2018-12-06 / Life in Leelanau

Hanukkah celebration begins for local families

By Chris Olson
Special to the Enterprise


THE KUHNS of Centerville Township are pictured here lighting the menorah Sunday — the first day of Hannukah. Pictured from left is son, Trevor; Deb and Ray. THE KUHNS of Centerville Township are pictured here lighting the menorah Sunday — the first day of Hannukah. Pictured from left is son, Trevor; Deb and Ray. For Deb Kuhn and Judy Levin, Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday commemorating the miracle of one night’s worth of oil lasting eight nights, is a celebration of love, warmth, family and food.

Hanukkah began at sunset Sunday and will run through Monday, Dec. 10.

Kuhn lives on a farm with her husband Ray in Centerville Township, said growing up in Pittsburgh, her extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins would gather for one night during the eight-day celebration at a family member’s house and exchange gifts.

“We had about 20 to 25 people, so it had to be a place with a good-sized dining room table,” she said,

In her own family growing up Kuhn said the first night of Hanukkah was the night she and her siblings would receive their “big” gift.

”The gifts we got on the first night of Hanukkah were like the gifts my Christian friends received at Christmas,” she said.

The rest of the nights Kuhn said they received gifts like pajamas and socks.

What she remembers most about her extended family get-togethers for Hanukkah was lighting candles on the menorah, a candelabra-like branched device that holds nine candles. Kuhn said when you light the candles of the menorah you light the center candle, known as the attendant, then light one candle for each night of Hanukkah.

“Hanukkah was a less formal holiday,” she said. “We didn’t get too dressed up, we lit the candles, sang songs, played dreidel and ate latkes (potato pancakes).”

The dreidel is small four-sided top. Each side has a Hebrew letter on it. Each player receives a token, be it a penny or some other item. Each player puts two markers in the pot then one of the players spins the dreidel. Depending on which letter lands up, that player either wins or loses tokens.

The foods prepared for Hanukkah are generally fried in oil, like latkes and also donuts. Kuhn said the family would also usually have a meal including brisket.

Hanukkah celebrates the restoration of the Second Temple in the second century B.C. by the Maccabbees. According to Kuhn, once the temple was clean and cleansed, the Maccabbees went to light the holy lamp that is to burn continuously. There was only enough oil to light the lamp for one night, but the oil lasted for eight days.

“It is considered a miracle the oil lasted for eight days,” she said,

Judy Levin said to her the holiday means the light of freedom.

“We light the candles in remembrance,” she said. “It is freedom of religion when the Maccabbees fought for the right to practice their religion.”

Levin and Kuhn said they have never had any problems celebrating Hanukkah or practicing their religion here in Leelanau County and the surrounding Grand Traverse area, which is primarily Christian.

“I find the community very inclusive,” Levin said.

She works out of the Coldwell Banker office in Suttons Bay and brings an electric menorah and places it in a window for all to see.

“I enjoy being with my friends who celebrate Christmas,” she said, “They are warm and caring and always wish me the best for the season and Hanukkah.”

Kuhn said when she and her husband Ray got married, they decided to mix the best parts of both of their religions. She said Ray was raised Presbyterian. For the Hanukkah and Christmas time of year that meant having a Hanukkah bush.

“We’d have a big and pretty tree with blue and white lights,” she said.

Kuhn said she and her husband found Leelanau County while on vacation and fell in love with the place. They bought the farm they now own in 2002 and eventually moved here fulltime later on.

She said Ray became a full-time grape grower and she continues to work as a speech language pathologist with the Traverse Bay Intermediate School District.

Kuhn and Levin will attend Hanukkah parties with other families this week. Kuhn and her husband will gather with friends in Empire on Friday. Levin, who is a member of Temple Beth Shalom in Traverse City, will attend a party with other members of the congregation at a restaurant in Traverse City.

Return to top