Hanukkah has arrived, roughly its usual time on the American calendar, always its usual time on the Hebrew Calendar. Opened our first of eight gifts, mine being an eyeglass holder to keep behind my bed to keep my glasses from falling behind the bed. My wife, a cat aficionado, got a cat doll that can be warmed in the microwave and hugged. We lit candles, greeted each other mostly electronically, took the Delaware Democrats to task in cyberspace for posting a shabbos menorah with seven branches instead of the traditional Hanukkiah with nine. They updated their image.
Hanukkah, while festive in its own right with its own special traditions and foods, does not always occur in isolation. The movability of the Hebrew and American dates and Hebrew leap years comprising a full month every seven of nineteen years, sometimes the Hanukkah season changes. It can rarely coincide with Thanksgiving, more frequently coincide one of the eight days with Christmas and nearly always merged into the Christmas season. This year I got a special overlap, with my wife's birthday falling on the First Day, as mine sometimes does during Pesach.
Thanksgiving and birthdays derive from our public calendar, one a fixed date the other with a small amount of variability so this birthday and Thanksgiving are always not far from each other. I have become the Grand Chef for both and seem to derive my own measure of pleasure from the menu planning to the execution to the cleanup. Postponed the potato latkes until later in the Hanukkah festival, substituting as the starch shlishkas, a gnocchi-like pasta shaped as a nugget, one of the treats offered to me by my Hungarian maternal grandmother and now propagated, though via a yiddish cookbook recipe. And we had roast duck, a very rare treat of limited availability. Royal nuisance to make, again dependent on a classic preparation method from an encyclopedic cookbook, but worthy of a special occasion. And an almond torte known as torta del re, this one from an Italian Kosher cookbook, another special occasion item, though with readily available ingredients and with modern cooking appliances not very difficult to make.
So two occasions overlap, a birthday and Hanukkah, neither in competition with the other, unlike the secular festivals which sometimes do undermine each other. All are special, even Christmas which was celebrated by my taking medical call each year as part of a specialty group and now going out for Chinese like the rest of the Jewish community that day. We can now proceed with the rest of our Hanukkah for its own sake.