My husband and I are newly-ish married, and we don’t have kids. We’re looking for ways to create new, adult-focused Chanukah traditions together as a couple that could keep being meaningful to us for years to come. How can we as a couple go about creating these traditions, and do you have any specific ideas for things we could incorporate into our celebration?
Some family traditions sprout up organically when a family does something one year and enjoys it and decides to do it again. Those are the traditions you look back on and say, “Oh yeah, I guess we do that every year.” Then, once those things are codified, they just become what you do.
What you’re talking about, conscious tradition-making, has a different vibe and purpose. Because you’re looking to make decisions as a couple about how you celebrate, some things might stick from year to year, and some things might not. The most important piece for you is how you discuss the development of these traditions and how you evaluate, together, what you want your holiday to look like. Whether or not your family grows in the future to include children, you want your holidays to be meaningful at every stage of your family’s life.
First, if you both grew up Jewish, reflect with each other what your Chanukah celebrations looked like in your families of origin. Ask each other questions about what you enjoyed and what you’d wished could be different. See if there are any longstanding family traditions that either of you would like to bring to your newly formed family.
Next, think about what activities you enjoy together and what other holiday celebrations have been successful for you as a couple. If you like cooking, pick a night to try a new fried recipe. If you have a cause you care about, commit to giving tzedakah as part of your celebration, or pick a night of the holiday to volunteer together. If you like singing, invite over friends to learn and share Chanukah songs that might be slightly outside most people’s repertoire.
For better or worse, the internet is full of people sharing holiday traditions, and you could browse any number of websites for ideas of how other people are celebrating. On the one hand, you might find inspiration in someone else’s Chanukah ideas. On the other hand, “reading about other people’s holiday traditions” might become something you do together regularly during Chanukah.
You could pick a short intention to share with each other each night after candle lighting. You could plan an elaborate Chanukah outing that you plan to recreate for years to come. There’s a wide range of what family traditions look like, how strong a hold they have on people and how committed families become to carrying out their traditions.
Traditions are repeated when they create meaningful experiences and powerful memories. What you do this year might stick, but it might not, and either way is fine. When next Chanukah rolls around, you can look back at this year and see what rises to the surface as the experiences you want to recreate. You can know feels meaningful this year, but you won’t know about the memories until you’ve amassed some years of holidays together. Wishing you many years of t-tradition-making.
Be well, and happy Chanukah,