Hanukkah during COVID: It is still 8 days of miracles

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer

Have you ever noticed that, no matter how you spell the holiday known as The Festival of Lights, you need eight letters? I like to think of it as one letter per night, whether you prefer Chanukah or Hanukkah

The pandemic puts a different sort of spin on this year’s eight-day miracle. However, that does not have to mean the end of celebratory fun! Families just need to get a bit more creative this year …another word with 8 letters! 

Brainstorm with your family to come up with a word or phrase containing eight letters while also incorporating the virus plaguing our country at the moment. Ideas can range from “No Corona” to “Cut COVID” to “Use Masks.” Even the words “Pandemic” or “Stay Home” work well.

Now for the fun part: After lighting the menorah each night, see who can come up with the most holiday words that start with the corresponding letter. For example, if you chose “Pandemic” as the family word, on the first night challenge the family to come up with as many Hanukkah-related words as possible that begin with the letter “P”. On the second night, do the same but with the letter “A.”

Connectedness with our families ranks as one of the most positive dynamics that has flourished during these months of restricted social gatherings. Once we have saturated our minds with Netflix and HBO, we begin to turn to each other for more stimulating conversations and idea exchanges. We ought not lose sight of the fact that Judaism begins at home, never more vividly played out than during the past nine months. By coming together in smaller groups, we still find ways to celebrate all of the big and little blessings in our lives.

Think of other ways to incorporate the beauty and simplicity of Hanukkah during this unique year. Come up with a list of the eight most difficult challenges you faced with the onset of COVID-19; then outline the eight most unexpected little surprises that came out of this health crisis. Some of us took to our sewing machines and created homemade masks. Other learned how to successfully use Zoom for meetings and family “get-togethers.” Many in our community helped pick up groceries for elderly or sick neighbors. Homework help centers popped up to lend a hand to working parents whose children struggled with a virtual learning environment.

Yes, if we look around, we can find an abundance of miracles this season that extend far beyond the sacred oil lasting for eight days. Embrace the light, find the joy in little things, and remember: if we put a ‘1” in front of the “8”, we get chai, the Hebrew word for life. This year, quarantined or not, live fully.