Amy, I will be happy to do a holiday celebration together. (I'll try emailing you from my yahoo account--for some reason I'm having problems with gmail, it won't let me type!!) Maybe a combo-Hanukkah/Solstice celebration or something? I was giving some thought to doing a little Hanukkah party at some point, actually . . . I always mean to do it but never do! My Hindu husband keeps me on the Jewish path, at least when it involves gastronomy--he really loves Potato Latkes and bugs me every year to make them!
When we were dating and sort of "vetting" each other as possible marriage partners I took him to a service at a local synagogue. After the service they had an "oneg Shabbat" which is essentially like a little post-service reception in the social hall, where they usually do a blessing over the wine and challah (egg bread) and everyone gets a little bit of wine and bread, and then they serve some punch, coffee, cookies, little cakes, etc., and people mingle around and eat and talk and hang out. I don't know how much theology he got from that experience, but my now-DH was very excited about the prospect of marrying into a religion that involves free desserts.
He's such a goof!
Oh, and by way spughy, since you (at least sorta) asked, here's an explanation for the menorah/candles/Hanukkah: First of all, the joke is that the basic explanation for all Jewish holidays is:
1. They tried to kill all the Jews.
2. They failed, and we survived.
3. Thank G-D! Let's eat!!!!!
Seriously though, the basic story about Hanukkah is that the menorah and the candles signify a religious miracle which is the basis for holiday. The Temple had an eternal light, which is supposed to be kept burning constantly. The Greeks ransacked and destroyed the temple, and all the vials of oil for the eternal light were destroyed and/or desecrated. There was only enough oil to burn for a day or two, but although someone was dispatched immediately to go get more oil, it would take eight days for them to go and come back with more oil. However, the oil that was only enough for one day burned for eight days, until the new oil arrived, and the light never went out. This is attributed to a miracle, and it's the reason that we burn candles each night for eight days--one candle is put in the menorah the first night, and two are put in the second night, etc., along with the "shamash" or helper candle which is the one higher than the other candles and is used to light the rest of the candles after a prayer is said. This also explains the latkes (and also jelly donuts which are traditional)--foods fried in oil are traditional at Hanukkah. The dreidl, which is a four-sided top that's used in a gambling game to play with, has four Hebrew letters on each side--roughly translated as NGHS, which is an acronym for "Nes Gadol Haya Sham" (if I'm remembering correctly), which means, "A Great Miracle Happened There." I think the basis for that is that the Greeks forbid the Jews to worship and study their sacred texts, but the Jews would get together in secret to pray/study, and if discovered, would pretend that they were just gambling and playing a gambling game.
So, there's a Cliff-Notes version of Hanukkah for your edification and enjoyment.
Thanks to Mom and Dad for paying for 12 year of Jewish religious education. And thanks to Big Lots for a $2 VHS tape of "The Rugrats Hanukkah Special" which I've watched about a million times with DD in the past two years. Lol!