those stories much thought. Those are the stories that shape a country’s current way of thinking. It’s their experience.
And they don’t always match our own.
I felt the same way when we hosted our Korean friends for Thanksgiving several years ago. They wanted to experience a true US style celebration with all the fixings (their first food coma was priceless!). In exchange, You Su taught me to make authentic kimbap, Korean sushi. She showed me to measure ingredients with my hands and tricks to making those egg strips so uniform. Her form was exceptional; mine, awkward. But in sharing our recipes, we were sharing friendship and mutual respect for each other’s cultures.
I’m pretty sure cooking together can solve world problems.
Knowing their feelings shifted my thinking when I heard the news that night and ever after. I seemed to have greater compassion for how news can be interpreted depending on our experiences and ability to expand our perspectives.
I feel the same way when I choose to read the Bhargava Gita, essentially a dialogue between God and his most faithful devotee and whose central theme of divine centered living is the basis of Hinduism. These readings only enhance my own beliefs about and desires to become a better person by letting go of ego (notice I said my desire, not my poor human ability!)
It’s also handy to have this expanded perspective when wishing the ladies in my Zumba class a happy Dawali as we dance a contemporary Zumba Bhangra together.
The world is full of information overload and I appreciate this question now more than ever: Can I absolutely know that it’s true?
Considering that at one time the earth was believed to be flat and we thought Brontosaurus dinosaurs roamed the land it’s possible that things we deem true are, well, not. Neither one of the aforementioned things were true as proven by science and exploration.
If you enjoy new perspectives then check out NPR’s Ted Radio Hour on Misconceptions. It’s fascinating!
I’m not suggesting you join a cult that skins squirrels and dances naked while slathered in peanut butter.
I simply offer that most things in this world exist for our benefit and for our good. As a human race, we are more broadly compatible than we are different. I encourage you to let new information find you, listen to it with an open heart, and see if you can fit it into your established beliefs.
Believe it or not, learning more about what we don’t know is the ultimate antidote to fear.
If it doesn’t sit well with you, discard it. Nobody said you have to like it.
But when you have taken the time to truly understand something you don’t know, it’s easier to respectfully disagree.
Though I think most will agree that kimbap is a cultural staple worth serving.
While dancing a common Punjabi folk dance, the Bhangra.
Beside a festively decorated Christmas tree.
Peace & Light,
The Busy Buddha
Talk Back to the Trio
How do you like the learn new things?