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Menorah tree combines two traditions

Menorah tree
Menorah tree

Is is a giant Hanukkah menorah or a Christmas tree?

It’s a menorah tree — offering an alternative for Jewish or interfaith families who want to heighten their festivities while still honoring the Festival of Lights.

Standing more than six feet tall, the powder-coated aluminum menorah tree is shaped like a menorah — the traditional candelabrum Jews use in celebrating the eight nights of Hanukkah. Festooned with artificial garlands, it will be on sale for $285 at South Florida craft fairs for the first time this year. It can be dressed up with lights or even ornaments, likening it more to the Christmas tree.

Brothers Michael and Alex Patchen came up with the idea of the menorah tree as a gift for Michael’s wife, who was raised by a Catholic mother and a Jewish father and missed having a Christmas tree in the home.

“We were looking for something more iconically Jewish but that would still be a centerpiece for the family,” said Michael Patchen, 40, who lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, and works as a financial analyst. “So we surprised her with it. It addressed her need for something warm and festive, and also on a larger scale than a traditional menorah.”

Hanukkah, which begins at sundown Dec. 16 this year, is an eight-day observance that marks the Jewish people's struggle for religious freedom.

It commemorates the Macabees’ defeat of the much-larger Greek-Syrian army that had invaded Israel, as well as the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. As the Jews purified the Holy Temple, they found only one flask of the oil for the eternal lamp — enough to keep it burning for just one day. But in what is described as a miracle, the oil lasted eight days and nights, which is why Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights.

Since the holiday typically falls close to the much larger Christmas celebration, many Jewish families also take part in the Christmas tree tradition — often referring to it as a Hanukkah bush.

A Pew Research survey released last year found that 32 percent of Jews said they had a Christmas tree in their home the previous year. The practice is particularly common in interfaith families. Among Jews married to non-Jews, 71 percent said they put up a tree, the survey found.

The menorah tree gives those Jews a new twist on the tree, said Patchen, who has three children and whose parents live in Boynton Beach. The brothers have partnered with a company in Pennsylvania to manufacture the tree.

“It helps our family,” he said, “and for interfaith families and others that want something big and festive, and a Hanukkah bush wasn’t for them, we thought this was an interesting alternative.”

How to buy

The menorah tree will be available for $285 on Nov. 22 and 23 at the Miami Harvest Festival at the Miami-Dade Fair & Expo, 10901 Coral Way; and on Dec. 6-7 at the South Florida Fair, 9067 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach.

The tree is also available at www.menorahtree.com for $285.