When I was a child we used the menorah from my mother’s childhood. It was fairly contemporary in style.
I always wanted one that looked like the traditional menorah—shamash in the middle and four candles on either side.
When I moved in with my boyfriend during college, I found in that holiest of holy stores, known for its fine selection of Jewish items—Michaels—a shiny silver traditional menorah on sale for 50% off. I forked over the $40 and eagerly brought it home. Unfortunately, around day 6 the top half of the menorah snapped off the base while lit. Wax was spilled, though a fire didn’t result. It was Christmas Eve, and since I celebrate both holidays, there was no money left for a new menorah.
I vaguely remembered a story my mother told of when her parents were young, in love, and had no money nor menorah, and had carved holes in a potato to hold candles. I took the top half of my menorah and planted it into a potato and finished out the holiday.
My mother sold her house and went to live on a boat for several years, at which time I was given the family menorah. By this point nostalgia outweighed any design preferences, and I treasured being the keeper of a piece of family history. It has been my menorah ever since, and I love lighting the same menorah with my own children that I lit as a child, and that my mother lit before me.
But have I mentioned I'm a shopper? Two years ago, I saw these gorgeous gold dinosaur menorahs on Etsy. I thought the kids would love them, though at $80 each, they were out of my budget. However, I had a glue gun and determination, and I figured I could make something similar. I didn’t realize that $80 was mostly to cover the cost of glue.
First off, I couldn’t find reasonably priced and appropriately sized plastic stegosauruses or T-Rexes, so I settled on a snapping turtle with a bumpy shell and a very fine lizard. I bought metal candle holder cups and both gold and silver spray paint. I researched menorah rules and learned that the shamash—or helper candle—must be set aside and higher than the rest, but that menorahs could be made at home without insulting anyone. I could totally do this.
It was pretty easy to hotglue the little metal cups to the plastic animals, and I (wisely, it turned out) decided not to spray paint them after all, as sometimes plastic turns gummy when painted. The boys were delighted to have their own menorahs to light and it also eliminated the arguing over whose turn it was to light the candles each evening.
Except hot glue melts when subjected to heat, say, from a burning candle. In short order the candle holders slid off their animals. It was a Chanukah disaster. I sadly packed the menorahs away and hoped the children would forget about them, but I couldn't bring myself to throw them out. I had wanted them to work so badly.
This year, my youngest found the broken menorahs and asked if we could fix them. It turns out that gluing metal to plastic is surprisingly harder than I thought. Of course, everything comes more easily for my oldest child, and his menorah seemed to know this and cooperated with the Gorilla glue.
However, life has always been harder for my youngest, and menroah making was no exception. Gorilla Glue did not work for his snapping turtle menorah.
I had moderate success with Super Glue, but in the end I might have resorted to duct tape on a few of the most stubborn candle holders, but brown duct tape with a wood grain at least. While technically the candles are supposed to be in a straight line, sometimes you have to make do with what you have, and when what you have is a bumpy-backed snapping turtle, you have to be a little flexible.
Our Chanukah miracle this year wasn’t that we had enough oil to burn for eight nights, but rather that our menorahs stayed glued together for eight nights. With my eldest going into high school next year, I don’t know how many more years of lizard menorahs we have. I’m grateful we got this one, even if it required a little duct tape and determination.
Copyright © 2018 Lara Lillibridge
Public domain imagery courtesy of Snappygoat.com