The thought crossed my mind of a holiday greeting, and then I began to think about a 1905 Odessa Hanukkah. I tried looking around the internet for something that felt right.
Antique Russian silver menorah
The only image I found online of a family Hanukkah was a painting from the 1700s.
Anonymous 18th century
Then I remembered that I had an illustrated story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, born in 1902, A Hanukkah evening in my parents’ house, which began:
All year round my father, a rabbi in Warsaw, did not allow his children to play any games. Even when I wanted to play cat’s cradle with my younger brother, Moishe, Father would say, ‘Why lose time on such nonsense? Better to recite psalms.’… But on Hanukkah, after Father lit the Hanukkah candles, he allowed us to play dreidel for half an hour.
For most families, it was not the play that was forbidden on other days of the year, but gambling.
A Hanukkah evening in my parents’ house
Russian antique menorah
Russian menorah c 1894
German antique menorah
Polish menorah 1900
English antique menorah
It was not only the antique menorahs which were an art form. The tradition has carried on in many styles and materials. The pattern of the stone wall on the silver dreidel and this 1930s menorah from Palestine made me think of a prison but must symbolise the Wailing Wall, although it is usually shown with figures.
1930s menorah, Palestine
Menorah 1940 Palestine
Modern stone menorah