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Hanukkah miracles

2013 December 2
by Rachel Turiel


We’ve been celebrating Hanukkah, which is joyous because no matter what is happening at sundown—which is usually that it has become simultaneously cold and dark, no one’s thought about dinner, and the kids are either happily or bereftly loud—we stop to light the Hanukkah candles.

We’ve explained to the children that Hanukkah is about bringing light to the darkness, and about miracles, large and small. This has been cheering me up immensely. I’m like an old retired horse given new purpose: sniffing out miracles. This is also called mind expansion practice, which is like taking my old worn out neural pathways to the gym.

It’s possible that I’m scraping the bottom of the miracle barrel, content with assorted crumbs rather than the sea-parting, oil-lasting stuff of legends. Which is to say that when Dan and the kids all relieved themselves behind a bush this weekend and Rose asked if anyone had any toilet paper, and Dan found, inexplicably, a tiny square of it in his pocket, we proclaimed it a Hanukkah miracle.

More Hanukkah miracles:

1) The miracle of siblings not fighting. When we play a family board game, siblings are too busy and occupied to remember to fight! (Which may or may not be the reason we bought Dan (count ’em) three new board games for Hanukkah).

Catan Junior, where you win by acquiring resources like goats, bundles of wood and barrels of molasses, which feels pleasingly wholesome. Also, equal parts luck and strategy = fun for all the ages of our household. Also, we haven’t had actual dinner at our actual table in three nights due to our obsessive Catan playing soon as the sun goes down.

2) The miracle of seeds. In the beginning of November, I scattered a few hundred lettuce seeds in a couple garden beds and covered them with PVC hoops and plastic. I was entirely prepared for the seeds to do what most seeds do in November, which is nothing. But look!


There are three of these coldframes. My guess is the greens will hold on all winter and start really putting out next spring. We cover them with blankets at night.


Baby miracles!

3) The miracle of optimism. Having not grown up celebrating Christmas, I can just barely cobble together a safe-for-kids facsimile of this holiday. We do our best and it’s all good. But I just can’t uphold Santa as anyone other than a man who’s been paid to dress up in a portly red suit. My kids have been briefed and know not to spill the beans for other kids. This year we stumbled on a Christmas tree lighting ceremony downtown in which Santa and Mrs. Claus came riding up on a horse-drawn carriage. Rose gasped, and announced, “I DO BELIEVE IN SANTA!….He just hasn’t ever brought me presents.” We call this extreme optimism.

4) The miracle of digging deep. I have been alcohol-free for three months now. And though I would rarely consume even 2 beers in one 24-hour period, there was a certain ritual in toasting my glass to the setting sun after a day steeped in children and work. There was some entitlement: I’ve earned this beer. Also, some taking the edge off: It won’t matter as much that Col is howling because Rose pinched him because he walloped her with a pillow, now that I’ve cracked this beer. But without that crutch, I’m digging a little deeper. And, it’s just like digging in the garden, your hands scrabbling past the sharp-edged rocks of your fears and judgments, watching all your expectations sift through your fingers like sand. And amazingly, underneath it all, I’ve been finding more patience and tolerance than I thought existed. I don’t know why. Maybe because there’s nothing else to lean on. And turns out patience and tolerance work similarly to beer.


Every night, after lighting the Hanukkah candles and saying the blessing, I declare, “Let there be light in the darkness. And let there be miracles in our lives.” And then Dan says, “and let there be candle wax on our table.”

And the Lord said, It was good (enough).

* Tell me your Hanukkah miracles.

16 Responses leave one →
  1. Kathy permalink
    December 2, 2013

    THIS is why I read your posts faithfully! So good that you are sharing your faith with your children this way and that you are finding miracles. They are there every day for us to find, to be thankful for. And sometimes the big ones show up and we can glow in them for more than a moment.
    PS. I did not raise my children with Santa. Sarah was afraid of the men in the suits, even though later Robin became a helpful elf hired by a wonderful Santa to help him with the children and give out treats. (She and he were professional clowns too, yes, she was, at 16 years old.) Robin’s birthday also is Dec 23. She did not want to compete with Christmas but she did not mind sharing it with God.

