A new Hanukkah tradition

This year, Hanukkah starts at sundown on December 8 and lasts for eight nights. Like many families, mine will gather the following weekend to celebrate this Festival of Lights. There will be more than 30 of us, and each family unit will bring their menorah (candelabra). Before dinner, we will say the traditional Hebrew prayers, tell stories and we will light all the candles. It is a beautiful sight, as we turn off all the lights and do this tradition only with the lights from almost a dozen menorahs.

Then dinner will be simple, with the main dish being fried potato pancakes — called latkes. Some like them with sour cream, others will top theirs with fresh applesauce. We’ll have beef brisket and roasted chicken, steamed green beans and a big green salad. And because it is a tradition, we will also serve fried jelly donuts for dessert. You can find out about this tradition here.

But one tradition will change this year. We are not doing our annual gift exchange. Usually we each purchase a gift worth $15 to $20 and pull names. We have a lot of laughs.

This year, our entire family decided to start a new tradition. We will each take that money that was previously used to purchase a gift, and make a family donation to support Israel. With all the recent violence in the Middle East, showing our support in this way, at this time of giving, feels good and makes sense.

I wonder how many other families will consider breaking tradition. Instead of giving gifts to family or close friends — gifts they probably don’t need — consider making a donation to a worthwhile cause that is important to you.

So far this year I have written checks to my local food bank and Share our Strength, which was started by chefs who wanted a vehicle to donate unused food.  At our company, we are also having a canned food drive.

As we enter the season of giving, I hope you will think about how you can make a difference to those who are less fortunate. Maybe start a new tradition by teaching your family to truly be grateful for all that you have and make someone else’s life a little better.

I think that is what this season is all about.