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How to Celebrate Hanukkah on a Budget

Enjoy the Festival of Lights without breaking the bank.

Hanukkah is a joyous festival of light and miracles that falls in the darkest days of winter — at least, for those residing in the Northern Hemisphere. Hanukkah celebrations can be elaborate, but they need not break the bank.

There is only one mitzvah associated with Hanukkah, and that is lighting the Hanukkah candles. A box of basic Hanukkah candles can usually be acquired at a grocery store, Judaica shop, or online for a few dollars. It is lovely to have a beautiful menorah, and inexpensive disposable ones can also be acquired fairly cheaply, but in truth you can make your own or even light a row of the appropriate number of tea candles placed directly on a table and this will fulfill the mitzvah.

The most common Hanukkah traditions outside of candle-lighting are eating latkes and jelly donuts and playing dreidel. Latkes, especially, can be made with relatively inexpensive ingredients: potatoes, oil, some kind of binder and seasonings like salt, flour, matzah meal, and egg. But you need not make or eat latkes. Around the world and through time, Jews have eaten a variety of fried foods, and there is no requirement to eat any.

A simple recipe for potato latkes.

Likewise, a dreidel is a simple spinning top and can be acquired cheaply. You can play the game with any kind of simple marker — pennies, poker chips, jelly beans, or peanuts.

The biggest Hanukkah expense for most families usually comes in the form of gifts. Here, it is helpful to know that there is no requirement to give expensive gifts — or even give gifts at all — on Hanukkah. Traditionally, gifts are only given on Purim and it is only in the last 150 years, and because of its proximity to Christmas, that Jews have given gifts on Hanukkah.

Hanukkah is about celebrating religious freedom. A joyful atmosphere and celebration can be engineered on any budget.

Tips for celebrating Passover on a budget.

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