Whenever a holiday approaches, I feel my luck in living close to so many members of my family. My gratitude is mixed with some sadness, because of course not everyone I love lives so near. My grandmother, my aunt and uncles, many cousins, my brother, his wife and their newborn baby — they all live in Israel. I also have family scattered around the United States. But my parents and my sister and her family live here, and their presence is a constant source of joy in my life.

Hanukkah is one of my favorite holidays. It lasts eight whole days and is full of lights, fabulous fatty foods, and songs. What could be better? I love to watch my sister’s three kids and my two, their faces lit with a childhood’s wonderment and awe, as all of us sing the holiday songs together, bursting into laughter as we mess up, yet again, the canon “Mi yemalel gvurot yisrael,” or as someone forgets the right words to “Maoz tzur,” or as somebody burst into “Sevivon sov sov sov” just as all the rest begin with “Hanukiyya sheli.”

This Hanukkah my parents are in Israel, visiting my brother and my grandmother (who is turning 95!). For the first four days of the holidays my kids were with their dad. Dar and I lit the first candle together on the menorah that my grandfather had built and which my grandmother had used for many years in her home preschool. I taught Dar how to sing the blessings and started him on the complicated “Maoz Tzur.” I didn’t make latkes or the holiday doughnuts, but we watched the candles flickering and took pictures, and I sang the songs.

The second and fourth nights we celebrated with my sister’s family. My sister’s husband has a great voice and his mother was a school teacher, and the three of us sang all the songs, with some help from my sister (who I think was born with a unique sense of hearing that not everyone can appreciate), her kids and her husband’s father. We had latkes and sufganiyot and felt that it was really a holiday.

Tonight Uri and Eden will be with us as well, and then we’ll take our Hanukiyot with us and fly to Roatan Island in Honduras to continue the celebration there. I feel a little sad that our travel plans prevent us from fully celebrating the holiday as my perfect vision would have liked. But I am bringing the menorahs and enough candles with us, and a CD with all the songs to keep us in voice, and we’re going to have a great time.

I am not sure if our hotel on Roatan will have wifi, or if I will have time to blog in the busy schedule of having fun. I wish you all a happy Hanukkah and a happy new year, and I’ll see you again in 2012. Have a wonderful, fabulous, fantastic, great time!

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Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109