Today marks the first day of Hanukkah, the eight–day Jewish winter festival that celebrates the miracle of a small cruse of oil when it burned for eight days, instead of only one.
For the owners at Granara’s Flowers in San Carlos, today also marks the start of a very busy time.
“When Hanukkah hits, we start getting more orders than usual,” said Granara’s owner and designer Robin Maffei. “Lots of orders come in sporadically over the Hanukkah week unlike Christmas which comes suddenly all at once.”
Every Hanukkah the family-run flower shop takes in a few dozen orders from people in San Carlos to Menlo Park and Palo Alto, “so we’re very busy right now putting together the first of the Hanukkah flower arrangements and will make deliveries today and all week,” said Maffei, who owns the business with her brother Tim.
Granara’s Flowers has been delivering flowers to the entire San Francisco Bay Area for more than 69 years. Robin and Tim have been in the family business for more than 27 years. They bought the business from their parents in 1995.
“We’ve seen plenty of Hanukkah orders over the years,” said Maffei. “Our customers are very important to us. We go above and beyond with personal hands on professional service with quality and excellence in designs.”
Hanukkah arrangements by Granara’s designers are usually made with white flowers like orchids, lilies, chrysanthemums, and paper whites. Topiaries with ivy in baskets are popular, said Maffei, and blue flowers like belladonna and Iris are used quite often, too. Some arrangements are more elaborate than others with silver, blue and white ribbon as well as holiday greens, snow-tipped pinecones, ornaments, and candles.
“Blue and silver and white are the colors of the Israeli flag so that makes sense,” said Rabbi Derby at Foster City’s Peninsula Jewish Community Center (PJCC), “but sending flowers, and even giving gifts, is not typically a Jewish custom over Hanukkah.”
More customary is to eat food fried in oil like latkes and jelly donuts, said Rabbi Derby, as well as giving children chocolate Hanukkah gelts to play the dreidel game and lighting the menorah in homes and synagogues.
“It’s kind of unusual to send flowers during Hanukkah, an ancient tradition that in Israel there were no flowers, but giving gifts or flowers during Hanukkah has become more customary in America since Hanukkah falls around Christmas time,” said Derby, who will be lighting the first candle on the menorah today at the PJCC at 3:30 p.m.
Whether sending flowers on Hanukkah is customary or not, that’s not stopping the orders from coming in over at Granara’s. Some of the Hanukkah flower arrangements are being given as gifts, said Maffei, and others are bought to be used as centerpieces on diningroom tables tonight and this week as family and friends gather to eat and light the menorah, the most important custom of the holiday, which is so rich in history.
Hanukkah also celebrates the military victory of the Jewish Maccabees over the powerful Syrian Greek army in 167 BCE. The victory was followed by a rededication (Hanukkah) of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. It is from this act that the holiday gets its name.
As the owners of Granara’s Flowers field more calls for Hanukkah orders this week, "we are reminded that people just like giving and getting flowers," said Maffei. “Whatever the holiday, there’s a flower arrangement for it."
And even though it’s not customary to give flowers on Hanukkah, and it’s “kind of unusual,” Rabbi Derby admits, “it’s nice to just send each other flowers no matter the occasion.”