Holidays mean different things to different people. To many, they are about religious observances. To others they are about family. To some they are about the food or the presents. What holidays mean to different people depends on three things: 1) What they grew up with 2) What their current circumstances and beliefs are 3) Who they have to spend holidays with.
Growing up is when our ideas and ideals are formed. The things we do as children last a lifetime. There are numerous studies that show that people who can't remember what they had for breakfast, can remember every word to the songs they learned as children. We each remember holidays differently. Did you spend them in synagogue (or church)? Did you spend them with family that are no longer with us? Were they joyful or stressful? Did you and/or your family host? What you do in your younger life lead to your practices as an adult. If holidays were important to you when you were young, they are probably still important to you. Many of the residents we see in elder-care facilities are now 80 and over, which means that they were children during World War II. We know that they grew up with fear, and air raids, and there are still some that tell us stories about the Holocaust, and holidays with family were greatly cherished. For most they still are. IF their families are near.
Do you have young children, or adult children with youngsters of their own? You probably focus on the holidays in a completely different way than a senior without family nearby does. Do you host for the holidays and do all the cooking? Do you wrap every gift with grand adornment? Do you attend services and explain why we do what we do, and that it is the same thing that our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents did? For seniors in some facilities, there is no mention of the holidays, traditions or customs they grew up with. Especially Jewish seniors in Central Florida that are not visited by the Jewish Pavilion and its volunteers.
Will you travel to see your family this year? Will you host big dinners, candle lightings, Passover seders, break-the-fast, and other traditions in your home? Will you be invited to children who are now carrying on the traditions of our forefathers, and making new ones of their own? Will the holidays pass without you even realizing you missed them? You missed the matzoh ball soup, the latkes, the gefilte fish with horseradish, and the brisket. You missed the candles, the wine, the challah, and the presents.
This year, you can make a difference, and teach your children or grandchildren to make a difference. Come to a Hanukkah party sponsored by the Jewish Pavilion. Bring the kids of any age and teach them how great it feels to give back. Remind them how much fun holidays are, and give them a chance to make it fun for someone who needs a smile. No children to bring? That's ok. Come on your own, or bring a friend, or make a friend.
Choose one hour this month to really remember, and celebrate Hanukkah. Bring those memories, and that joy to a program at a local elder-care facility. Come to two, or three. Whatever the holidays mean to you, wouldn't they be better if you started a new tradition and spread a little love? We promise you'll get some back in return. It's worth it. Make the holidays mean something special to you this year by spending them with someone who will truly appreciate you.
Hanukkah parties can be found on our website at www.jewishpavilion.org/facilities-calendar. We truly hope you will join us.