Tag Archives: Hanukkah

My Hanukkah Bear Envy

9 Dec

On the third night of Hanukkah I realized I have a problem.

As I have stated before, I love to decorate for Hanukkah.  Among my collection of dreidels, decorations and a few hanukkiahs, is a collection of stuffed animals. I now have almost 20 creatures that I purchased over the years.

As I prepare for the holiday, I search stores and synagogue gift shops to find a new animal or two to add to my collection. Some years I am feel fortunate because I find one.  Sometimes I have an excellent year, like this year, when found two animals I did not have. That balances the many years when I cannot find a single one.

So, what happened on night three? I saw a Hanukkah bear I could not have! I went to a meeting, where we lit the Hanukkah candles. That was fine.  But among those present was someone I knew, who brought along a Hanukkah bear clutching his own hanukkiah.  I do not have that bear!  I said nothing.  I did not touch it.  But in my heart, I felt a bit of bear envy.

I am sure that I have many bears he does not have.  My collection includes two Pooh Bears and two Mickey Mouse dolls with driedels produced by the Walt Disney Company.   I have two bears made by TY 13 year ago.  These “Happy Hanukkah” bears have an official birthdate of December 25, 2005, which amuses me just a bit. But it makes sense because in 2005, December 25 was the first night!

In the past two years I have purchased the animals produced by the Mensch on A Bench company.  My little Dreidel Dog was the first. This year it was Mitzvah Moose!  I had to get it as my son-in-law is Canadian.


I have what I call my Father/Son white bears, and two lovely bears, one blue and one purple, that have dreidels on the soles of their feet.

I have a musical bear.  And I have two trolls that were once my daughters, which have become part of my Hanukkah decorations.

I have a friend who also likes Hanukkah bears.  When she first saw my collection, she asked where I got them.  She declared her intention of collecting them as well.  Now whenever I see a new one, I send her a text message, after I buy mine (lol), telling her where to go to purchase a new one for her collection.   But come to think of it, she has never called to tell me about a new Hanukkah stuffed plush fluffy!

She at least has an excuse for her collection, she has little grandchildren.

To be honest, and I can finally admit it to myself, I collect these stuffed plush animals for me.  At one time, I purchased two of each.  Telling myself I was buying one for each of my children.  But my children are adults now, and I am yet to become a grandmother.  But I am still searching for these Hanukkah toys!

Well they say knowing you have a problem is the first step. But to be honest, I do not think there is a cure for this.  I will continue to collect and display my fluffy Hanukkah friends.  And I am sure I will continue to feel a bit of envy when I see that someone has one I do not own.

The Antique European Hannukiah

5 Jan

When my husband’s mother died in 1984,  we were given the opportunity to chose some of her personal items.  My husband and I were her only children who were dedicated to having a Jewish family, so we took most of the Jewish religious items, including this Hannukiah that belonged to his grandparents.

My mother-in-law told me that  was her father’s and had come with her parents from Europe in the early 1900s.  This was the Hannukiah the family used when she grew up. It was the item she chose to keep after her father died, when she was 16.

I know it is bronze.   I know that once it burned oil, as the dark burn stains still are visible.  But we have never used it.

Years ago, when I went to the Jewish Museum on 92nd Street, in New York City, I purchased a book entitled, Treasures of The Jewish Museum, published in 1986.  While looking through the book, I discovered on page 66, a hanukkiah much like ours.  It said it came from Spain or France and was first used in the end of the 13th or beginning of the 14th century.  The book says, “The gabled end of a Gothic catherdral, rose window and all, was the model for the backplates of the first pendant lamps.”

I remember thinking, impossible.  But it is so similar.  The only difference was that on the museum hannukah lamp, the shamash area was elevated, instead of off to the side, as in our design.

And so the hanukkiah stayed on my book shelf as a decoration along with  other, more modern ones,  that joined the collection over the years.  But that was it.   I never did any follow up.  As long as it was part of the family’s lore and history, that was more than enough for me.

Until this past December, when I went to Israel for a visit.  While there, I spent the day at the Israel Museum with my daughter’s mother-in-law.  As a resident of the Jerusalem area,  she has visited the museum many times.  She suggested we take an English tour of the permanent exhibit.  So we did.  We were the only two who signed up for it.  Lucky for us, we had a private 90-minute tour of the museum.

Since it was close to Hanukkah, the guide took us to see the collection of Hannukiot/hanukkah lamps that the museum owns:  covering many centuries and many countries.  There, on the wall, the very first one, was an exact duplicate of my husband’s grandfather’s Hannukiah!  The one that came from Europe and that he had used when studying medicine in France during the late 1800s.  Wow.

I asked our guide about that Hannukiah, as the touch screen was not working.  She said it was the oldest Hanukkah lamp that the Israel Museum owned.  She thought it came from the 17th century.

