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8 Fun Ways to Celebrate Hanukkah This Year

Shari Bender

To summarize, in the immortal words of Adam Sandler, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah consists of “eight crazy nights.” Made even crazier as we continue to look for creative ways to celebrate in the midst of a pandemic.

This year, Hanukkah begins at sundown on Sunday, November 28th. Not Jewish? Not a problem. Forward this to a Hanukkah-celebrating friend, or consider incorporating some ideas into your own holiday celebrations!

8 Fun Ways to Celebrate Hanukkah

1. Wear matching Hanukkah gear and snap a fun family photo.

Do not hesitate to beg or bribe your family to pose. No time to order coordinating dreidel shirts? Pick matching hues and incorporate some of your favorite holiday decor.

And there's no need for a professional photographer. Enlist a neighbor and you’ve got a 10-minute easy phone photo shoot. Family completely uninterested? Never underestimate the power of a good family selfie, the 10-second version of the family photo.

2. Indulge your sweet tooth.

Grab some foil-wrapped chocolate coins (lovingly known as Hanukkah gelt) to share with your family and friends. The kids who live next door to me always look forward to their bags of gelt, especially since that’s something that Santa never brings.

And it has been a tough year, so allow yourself that extra coin. Or two.

3. Choose one night of Hanukkah as “charity night” in lieu of gifts.

This is a long-standing tradition of my family and it’s been interesting to watch my kids’ selections change throughout the years. My youngest often chose animal charities when he was little, but in recent years has chosen The Trevor Project, dedicated to helping and supporting at-risk LGBTQIA+ youth.

Charity night is one of my favorite nights. It feels good to give back and gives the family a chance to reflect on gratitude and share with each other why our particular charity is meaningful to us.

Find the best charities >

4. Make one night “family game night.”

Again, instead of gifts, let everyone choose a game out of the old game closet to wrap for family fun to be played during the month of December. You wouldn’t believe how hilarious it can be to have four adults playing Hungry Hungry Hippo.

After you're done, consider giving away any games that are no longer a fit for your family. Our collector’s edition Candy Land is definitely heading to the preschoolers down the street.

5. Write a handwritten note to a friend or a loved one.

One thing the pandemic has really driven home is the importance of connection. Often we think about how special people are in our lives, so maybe this is the year you should immortalize your words on paper.

The handwritten word can be extremely powerful. I recently received a warm handwritten note which is hanging proudly on my fridge. You could truly make someone's lonely holiday season a whole lot brighter just by letting them know how much they mean to you.

6. Make your own potato latkes.

If you've never had a latke, think McDonald’s hash brown, only infinitely better. Dollop on a side of applesauce, sour cream or hot sauce for extra pizazz.

Likely your favorite celebrity chef has their own spin on the latke. You can even throw in carrots and spinach for a healthy twist on the classic.

7. Donut and Dance night.

Jelly donuts are a traditional Hanukkah treat. But in an effort to counter the calories, accompany your donuts with a dance off!

Everyone in the family can pick their favorite song. Trust me, the kids will love to bust out a song with questionable lyrics — roll with it and show them those polished 80’s and 90’s moves.

8. Zoom it.

If you can't get together in person with loved ones, schedule a Zoom menorah lighting. As the glow of candles fills your screen, along with smiles and laughter, you'll feel connected in love and light even if you are far apart.

You could sing a song or two, and even play dreidel. A holiday Zoom costume contest could also be a Zoomerific way to celebrate.

No matter how you spell it, Chanukah is a time for family and celebration.

For the loved ones who are no longer with us, we cherish their memories and hold them in our hearts. Our holiday observances may be smaller this year, but the lights of Hanukkah and the sparkle of the holiday season can still shine bright with hope for the New Year.

Wishing a Happy and Healthy Hanukkah to those who celebrate and a safe and warm holiday season to all.

Dreidels for celebrating Hanukkah

Photos courtesy of the author.

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Shari earned her BA in Communication from Stanford University and freelances all things Communication and Marketing. She is a cat-loving spiritual vegan and former admissions interviewer. With two grown children, Shari is happily and sentimentally embracing her Empty Nest along with her husband of nearly 30 years. Her musings delight parents in numerous publications and online platforms, including CollegiateParent and Grown & Flown.

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