A towering inflatable dreidel, sparkly Stars of David and menorahs in green laser lights, plus foot-high, blue letters proclaiming “Happy Hanukkah” sprouting from the front yard of a home in West Chandler make it clear: The time for the annual Jewish eight-day celebration is at hand.
Hanukkah, which this year begins at sundown Dec. 10 and runs through Dec. 18, marks the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem around 200 B.C. The first candle on the menorah is lighted on the first evening of Hanukkah.
Jed and Danielle Wiltchik, parents of two young sons, moved into the neighborhood last spring and quickly became known for their elaborate holiday yard decorations. Their street had never had a Hanukkah light display. That is, until now.
“Hanukkah—it’s tradition,” Jed explained. “We both were raised in families that are deeply rooted in Jewish tradition and it’s why we met on JDate.”
The Jewish dating website has paired thousands of Jewish couples over the last two decades, including Jed’s brother and sister-in-law.
“Hanukkah is a minor holiday so it’s really about festivities and having fun and teaching the kids about the history of our people,” Danielle explained. “The story is very important. You read the story and you explain to them about Judas Maccabeus and you explain to them about the battle of allowing yourself to believe in one God.”
Inside their home, blue tinsel wraps around the bannister and Stars of David are still further reminders of the family’s faith. Then there are the culinary delights of the season: latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) among them.
“The word ‘Hanukkah’ means dedication, so you dedicate yourself back to believing in one thing, which is our God,” Danielle said. “We do that through the festivities of playing dreidel, eating latkes, sufganiyot, lighting candles, singing songs and saying our prayers.”
Garrison, 11, and Griffin, 9, receive gifts, too, as part of the holiday fun.
Though it comes during the same month as Christmas this year (some years it falls in November) the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, the family noted, is not a substitute for the Christian holiday.
“It is not something that we’re in a competition, but everyone has their own beliefs and their own religion,” Danielle said. “We teach our children to respect all religions and we teach them by explaining to them and answering any questions they have about it.”
As for the light-filled Hanukkah display in the Wiltchik’s front yard, it’s definitely been noticed.
“A lot of people have been stopping by,” Jed said. “They tell us, ‘We love your display!’”
Other Jewish holy days, such as Yom Kippur, are solemn affairs. Not so with Hanukkah.
“We always go over the top,” Danielle said, chuckling. “For us, it’s a minor holiday and a joyous holiday—so many times you don’t get a chance to just celebrate, have fun and enjoy.”