Our Holiday Traditions: A house that’s always open
The Dvoskin family shares light in the darkness.
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
When Noa and Oded Dvoskin moved from Israel to the United States, they brought their favorite family Chanukah traditions with them. Growing up as the daughter of the head of the Department of Jewish Folklore and Comparative Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Noa lived in a home filled with Jewish artifacts, including a wall of nearly 500 menorahs. “There is not a single white space on the wall,” says Noa. “My father knows the story for each one of them.”
Now with three young children of their own (Talya, 7, Nogah, 5, and Maor, 1), the Dvoskins enjoy celebrating the Jewish festival of lights by lighting several of their own special menorahs in their Victory Heights home. They even have one in the shape of an old Volkswagen van. The family tries to make each of the eight nights a little different. “I think it’s rare that we have a single night of Chanukah by ourselves,” says Oded. “Sometimes our neighbor comes over, sometimes it’s Talya’s best friend — we always have friends over to light the candles together.”
The Dvoskins make latkes, traditional potato pancakes fried in oil, to celebrate the Chanukah miracle, which involved the oil of the ancient Temple menorah burning bright for eight days instead of just one. Oded likes to experiment with healthy variations, adding sweet potatoes, carrots and yams to his latkes.
The children play dreidel, a game with a spinning top that has four Hebrew letters on the side. The letters are the first initials of the words in the phrase nes gadol haya sham, meaning “a great miracle happened there.” The Dvoskins also have dreidels from Israel. The letters of the Israeli dreidel reflect the translation “a great miracle happened here.” The winner of the game gets gelt — small chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. On each night of Chanukah, Noa and Oded give the children chocolate gelts with their initials printed on them.
Bringing light into the darkest time of year is a meaningful tradition to the Dvoskins. Two of their children, Nogah and Maor, were born around Chanukah and given names that denote different interpretations of the word light. The family enjoys sharing the spirit of the holiday with the community. “Our house is always open to others,” says Oded. “We invite everyone to come and experience that joy and that light with us.”
Silly or somber, elaborate or simple, every family creates their own unique ways of finding joy and warmth in the midst of winter. Our annual Seattle's Child tradition is to share your holiday traditions so we can celebrate and rejoice together that every family in our community is a one-of-a-kind creation forged from the past and building a brighter future for our kids.
Read about more of our family holiday traditions and holiday happenings here.