So to my husband’s Matassarin/Matassaru family in the USA and Israel: the family Hanukkiah survived.  It did not get destroyed in the Shoah.  No Leon brought it to the USA with him and his family, and used it with his children.

It has been an amazing journey for this centuries old work of Jewish religious ritual item. It traveled with my husband’s grandfather from his home in Europe with him to medical school in France.  From there, he took it to England, where he met his wife and they had their first three children.  Onward to Canada and to the United States, where he settled in Kansas!   He served as a colonel in the US military in World War 1, then settled in Leavenworth, Kansas.  After he died, his daughter (child 8 of 10) had it in her home in St. Louis.  And finally it resides with us back in Kansas.

I am honored that this Antique European Hanukkiah lives with us.

The Purple Princess Car is Home!

16 Dec
Lara in Purple Car

She got the Purple Princess car for her second birthday. Here she is at 2 and 2 days.

After a 17 or so year stay in a home where it was loved by many children, my daughter’s purple car has returned home for Hanukkah 2015. I retrieved it in early December from its foster home.

I purchased the purple princess Little Tikes car for my daughter’s second birthday. Not the red sedan that most people purchase, this car was special. It made us think about the car in the movie, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” It had character and appeal.

When she was little, my daughter’s car stayed in our basement, which was finished, but had no furnishings, except for a multitude of toys.   Our neighbor’s had twin daughters who were five years older than my daughter. They would come over every day after school, sometimes with their older sister, and play with my daughter. They loved to push her around in the purple princess car. She would get dressed up in elaborate outfits including a toy tiara. And they would entertain her for hours.

The purple car was so important to her. She just loved it. But in time she outgrew it and could no longer fit behind the wheel. Then our son, who was 4 ½ years younger, outgrew the car as well.

Elephant slide

My daughter plays on her beloved elephant slide. An empty basement except for toys.

I had a basement filled with Little Tikes toys: a kitchen, a workshop, easel, car, airplane, rocking horse, shopping cart, dishes, an elephant slide (another favorite!), teeter/totter, picnic table, table and chairs, toy chests, bookshelves. We even had a Little Tikes Log cabin in the basement, which the boys loved to ‘build’ on with the Little Tikes tools. There was just so much!

A friend of mine sold Little Tikes items so I had an easy way to get these items at a reasonable price. But it was enough! I decided I had to find homes for some of these toys. A cousin took a few items, but she did not want nor had room for all of it. And her son had no desire for the little girl toys. I had to find a loving home for all these beloved toys.

One day I was speaking to one of the kindergarten teachers at the school where I taught. She had been my children’s teacher, and was now a grandmother. She wanted some toys for her grandchildren to enjoy at her home.   Did I have a deal for her! Take my toys. I have tons, I told her. We set a date for her to come and see my stash!

I was excited. I had found a good home for the toys in my basement. Chose what you want, I told her. She came over and took many of the toys, including the purple princess car. I was so happy that the toys would be loved. I took the money she paid me and donated it to charity, a double mitzvah. The toys had a home, and others had food.

I thought it was wonderful till my daughter came home from school. She was in middle school. When I told them what I had done with the Little Tykes toys, she immediately said, “Not my car!” Yes it was gone as well. She wanted me to get it back.

But I really did not think she needed it. Eventually her tears and pouting got to me. She really wanted the car back even though she could not use it. Ridiculous, I know. I called. “I think I need the car back,” I told my friend. She could not give it back. Her granddaughter loved that car and used it whenever she came over. So I said keep it. But when your grandchildren are done with it, I would like to have it back. She made that promise. She would return the car to me in the future.

I told my daughter that eventually we would have the purple princess car back. She was still angry, but that was the only solution. Over the years, whenever she got really mad at me, she would bring it up. “How could you give away my car! You didn’t even ask!”

The purple car loomed over us as a point of contention.   Even the twins, their older sister, and their mother could not believe I had given away the purple princess car. For 17 years I lived with this blight on my existence.

Until December 5, 2015, at Barnes and Noble when I saw the teacher. I had not seen her for a number of years. We hugged. And she said. I have the purple car. My grandchildren are grown, and I know that your daughter is getting married. Would you like the car back?”

Would I like the car back!!! OF COURSE! I will be in touch I said.

Luckily we are Facebook friends. I sent her a private message with my phone number. She called. Less than a week later, on December 11, I went on what I called a secret Hanukkah mission, to get the car back.


The Purple Princess Car on the day I picked it up to come home.

Friday morning on the fifth day of Hanukkah, I visited with my old friend…and the car. We caught up on family and just chatted for over an hour. It was a great visit. Then we carried the purple princess car out of her house, and I loaded it into the trunk of my car.

When I got home, I emailed my daughter that we needed to speak. I had a Hanukkah surprise.

Later that day when we were able to speak, we videoed chatted. “I am going to send you an email. DO NOT open it till we are talking,” I commanded.

She listened. When she opened the email my daughter was so happy. There was a photo of the purple princess car and her kindergarten teacher. I took a photo of them together so she could see that it was really her car.

