I grew up with the ultimate outdoor menorah. My father’s creation was roughly four feet tall, and built out of wood. Every year, I can vividly remember lighting our little menorahs and then coming outside with my family to light the big majestic menorah. When my father first started becoming more Torah-observant, he built the menorah after learning about the concept of pirsumei nisa — publicizing the Hanukkah miracle. He felt the biggest honor would be to make a big outdoor menorah that would proudly show his Jewish identity and one that the whole neighborhood could admire. So he got to work, and his creation glows triumphantly outside my house in Houston, Texas every year.
Every Jewish holiday celebrated in a pandemic presents us with new challenges, and one big question that comes with Hanukkah is: How can we light the menorah outside? With the unpredictability of the weather and the real possibility of a stiff breeze, it might seem like an impossible feat, but have no fear, we have three creative ideas for you!
Create a Menorah Terrarium
In Israel, many people use glass boxes for their menorahs to protect the lights from blowing out. You can recreate this with a glass terrarium or even an upcycled aquarium. Pick a glass box that fits your menorah or, alternatively, use nine candle glasses that can fit inside the box and improvise your own menorah.
Admittedly, electric bulbs don’t quite conjure the miracle of the oil the same way smoky oil lamps or drippy candles do. But, they do let you forget about the wind factor completely. Individual bulbs can be purchased here or you can find many fully electric menorahs online for a reasonable price. Ultimately, electric is just as beautiful and creates less mess, easy clean up and can be readily reused if you want to light outdoors again! And in case you’re wondering, electric lights certainly fulfill the ritual obligation (there is no requirement to use oil lamps or wax candles).
Build an Outdoor Hanukkah Installation Like My Father
This one’s for the crafty people! First, conjure an image of your final menorah and then purchase the wooden planks, a saw, long screws, a drill, containers for your candles, and thick glue (though even super glue can work!). Start putting it together starting with the stem and candle area in a T-shape and then cut pieces to create the branches and make sure they fit as you cut. Screw the whole thing together with your drill and create a stand with more wood at the base to hold the menorah up straight. You can turn this into a family activity and everyone can get to play a part in the final creation. It doesn’t have to be wood! You can use your imagination and create a menorah from brick, concrete or even children’s building blocks for an easy affordable option that can be deconstructed after the holiday!
Hanukkah is all about finding light amidst the darkness and lighting your menorah outside embodies this sentiment, both figuratively and literally. The challenges of a pandemic present us with an opportunity to get creative. Maybe you’ll fall in love with the experience of lighting outside, and keep the custom after Covid is long over. Either way, we hope these ideas brought some light into your Hanukkah planning process!
And if you decide to take it a step further and plan a full Hanukkah party outside, we’ve got a guide for that too.