New Hanukkah Traditions, COVID-19 Style

On Saturday, I ventured into Philadelphia to go ice skating. When Hanukkah started at sundown on Thursday, mom mentioned that the Betsy Ross House now has a Menorah and only a few Rabbis were there to light it, the event was being livestreamed.

I decided to go to the Betsy Ross House and look at the Menorah. The way her house was decorated, it was decorated for all religious traditions. Betsy Ross herself was there and we chatted for a bit. What a magical scene and it feels good to see all faiths represented at a historical house. A new day is dawning!

Even the River Rink had a Menorah lit. I enjoyed my time ice skating and towards the end, I decided to check Instagram. The Angelo Pizza posted they ran out of pizza for the day. Panicked, I checked my Find Me Gluten Free app and I ended up at Oh, Brother. I ordered a gluten-free vegan burger since I was having a brisket dinner the next day.

As I was waiting for my food, I waited outside and found a table. As I was reading emails, I heard Matisyahu’s Miracle playing. I saw lights flashing and it was a Hanukkah drive-by parade! Since we cannot gather for Hanukkah this year, many congregations and families got together, decorated their cars with Menorahs and wished everyone a Happy Hanukkah.

I was chatting with the people sitting near me, I was telling them about my journey and that I was having a Hanukkah meal on Sunday. They thought it was cool, and when another car drove by, they asked, “is anyone else celebrating Hanukkah?” They pointed to me and I said, “I am!” He asked if I had a Menorah, I said I did and he gave me chocolate gelt instead. The next car that drove by engaged me in conversation, and gave me a Menorah anyway.

It was such a joyous atmosphere. I had two Hanukkah gifts from strangers and I was on cloud 9. I wish I could have given them something, but maybe since I gave to the JRA and participated in Operation Santa through the USPS, their kindness was a sense of rewarding good deeds.

After a few minutes, I went inside to see if my food was done and I overheard the waitress say she also celebrates Hanukkah. I asked her and we both have the same story! Raised Catholic, but left. However, she was married to a Jewish man and even though they divorced, she felt comfortable and at home. I told her, “I’m taking my time with everything. I feel comfortable and at home too.” She gave me some advice and the mood was just festive.

While we cannot gather for the holidays this year, there is still joy to be found. It may look different, but Hanukkah is a miracle and it’s about lighting the way out of the darkness. These new traditions are just that.

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Creator of the Happiness Box Project Initiative, a project where you write your happiness or gratitude each day, then open the box in the New Year. The Initiative is to teach joy and gratitude, to pass it on to others.

One thought on “New Hanukkah Traditions, COVID-19 Style”

  1. Hi, Jessica Marie!

    I am verklempt after reading about your Hanukkah weekend activities in Philadelphia and seeing all these pictures. It must have been heartwarming to visit the Betsy Ross House and look at the Menorah in an historical spot where today all faiths are represented. This is the emerging America that Trumpism is trying to stamp out. You went for a dose of Vitamin Ice and found another Menorah. I’m sorry Angelo’s ran out of your GF pizza, but luckily you found a plan B in a GF vegan burger at Oh, Brother. There you witnessed a Hanukkah parade. I can feel the excitement in the air as the celebratory songs were sung and colorful floats passed by – symbols of love and tolerance, not of hate. Best of all, you engaged in happy conversations with passersby and received gifts from strangers. Believe me, the gift they received in return was seeing the joy on your face. That’s what it’s all about. I enjoyed the “Miracle” rap song and video.

    What a wonderful weekend you had, dear friend JM. I hope you have a week to match!


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