She said “Finally! Is it home? ” I sent her a photo of the car in our garage. Lara’s Hanukkah is complete.

I posted a note about the return of the car on my Facebook page.   One of my daughter’s high school teachers commented that even she knew about the purple car, as my daughter had written about it in English class. I know that car was in my daughter’s soul.

I am so thankful that the ‘foster’ family took such good care of the purple princess car. I am so thankful the promise to return it to us was fulfilled.

My daughter shared the photo on her Facebook page and wrote:

“My car is home! And it’s perfect timing too because I was just saying to my fiancée that I really need a small one-person car.”

I hate to be the one to disappoint her, but my husband says she will no longer fit into the purple princess car. But we are glad that we made her Hanukkah complete.



PS: The car is currently almost 28 years old!  It has held up remarkably well with love and attention!


I Love Decorating for Hanukkah!

11 Dec

When I was growing up there was no such thing as Hanukkah decorations, except for owning a family menorah and several dreidels for my siblings and me.

We did have a major family Hanukkah party each year at my paternal grandparents.   All my aunts and uncles and cousins would come. We had latkes and potato kugel. Of course we each got a new little driedel and some chocolate Hanukkah gelt.   And then we each got a small gift from each of our aunts and uncles and grandparents. I always loved being with everyone.

When we got older my uncle, who was involved with the Broadway theaters, gave us each tickets to a show.   Now that was fun! All the cousins would go together during winter break and see some new show. Thanks Uncle Bernie! His gifts instilled in me a love of musical theater that continues!

But there was no decorating. My Christian friends all got to put up their trees and decorate their homes in a fantastic manner. Over the years I decorated lots of trees with many Christian friends. Dorothy and her mom had me over to decorate when I was very young. That was my first decorating experience. I enjoyed planning the perfect tree.

A high school friend, whose mother was German, would get special decorations each year from Germany. Included in them were chocolate circles covered in white sprinkles. I think they were called kringles.   We loved hanging them on the tree. And the ones that broke got eaten!

But for us, there was nothing.   And, yes, I do know that the holiday is not about decorating.   It is about celebrating the Maccabee triumph over the Greek/Syrians and religious freedom.   However, I still wanted decorations!

So imagine my joy when I had children and suddenly there were Hanukkah decorations! Lots of decorations everywhere, even here in Kansas!!   I went a little berserk!!

We could get Hanukkah banners and paper goods; tablecloths, napkins and aprons. Even Hanukkah towels to put in the kitchen and bathrooms are available now.   I have Hanukkah dishes and glasses!

The most exciting is that I could get these items at regular stores like Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond.   Hanukkah was mainstream. I went wild!!! Each year I decorate my house for Hanukkah.   And even though my children are adults, I still decorate! To be honest, I even buy new items each year!

hanukkah placemats

We even could get fabric with Hanukkah designs. Last year I had a friend who loves to quilt take all the Hanukkah fabric I had collected over the years and make placemats. They are lovely! This will be the first year that I can use them when I set the table with my wonderful dreidel dishes and glasses.

My favorite of all the newly available items are the numerous hanukkiahs and driedles. It used to be that families had just a simple brass ‘menorah’, with the eight branches and the higher spot for the Shamas. But now!!! Oh my goodness, there is a major change. First of all, we no longer call it a menorah. That is just for seven-branched candelabras. Now we use the Hebrew word, hanukkiah, which indicates the nine-branch candelabra used for the holiday.

I have hanukkiahs decorated with cats and favorite childhood characters. I have a hamsa hanukkiah and one that looks like the Kotel in Jerusalem.   I own about 12 hanukkiahs. And I love each and every one.   I actually keep my hanukkiahs out all year long. I have friends who own many more hanukkiahs!


My driedel collection is another story.   I think I have over 100 driedels. Some are the little plastic ones that we got as children. But I also have lovely art driedels as well. Each year I take a number of them out and put them on display in the foyer of my home.   And each year I try to buy a new dreidel.

Draydel Store in Tel Aviv

This year was special. I spent the last week of November in Israel with my daughter. We walked through the new shopping area, Sarona, in Tel Aviv. There was a driedel store, called the Draydel House, Beyt HaSivivon.   Of course I had to purchase a dreidel there for my collection. It will be one of my Hanukkah gifts.

But I do not stop there, I even have a collection of stuffed Hanukkah bears. Yes I do. Every once in a while I see a stuffed bear decorated for Hanukkah and I have to buy it. I try to get two if possible, one for each of my children. But it is not always possible. I admit I do have Mickey Mouse holding a dreidel and other Disney Hanukkah decorations.

Hanukkah bears

Some might say that I have bought into the holiday hype. And I agree, I have. But it brings me so much joy to know that I can decorate my home and share my enthusiasm of my religion and my holiday with others.   I love decorating for Hanukkah. My enthusiasm will last as long as I do!