Lights shine through 2020’s darkness: Hanukkah traditions continue in face of pandemic By Ella Alpert '22

All photos by Ella Alpert '22

The familiar smells of latkes frying and brisket baking, tastes of powdered donuts and the sounds of cheerful family members gathering around nine glowing candles are the details and aspects that make up the perfect Hanukkah.

But what was normally a season of holiday joy, family and friends looked very different this year. Like every other holiday, event and gathering of 2020, Hanukkah was affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Normally, Jewish families come together to celebrate with a meal, games, gift giving and lighting the Menorah. This year the holiday started the evening of Dec. 10 and ended the evening of Dec. 17, and, at least for my family, the eight nights of celebration were spent at home with no extended family.

On Thursday, Dec. 10, the first night of Hanukkah, my family kept the celebration pretty simple since it can be hard to celebrate the holiday during the week. My family lit the candles and ate the traditional holiday dessert, sufganiyot, also known as jelly donuts.

On the second night, my family had a game night. We played dreidel, a traditional Hanukkah game, and Trivial Pursuit, one of the gifts we received that night.

To get into the holiday spirit we painted our nails different shades of blue, the traditional Hanukkah colors.
On the fourth night my family made the food the holiday is famous for: latkes. Often referred to as potato pancakes, latkes are fried in hot oil and traditionally served with applesauce and sour cream. The frying of the latkes creates a strong smell of oil that lingers for many days.

This year my family took a different take on the traditional Hanukkah dinner. Normally, this consists of brisket, latkes, vegetables and other side dishes. However, this year, my family made salmon as a healthier alternative.

On night five, my family was craving donuts again. The best jelly donuts are from Coffee An' Donut Shop in Westport, where we got them from on the first night. However, these donuts are from Donut Crazy in Westport. They weren’t as good, but satisfied our cravings.
The snow really helped to make it feel like the holiday season. It brought back some of the joy masked by the pandemic.
Another thing that brought back the holiday spirit was being able to celebrate with friends. My friend group does a Secret Snowflake every year. We didn’t want this to be changed by the pandemic so we found a safe way to celebrate. We exchanged gifts by the fire with blankets, hot chocolate, warm food and masks.
Although many store's holiday decorations in downtown Westport are catered to Christmas, the Westport Downtown Merchant Association decorated the street with a menorah to celebrate Hanukkah.
This holiday season may have been different than past years, but Jewish families were still able to observe Hanukkah. We celebrated the miracle of light in a final push to reach the new year. Even in a year as dark as 2020, the lights continue to shine.
Happy holidays!