Myself, I have to go and get candles, because Chanukah always creeps up on me and I forget when it is--why does it change every year again? Plus, I'm always already busy getting ready for Christmas.
Inexpensive menorah I got from a Whole Foods aisle end cap. The display was tiny and pitiful and I felt like I should rescue this little menorah.
As a child of a Jewish dad (agnostic) and an Episcopalian/Unitarian mom (atheist) our winter celebrations always included a Christmas tree, stockings hung with care on the handles of the main hall closet (we didn't have a fireplace), and the lighting of the menorah. We didn't get the eight days of gifts though--kind of ripped off there. We didn't play dreidel or sing the songs. We didn't eat fried foods. We had a Christmas dinner with a turkey and chestnut dressing (absolutely delicious) and plum pudding with hard sauce in keeping with my mother's English ancestry. But, the lights were beautiful and we felt peaceful and proud lighting them.
The story of Chanukah is one of loyalty to one's own religion and fighting for what you believe in and not allowing yourself or your people to be destroyed. We will not succumb. The light for eight days when it was only supposed to last for one is a sign of God's constancy and approval. Let it shine!
We were/are secular people. So God didn't really play into it for my family. The symbolism of the menorah was that we are--and we will be. Our refusal to be destroyed by the Greek king of Syria in the second century B.C. E. is a reminder that in our own lives, we will fight for what is right and not give up. Just as Christmas is about good will and love and peace for us, and not the birth of Christ, Chanukah is about justice and right and perseverance, and not the miracle of the oil.
We have secularized these religious holidays because we are not religious people. The holidays, however, are a part of our culture and family tradition, and, that's very important to my husband and me.
As a teenager, I was home alone for some reason. No one else was there and it was Chanukah. So, I lit the menorah for myself and thought about the years of oppression against Jews across the centuries and how as a group, we have held fast to who we are, even as we became part of the larger societies where we lived. I thought about the tradition of the lights themselves and how others around the world were lighting the candles too and had every previous year for thousands of years. And then, I got bored and snuffed the candles out with a candle snuffer, because I was safety conscious and went downstairs to watch TV...it wasn't until years later that I realized the irony of snuffing out the Chanukah candles--you know, the light that lasted when it wasn't supposed to...My only excuse is that I was a goofy teenager. I think it's good that I thought to even do it in the first place.
Happy Chanukah, enjoy the lights! Also, I like Chanukah instead of Hanukkah and both are acceptable--so there.