Hanukkah for Families

Eight days of fun.

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And don't forget the decorations. Judaica stores sell lots of colorful Hanukkah decorations that make the house feel more festive. You may want to choose your own Hanukkah decorating theme. I know one family that decorate their house with homemade pictures of Jewish holiday objects, which symbolize to them the uniqueness of Judaism--definitely a theme of the holiday.

Make Each Night Special

One of the wonderful things about Hanukkah is that it lasts eight days! Giving each night a special theme can increase the excitement and take some of the attention away from presents. Themes might include “Tzedakah (charity) night,” “Sing-Off Night,” “Party Night,” and of course, “Presents Night!”  I know a family that eats a different kind of potato latke (pancake) for dinner each night. Apples, cauliflower, or even meat can be delicious additions to the traditional potato latke. For a creative collection of latkes recipes see here.  Cheese is also a great Hanukkah food, as it recollects the heroism of Judith, who cleverly fed King Holofernes salty cheese and wine. When the King promptly fell asleep, Judith cut off his head and thereby saved her town from his tyranny.

Hanukkah is also an ideal time to do fun activities like playing music, taking pictures, or making home movies documenting the year’s celebration. One family I know drips Hanukkah candle wax each night on their family album. Then, the following year, they take out the album, look at the wax, and try to remember where they were and what they did on each night.

Celebrate our Uniqueness

One of the miracles of Hanukkah is that the Jewish people were able to re-consecrate the Temple--our spiritual center and a powerful symbol of our uniqueness. Hanukkah today presents us with the opportunity to re-consecrate our own uniqueness as a religion, a people, and a culture.

Hanukkah is a time to discuss as a family some of the blessings and challenges of being Jewish in a predominantly Christian country. One way to spark discussion on this subject is to watch a movie that in some way tackles the subject of assimilation. Some suggestions include: My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Avalon, Keeping the Faith, The Jazz Singer, Monsoon Wedding, and American Desi.

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Sarah Gershman

Sarah Gershman is a Teaching Fellow at the Partnership for Jewish Living and Learning in Rockville, MD. Sarah is the president of Green Room Speakers.