It's possible that our Saturday contained the best possible combination of holiday celebrating ever. First, Luke and I got to go to the Fairmont Chicago to decorate holiday cookies and learn some tips to keep holiday cookies healthier than the usual treats (one delicious recipe was for coconut wreaths with agave syrup that I'm dying to make... and eat). Although it was chilly in the city and Luke was anxious to go inside, he obliged me with a photo opp outside the hotel.
Once inside, we found out that the event was in the ballroom downstairs, which meant not one but two escalator rides. Simply put, Luke was in heaven before we even started. Escalators shouldn't be such a big deal, except that we never, ever go to the mall because it is impossible to go to the mall without running into my students or Shane's students... so the poor child doesn't get much of a chance to ride escalators.
His escalator excitement was soon forgotten when we got inside and he saw the cookie decorating setup. And I mean, who wouldn't be excited at this?
Fairmont's pastry chef Erin helped Luke get the hang of the frosting bags (which were filled with the most delicious buttercream that I debated the merits of putting aside polite behavior to just squeeze one directly into my mouth... polite behavior won out--just barely) and then he was off with his decorations.
In between bites of cookies and sips of hot chocolate, of course. Luke got to take home all of the cookies that he decorated and he was so excited to show them to Shane and Tommy and share his creations. I would applaud his self-control for not eating them on the way home, but he eat a pretty disturbing amount of frosting, cookie decorations and other cookies during the process! We had the absolute best time together decorating cookies. Most importantly, Luke felt so very special with his chef's hat and his own cookie decorating station. I can't wait to recreate it when we make cookies for Santa.
So, Christmas cookies in the morning... how did we spend our afternoon and evening? A few weeks ago, Julie asked Katy and me if she could come celebrate Hanukkah with us because she had no one to celebrate with this year. Not only can I not stand the thought of one of my best friends not having a home for the holidays, but I truly believe that part of making my children good citizens of the world is instilling in them the knowledge and understanding of other cultures and the awareness that there are so many other beliefs in this world. Love and compassion is so important. Also, I've heard that Hanukkah focuses on fried food, so there's that.
Julie did an excellent job explaining to Luke why Hanukkah is celebrated with oil and how the Maccabees overcame persecution.
He listened with rapt attention and I hope above all what he absorbed is that people should be allowed to believe what they want to believe, so long as they aren't hurting anyone.
Before Julie came, he asked me if he'd be allowed to light the candles. I told him that I thought he could candle this. Julie explained to him that there were eight candles, with one helper candle and that you let them burn all the way down each night.
Julie also explained to Luke the importance of having your head covered during prayers and read him the prayers in both English and Hebrew.
Julie also brought the boys a piggy bank to collect money to donate to a charity or organization of their choice. We've been talking about where we'll give the money when it's full, but they haven't decided yet. I love the idea of giving back, though!
Finally, we sat and played dreidel and allowed Julie to eat (because of course, we made her do all the cooking on her holiday, as you do). Although I had a stupendous lead and earned more than my fair share of gelt, I then started losing horribly and was the first one out. Alas, the gifts of Hanukkah were just not meant to be mine!
As I tucked Luke into bed (after a slight overtired meltdown), he gave me a huge hug and kiss and told me he had the very best day ever. I'm pretty sure he meant it.