  2. Melissa permalink
    December 2, 2013

    On the second night, thanksgivakkuh, baby Yos slept for 5 hours!! Truly a miracle! And we also got a board game, Mousetrap, that the kids really enjoy. Of course, Avi could just eat gelt (and somehow snarfed 6 pieces at a friend’s house before anyone noticed), but we are also talking a lot about gratitude. Less fighting here, too. And Christmas remains tricky. Our kids are insulated at Jewish schools but my family isn’t Jewish and it gets confusing this time of year.
    Mostly I hope for the miracles of expansiveness, clarity and the ability to stay grounded. Sending you wishes for improved health and wellness!! Xoxo

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      December 3, 2013

      Glad for your five hours of sleep, Avi’s 6 snarfed pieces of gelt, and the hopes for expansiveness, clarity and groundedness. In spades!

  3. Rachel Kohnen permalink
    December 2, 2013

    Our Hanukkah miracle – my chronically ill mother was healthy and had energy during the three day marathon of Thanksgiving, rehearsal dinner, and my little sister’s wedding. We were thrilled that she got to celebrate with us all!
    Our family eschews Santa. We love the story of St. Nicholas and my Dutch heritage causes many stories of Sinterklaus traveling on his boat, but those are bedtime stories and not the focus of our season. Miracles are a much more beautiful focus for December and cause our hearts to filled with blessings rather than a case of the “gimmes.”

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      December 3, 2013

      So happy for your Mama to take part in all the family fun.

  4. December 2, 2013

    Three somewhat long hikes over the weekend without a whine to be heard! That certainly counts!
    We are shifting our winter holiday focus to solstice more and more each year. Santa has always taken a back seat in the sleigh around these parts.
    I adore the TP miracle.
    We love Catan. Jr. Card games have also gain some popularity this fall.
    Your hoop frames filled with greens make me miss my cold frames. Those photos made me smile.
    I really like your thoughts on the beer. It is hard cider for me but I think the same applies ;-)

  5. December 2, 2013

    I just introduced the girls to Hanukkah this year (we have never been big on x-mas, but we like to celebrate the Solstice – and the return of the sun was a big deal up North in the Yukon!). I am struggling hard to find a miracle to share tonight… it’s been a tough 6 months for us. I sure can say that the miracle of unschooling has been unveiling itself even more in the last year and I am in awe at my girls. My little miracles!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      December 3, 2013

      Unschooling *does* feel more like a continual unveiling of blessings than an actual connect the dots game plan. Glad it’s working for you all.

  6. December 2, 2013

    Um. Hm. The miracle of all the good things that do happen on the Internet – like your writing? Just want to wish you a very happy Hanukkah. Love you guys.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      December 3, 2013

      Thanks, Susan. Ditto to all those true blessings of the internet.

  7. December 2, 2013

    Happy Hannukah, Rachel and family! My Hannukah miracle? Learning the meaning of both Hannukah and Christmas during a “Holiday Concert” in almost exclusively Christian Casper, Wyoming. Here’s a link:

  8. Britta permalink
    December 3, 2013

    Happy Holidays! Grow lettuce, grow!

    Our miracle: Last December, my then 10 month old slept through the night for the first time – I woke on St. Lucia Day thinking about saffron buns and then exclaimed in delight when I realized the true miracle of that dark night :) She hasn’t repeated that feat and is closing in on two years of life, so Dec 13 can’t come fast enough. If it happens again, I might just become a Believer again.

    I am at unease with Santa this year. I grew up with Santa being a story just like Cinderella and I was happy with the charade and the make believe play we did. It was fun! Just like dress up! Let’s set out the cheese, crackers and wine because Santa needs a break from cookies! But my husband grew up with Real Santa and so we’re doing that for our girls. I think I preferred the fun story play without the lie I feel I’m telling now. Only time will tell. Hopefully it will hold the magic he remembers from his childhood for the girls.

  9. December 3, 2013

    good to hear a review of catan, i’ve been wondering about that game! from the sound of it, i’m pleasantly reminded of oregon trail. happy toilet paper abundance miracles to you!

  10. Andrea permalink
    December 3, 2013

    as i was putting up my tree i thought to myself: its chrismukkah in durango! because that’s the effect you have on your readers. that we would be looking forward to the sharing of your holiday season. again.

    my Hanukkah miracle? boy child helped decorate the tree.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      December 3, 2013

      I am touched and honored that you’d be looking forward to more of our goofy holiday adventures.
      And did your face light up as much as your tree to have your boy by your side in tree-decorating?

  11. Ania permalink
    December 3, 2013

    Finally, the kind of miracles I believe in!
    We like Catan too, but never seem to finish the game – probably we should move it to the floor instead of the kitchen table (or keep playing on the table and start eating on the floor).

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