Tonight is the eighth, and last, night of Hanukkah. And what a Hanukkah it’s been. I was ready for it this year and did a lot of my shopping on-line. Eighty percent of the gifts were wrapped and ready to be given before the first candle was lit. I also added a third menorah to my collection. This one is electric and each night we’ve screwed in an additional white and blue colored bulb, and left it plugged in until we go to bed. I like it because compared to the candles on traditional menorahs which burn out quickly, the electric menorah is pretty the whole evening. So each night, we’ve lit the three menorahs. Well, almost every night.

As in years past, I’ve had to be flexible with our Hanukkah celebration. Since Hanukkah lasts for 8 days and nights, it is inevitable that my kids will be with their Catholic father on some of the nights. So on Monday night, we had to open double presents to make up for no presents on Sunday. And some nights, we’ve had to light the candles before sundown. But we’ve made it work and all in all it’s been a fun celebration. I grew up celebrating the eight nights, getting a present every night so it’s important to me to continue that tradition with my kids.

We even had the extra added treat of all of us (me, my two kids, husband and step-daughter) being together on the second night and having my Polish Catholic husband make a brisket, one that rivaled any other brisket I’ve ever had. He did leave the potato pancakes at work but I tried not to make him feel too bad about that. That night, the three kids played spin the dreidel and they each got a Snuggie for their gift. Leopard, Zebra and the Jets. It’s even going to be cold enough next week for the kids to use them.

In the middle of all of this Hanukkah celebration, we also put up our Christmas tree. My children are half Catholic. My husband and his daughter are Catholic. So in our house, we celebrate both holidays. But we don’t try to combine them. The tree is not a Hanukkah bush though I do put the Hanukkah presents under it. And we’ve developed our own annual tradition of going to Home Depot to pick out the tree and then decorating it with our old ornaments including many homemade ones from pre-school and early elementary school.

I also put up outside “holiday” lights. Much like it does at Halloween, my neighborhood gets heavily into the holiday spirit. Inflatable Mickey Mouse Santas, singing Christmas trees with multi-colored flashing lights and even a clock counting down the days, minutes and seconds until Christmas. I enjoy looking out my window and seeing my neighbors’ houses all lit up. I don’t know where this pleasure comes from. It’s not something I grew up with. But it makes me happy. I enjoy my evening walks even more this time of year because everything is so festive and cheery. I know I sound like a commercial or some cheesy middle-aged, Midwestern housewife. But I’m not.

The other members of my family, though they enjoy the lights, don’t show any interest in helping me put them up. So I do it myself. Every year I crawl out the second story window in my daughter’s bedroom and hang icicle lights from the gutters. Then I throw nets of lights in the bushes. And finally, I wrap half a dozen trees with strings of light. All my lights are white and if I do say so myself, my house looks great! Classy and festive. And I know my neighbors appreciate it as well.

This year, winter has not yet come to South Florida. So when the time came to put up the lights and I was up on the roof, alone, with lines of sweat forming in places I didn’t know were possible, I found myself pondering the humor of it all. Inside sat my Catholic husband and his daughter, watching football. While I, the Fiddler on the Roof, was sweating and getting a large raspberry on my leg from crawling around, going from one end of the gutter to the other. Then, in the middle of wrapping the trees, I stopped again to think what the hell am I doing? I’m a Jew. Jews don’t do Christmas lights. (I stopped calling them holiday lights. I was only fooling myself.) But I finished and waited for it to get dark outside so I could see how the house looked.

Nighttime came and I plugged everything in, miraculously not causing a neighborhood-wide blackout. And I stepped out onto the sidewalk to take it all in. And I smiled. The kids came out, as did my husband, and they all smiled. And one week later, I’m still smiling every time it gets dark and I plug the lights in. I guess that’s why I do it. The sheer joy I get from it. The question of why I get so much pleasure from it remains unanswered. I’ve been in therapy before. And I don’t think its worth diving down deep in to my psyche to get the answer. Besides, I think we need to take our joys where we can find them. I hope my mother agrees.

So on this last night of Hanukkah 2009, I say this to you: Shalom (Peace). And I wish this for you: that you receive many tidings of comfort and joy in this holiday season no matter what you celebrate.