Growing up, one of my family’s annual traditions was making Chanukah cookies. We would spend an entire day rolling out dough, cutting out shapes and decorating hundreds of cookies. After we were finished making them, we would save some for ourselves and then package up the rest in bundles to give to friends. My parents would often come to my school and do a presentation on Chanukah for my class (I was one of only a few Jewish students), and would hand out the cookies along with latkes.
Once I became religious, it made it hard to participate in our yearly ritual. I moved away from home because I wanted to be able to be part of a religious community (there were very few Orthodox Jews in Alabama, nothing that could be called a “community”) and didn’t get the opportunity to visit very often. And while my mom could have used kosher ingredients to make the cookies, her kitchen and all her utensils were treif. So I gave up our tradition, but I missed it every year when Chanukah came around.
I have slowly built a new family in the friends and wonderful people I have met through the years since I have been religious. Last year, one of those friends decided to make Chanukah cookies with her son, who I adore. I joined them for the cookie baking. We rolled, and cut and decorated. I really enjoyed myself with my new “family.” It brought back many nostalgic memories of all those years baking cookies with my mom.
As wonderful as it was, it couldn’t quite replace my old tradition. I hope that one day soon, I will be able to start a new tradition with my own children. And maybe my mom will come join us.