Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite. For so long I have argued against religion, found reasons to doubt the ideas and question the foundation. Yet when it comes time to celebrate Hanukkah, I’m always the first to pull out the menorah and practice my Hebrew prayer. To me, it seems strange that I, a girl with a lack of faith, would enjoy such a religious custom. However, seventeen years of celebrating this holiday with my family have created a different meaning of Hanukkah for me. I have found beauty and magic not in the belief and guidance of a higher power, but in the love and guidance of my family.
As I light the candles each night with my mother and younger brother, I feel connected to them as well as to my ancestors who have celebrated their heritage for centuries; I feel as if I am a part of something big and important. Whether or not I believe in the ideas of Judaism, or any religion, is insignificant; celebrating my ancestors and my family tradition is what I believe in. Holidays are about spending time with family, and the three minutes spent each night by the menorah is the closest I have ever felt to mine.
Learning about my heritage and family background has been a compelling experience for me. My father, born in Montreal, has introduced me to the French-Canadian culture. I have spent my life so far, surrounded by the French language and food, listening to my grandparents talk about their childhoods in Canada and my father tell stories about growing up in a French household. While I hold an intense sense of pride for my heritage, my father and his siblings were embarrassed, growing up in America as a family that was so different. They were ashamed of their parents’ thick accents, strict rules, and strange traditions. Today, my aunts and uncles have come to understand and appreciate their culture and pass it on to their children. My cousins and I are grateful, and I feel that becoming more cultured has made us more accepting, open-minded people. Learning about where I come from has helped me learn a lot about myself.
As we grow and mature, we are constantly trying to define ourselves, find who we are. I think that we can find ourselves by looking back to our roots. One’s family traditions and heritage can say a lot about a person, help to define him or her. Spending time with family and learning about them is very important, this I believe.
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