My Mortifying Chanukah Party

My Mortifying Chanukah Party

I hesitate whether or not to share this story, since it is SO embarrassing. But then again, this morning I was so thoroughly humiliated that I decided, hey, why not just keep on going?

This morning was my child’s Chanukah party. All the children sitting in a semi-circle with all the mothers facing them, phones and cameras a-ready to capture priceless nachas moments for posterity.

My child was looking exceptionally cute in the Chanukah crown the teacher passed out, and, of course, I started getting all teary eyed. Feeling SO blessed, as a baalat teshuva, to have children who are growing up with stories of the Maccabees and the brave Jews keeping Shabbat and learning Torah in caves and not stories of a baby born in a manger, like I did.

And then my child, without warning, starting picking their nose. And continued doing so for nearly the entire hour and a half of the party.

I tried ignoring it, hoping that the child would soon stop.

I tried being so spiritual and intoxicated with nachas that I didn’t notice.

I tried walking across the room to give the child a tissue and whispering “no nose-picking, use a tissue instead” which worked for 3 seconds until the child dropped the tissue on the floor.

I tried thinking of all this child’s positive qualities.

I tried convincing myself that there were other mothers present who were just as mortified as I was by something their child was doing, but after scanning the children, I realized my child was the only possible suspect of public-mortification.

I tried imagining that none of the other mothers were noticing.

I tried imagining that none of the other mothers present knew that I was the nefarious nose-picker’s mother.

But since all of my frantic efforts failed so totally and miserably, I considered desperate plans of action. I would grab my child by the hand and leave the party. But my child was having such a great time! Then again, maybe I would just sneak out on my own, and leave my child to pick their nose to their heart’s content.

But I didn’t, I just stayed at the party, for the entire hour and a half, and was completely and thoroughly mortified.

After my child had consumed their sufgania and received their bag of treats, I returned home and took a good, long nap.

And when I woke up, very hungry, and I went into the kitchen and saw this bottle of olive oil on the kitchen table. I attended several Chanukah parties this week, and at one of them the teacher somehow superimposed photos of every child onto bottles of olive oil, accompanied by the words “These candles are holy” as a Chanukah gift. Every child is like a candle, the teacher was trying to tell us. A source of light. To brighten up the darkness. To brighten up the world.


And out of the blue, I thought of something Rebbetzin Heller once wrote which shook me up quite a bit when I read it several years ago. She was talking about spiritual desires vs. material desires. I don’t remember exactly what she wrote, but I do remember that on her list of material desires– among things like: the desire for a big house, fancy car, expensive clothing was, also, a parent’s yearning for perfect children.

Looking back at the olive oil, thinking of my child that morning, I read…”These candles are holy.”

Perfect, no.

But holy, definitely.

As holy as the candles and all the Jewish children, each one perfect and imperfect, that will light up our homes and the entire world this Chanukah.


  1. the performance was an hour and a half? how does a little kid perform that long?

  2. it wasn’t a performance, they prayed together, then a rabbi spoke about chanukah, then there was songs and dancing, then sufganiot.

  3. Wow, Chana Jenny, you touched on something so deep in this essay…I think I should make something for my kitchen wall to remember this. Thank you for taking your everyday mothering moments and elevating them in your striving for holiness. Your essays really transform my days! Yishar koach. Chanuka sameach and keep shepping nachas from your eight candles 🙂

  4. Gotta love those gan parties!

  5. Vicki Belovski

    Thank you for sharing this, Chana Jenny. All I can say is, that there’s always a kid who doesn’t know their part, does the actions out of time and spends most of the show looking round the room, wondering why they are there. Usually it’s mine!

    B”H, none of them have ever done this though. But I think that in a few years you’ll look back and laugh – it’s the sort of thing that enters the family’s shared history: “Do you remember that Chanukah party when x picked their nose all the way through??”

    The other mothers probably went home and said – you know there was a child there picking its nose the whole way through and the mother dealt with it so well! She didn’t make a fuss, she didn’t walk out or remove the child! Impressive!

    And if you want to be “really frum” about it – think what a kaparah that amount of embarrassment must be!

    Enjoy Chanukah and Shabbat Shalom.

  6. I think it’s very courageous to share this story with us and I really thank you. You know all jewish mom one day can have the same experience and feel very ashamed by one of our dear children. But you put it into perspective and I liked it. Yes, our children are holy and precious.

  7. Kids will be kids.Firstly, I always love your honesty . Second, I’ve been taught over the years (and its finally sinking in for me), that most ppl are busy thinking about themselves, and aren’t as focused on (in this case), your child as much as you. I’m not Chas vshalom discounting your embaressment, its your place as a mom to feel like that. My friend heard this great Jewish saying and shared with me when I was worrying about something that others thought of me: “Don’t worry about what the horse is thinking, cuz the horse is not thinking!” Dunno why horse is used, but this saying helps me alot. Maybe you know all of the above already, so my apologies if too preachy. Chanukah Sameach to all you wonderful ladies!!

  8. Omg thanks for making me laugh and smile
    That’s a very funny story!
    I’m sorry you were so tortured and humiliated but reading it actually is super funny. I hope that one day you will be able to laugh as well…
    You are super spiritual and connected to HaShem to be able to learn such a deep message especially after feeling so humiliated.
    Chanukah sameach

  9. oh my! all I can say is you seem to have elevated this mortifying experience beautifully!

  10. I am sure this child and his/her nose will bring you much yiddishe nachas! I am not sure if I ever shared this story with you.. I have a Down syndrome son who is 40 yrs old. When he was about 11 or 12 we were at a minyan on Shabbat morning. I heard him above the others singing in his off key monotone and cringed while at the same time thinking how nice my friend’s son was singing on key and clearly. We happened to talk later and she told me how embarrassed she was by her son’s overly loud voice! And how she enjoyed hearing my son put his heart into the davening! I told her my thoughts and we both realized that we are so focused on how we seem to others we don’t really appreciate what we do have. So we must step back and realize how holy and special our kids are just as they are. (My friend’s son passed away two years ago at age 36 – leaving a wife and seven children. May his memory be for a blessing.)

    • no, you never shared that story, it is very powerful. I am sorry to hear that the other boy passed away…very sad

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