Celebrating Hanukkah in 2020 at the CMS HQ (with the Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE)

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Toyota Canada. All opinions are 100% mine.

In my home, we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas – Chad and I have an interfaith marriage, and let me tell you, December is a CRAZY month in our house but by far one of the most fun; putting up decorations, picking up and wrapping gifts, making and eating tons of holiday treats, scheduling and attending gatherings – virtual this year – and more! Toyota Canada is highlighting how Canadians are spending their holidays this year and loaned me the 2021 Camry Hybrid XSE so I could take you along for our Hanukkah celebrations which involved driving around to pick up and drop off items and promptly returning home. Consider it a little behind-the-scenes of what goes on to make Hanukkah happen in our house.

Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of lights. Simply put, it is the celebration of a miracle: a small container of oil used to light a candelabra should have only burned for one day, burned for 8 instead. The oil was used to light the candelabra inside a holy temple that was destroyed during a war that a small Jewish army went in to fight for and reclaim. That’s why we light a menorah for 8 nights and eat super oily foods like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts). If you want to learn more about Hanukkah and some of the other traditions and festivities we do during this time, you can read about it here.

Back to the present day. When it’s not 2020, my family has two large parties with extended family – my mom’s family and my dad’s, and a smaller immediate family gathering or two over the span of 8 days. We eat, we sing, we light the menorah, we exchange gifts. Children get hyped up on sugar and revel in torn wrapping paper and new presents. Sometimes, they’ll even play dreidel and gamble away their Hanukkah gelt. It’s a HOPPIN’ good time. This year, we’re doing Zoom parties instead, but we’ll still be delivering gifts and incorporating our regular traditions right at home, just us three.

To prepare this year, I had a few things on my to-do list. Most of my shopping was done online for gifts and I wrapped them at home in thematic blue and white. I had to pick up special ingredients for making much-adored latkes, I got my hands on sufganiyot, which I picked up from a famed local bakery, and of course plenty of Hanukkah candles for the menorah – 44! And finally, we dropped off all gifts on my family’s porches just in time for the first night.

This is where the 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE comes in because I used it to run all of these holiday errands. The hybrid engine means it is great for city driving and I noticed a sizable decrease in fuel costs compared to driving a traditional gas sedan without sacrificing any performance or style. I had driven a Camry a few years ago when traveling and this one looks entirely upgraded. It’s so…sexy!?! Yup. The 2021 Toyota Camry fuses technology, a bold and sporty design, and safety – which, for a mama, is definitely sexy. The exterior colour of this one is wind chill pearl with a black roof – I love the subtle iridescence against the sleek black glass. The interior in mine has bold red leather seats and a ton of bells and whistles including a heated steering wheel and seats, a 9” touchscreen, and compatibility with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™. The brand is also synonymous with safety and this model comes equipped with Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+, which includes a pre-collision system, lane departure alert, and more. A lot more actually, you can see the details here. It was easy and comfortable to drive, had a very generous trunk for all of the lugging we had to do, and delivered us safely wherever we needed to go – and we did run into our fair share of snow in the midst of all of this.

I’ll be using this recipe to make latkes this year, feel free to give it a try if you haven’t had them before. Each night, we add an extra candle to the menorah and light it with a couple of blessings. While many families give their kids gifts every night, we limit it to just one small gift for Riley – this year, it’s the Memory game. Her family will be delivering gifts for her so we don’t like to overdo it on our end. And you probably know me well enough to know it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality and not bringing too much ‘future clutter’ into our home.

As with any holiday, the most important thing is spending quality time together, practicing traditions, and creating memories. This year, it’ll all be done virtually but the secret sauce – the family time and the traditions of the holiday itself – is still there. Next year I hope we can be together and talk about the never-ending wackiness of 2020 and pass it off as a distant memory. This year more than ever, the holidays are a reminder to focus on what matters most – quality family time together in a safe and healthy way.

I want to genuinely thank Toyota Canada for coming up with such a creative campaign to showcase the 2021 Camry Hybrid XSE and for inviting me to be a part of it. I love and appreciate Canada’s diversity and enjoy sharing about my own culture and traditions as well as learning about others’. However and whatever you are celebrating this year, I hope you enjoy and have a meaningful holiday.

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Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.