Perhaps the best-known of the Jewish holidays, Hanukkah has gained significant prominence in the last hundred years or so due to its proximity on the calendar to Christmas. Although it is technically a minor festival, ’tis the season for everything festive, and Hanukkah has its fair share of the market in holiday decorations, tchotchkes, and other consumer products.
There’s a lot to celebrate for Hanukkah. You’ll need all the basics just for your family, but if you’re also having a party on one of those eight crazy nights, you might need a few more things. Check out these selections, but keep in mind that these are by no means the only ones out there!
The Origins of Hanukkah
Hanukkah, or Chanukah, is simply the Jewish festival of rededication. As the story goes, the Temple of Jerusalem was ransacked and scores of Jewish people were killed between 175 BCE and 165 BCE. However, the priest Mattathias the Hasmonean and his five sons (one of whom was the legendary Judah Maccabee) revolted against the persecuting Seleucid Empire. After a successful revolt, they rededicated the once-destroyed temple to the Hebrew God, but another problem arose. There was only enough oil for one day, despite needing a much larger supply. Nevertheless, the one-day supply eventually burned for eight days; hence the name “festival of lights.”
A lot of families will choose to have a Hanukkah party for their friends and family on one of the eight nights of the holiday. Why not show them how’s it’s done?
Put up some blue, silver, and white in honor of Israel. Also, lighted decorations are a cool way to remain festive amidst all the Christmas displays in town. Check out a lighted dreidel for your window or some blue outdoor lights.
Grab some Hanukkah-themed invites and send them out a few weeks in advance. For a mixed party, have people show their different faiths by bringing a variety of traditional foods. Or, stick to a traditional Hanukkah dinner with potato latkesand sufganiyot.
When guests arrive, have the activities ready to go. The dreidel game is a good, traditional choice! For a memorable and heartwarming activity, ask guests to think of an inspiring moment or situation they have experienced. This is nice way for friends and family to connect with each other.
Gift exchanges are great! If your family can’t get together for each of the eight days, you might want to choose to do one gift instead, or give all eight gifts in one night!
For non-Jewish participants, dreidels are always a cool item to give out.
When people think about Hanukkah, their first image is usually of a menorah–a candelabrum with nine branches. Eight of the menorah’s branches represent the eight nights for which the one-day supply of oil burned. The ninth branch holds the candle that is used to light the others. This is called the shamash. When it’s time to purchase a menorah, you can find one in almost any department store. There are lots of menorahs on the market, both traditional and whimsical.
Brass menorahs are very traditional. These will take you back to Hanukkah’s roots.
Silver menorahs are the most common, and they are a beautiful piece to use year after year.
These give a modern edge to a time-honored tradition.
Ceramic menorahs can be super colorful and fun. Just make sure the kids don’t grab a hold of it!
These are ideal for busy households where flames could be hazardous.
The perfect way to teach children how a menorah works.
Oil-burning menorahs add a touch of splendor to the holiday.
Whimsical menorahs are always a fun decoration.
Unless you have an electric menorah, you will need candles. The candle’s size depends on the menorah; most have a base measurement of nine millimeters and will range in height
Grab some candles for your menorah! Keep things traditional with white, blue, or silver, but for some festive fun, opt for a little color.
Hand-dipped candles are a fun way to bring it back to the basics.
For any electric menorah, pick up a set of these bulbs.
Oil and Wicks:
If you choose to go with an oil-burning menorah you’ll want to stock up on that oil ahead of time.
Known as s’vivon in Israel, dreidels are fun to twirl, and are often ornamental. This spinning top is four-sided, may either have a bulbous or pointed bottom, and are typically made from wood or plastic (though metal and glass are available). Basic wooden models are perfect for kids to play with (wood spins better than plastic), but do keep the decorative ones in the curio cabinet. If you’re not familiar with the dreidel or Jewish religion, a Hebrew letter is emblazoned or carved on each side–an acronym for “Nes gadol hayah sham” or ” A great miracle happened here.” And, if you don’t know how to play the game, here are the rules.
Plastic dreidels are an inexpensive option and are so much fun for kids!
Wooden dreidels are pretty common, so it should be easy to find one.
Metal dreidels will cost a little bit more, but make for lovely Hanukkah gifts.
You can pick up some colorful ceramic dreidels from Israel–find them on the web!
For any night of dreidel-spinning, grab one of these kits to decorate your own.
Latkes and sufganiyot (jelly donuts) are best made from scratch, but here a few helpers in case you can’t do it yourself. Make sure you have a good pan for frying those potato pancakes, no matter how you make them. If you want to make sufganiyot, you’ll need a deep fryer too. Don’t forget the cookies!
This staple of Hanukkah is a fried potato pancake. It is made with potato, flour, and eggs.
Make your favorite pastries for the holidays. From sweet potato biscuits to donuts, these warm delicacies will make everyone come back for seconds.
Add a little sweetness to your biscuits, or fill those sufganiyots with delicious flavored jams.
Pots and Pans
You will need a few pots and pans to create those Hanukkah dishes.
You will need a deep fryer to make some of these dishes. A fryer is safer than stove-top frying pans and requires less clean-up.
Make batches of cookies in the shape of dreidels and menorahs. It’s a perfect way for young children to learn about Hanukkah.
Frosting and Icing Tools
Once the cookies and cakes are made, top them with frosting. Use icing tools to create clean decorative looks.
Menorah Cake Mold
Not only will a menorah cake mold create an eye-catching treat, you can also turn it into an edible lesson for kids.
Sugar Cookie Dough
If you want to keep holiday foods simple, try making sugar cookies. They taste delicious with or with frosting.
“The Chosen Beer.” Need we say more?
Don’t forget some tunes to add to the atmosphere of your celebration. Hanukkah songs and Jewish music albums have flourished in the last few years, so you’re not just stuck with endless repetitions of the dreidel song. From kids to adults, here are a few popular Hanukkah albums.
Ner Mitzvah Chanukah Candles
This pack of multicolored candles will add to the holiday’s festivity.
Rite-Lite Judaica Silvertone Menorah
Rite-Lite’s menorah is polished and stands just over nine inches in height. Standard 9mm Hanukkah candles can be used.
Dreidel Dog Toy
Even animals can have a little fun with the dreidel. Features a rattle and squeaker.
Kurt Adler Hanukkah Wall Calendar
Kids will love using this fabric menorah. All you need to do is stick a “candle” onto the cloth.
Shabbat Box of Questions
Whether you’re throwing a party or hanging with the family, this box of questions is a perfect way to spark conversation, exchange ideas, and bond.