Community Hanukkah!

I’m a habitual recluse, but I love community events.  There are a lot of things I don’t particularly believe in…God, clothes shopping, Scientology, anything associated with Nicholas Sparks, etc, etc.  I do believe in community.  I really think any problem can be solved by neighbors banding together.

Earlier this year, for instance, my school was doing their annual enormous food drive.  I went around my neighborhood asking for canned food and even though I only stopped at a few houses, I ended up with 125 pounds of food.  Okay, it doesn’t sound that impressive but…that’s more than I weigh.  It was like donating an entire Lydia and a box of bonus cans!  It was gratifying.  It was community.  Neighbors helping other neighbors.

This post feels sappy already.  This is all a big lead-in to a recounting of my evening:  I went out to my town square (the place I live?  It’s adorable.) for the community menorah lighting!  It’s actually the second night of Hanukkah, but that just means there were more candles to light. It was great.  The whole thing was just wonderful. Have I mentioned how much I love community events?

There were a ton of politicians present, the new city council, the new police chief and new fire chief. It is a festival of lights. The serene snowfall had us all huddled together with our lit candles so it makes sense they thought to have some firefighters on hand.  The new mayor gave a speech and lit the shammosh.  Everyone kept thanking her, but it didn’t feel like political schmoozing.  I really am grateful our current city council is so supportive.  A few years ago, before I lived here, Christmas trees and “Santa’s Workshop” were permitted in the city square, but the menorah was banned.  Seriously!  In 2006!  How nuts is that?  I’m always surprised when such ridiculously blatant discrimination shows up.  Tonight, there was lots of talk about inclusivity and diversity and it was just…perfect.

There were so many community members out.  The Rabbi and the honorary speaker were both, coincidentally, Australian… I inexplicably find this very hilarious.  There was jazzed up Jewish music (Say Anything will always be my favorite Jewish/any music) and hot chocolate and latkes.  Latkes!  My sister has this hilarious latke server. I love it almost as much as I love the actual latkes.

Most of the speeches were about the meaning of Hanukkah, the power of a little light to spread through a world of darkness.  We held our candles and turned to our neighbors lighting (and re-lighting…and re-lighting again as the snow engulfed the flames) our little huddle against the darkness of the night.  Then we sang The Chanukah Song and the Dreidel Song and… I don’t know how many times I can tell you it was perfect.  It was perfect.

I’m happy these events exist.  I’m happy that I can show up in my town square to stand in a large crowd watching a nine-foot menorah light up.  I’m happy that I saw the man standing behind his wife pull his gloves off in the bitter cold so he could pull the hood of her jacket up over her ears.  I’m happy that she looked back and smiled as he pulled on his hood and replaced his gloves.  I’m happy that even when I can’t believe in God I can believe in the power of a little bit of light to spread through the darkness of the world.

I’m happy.

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