By Ashley Steel
Hanukkah is fast approaching. An eight-day celebration, you might think this Jewish holiday requires an intensive amount of preparation, but that’s not the case.
Hanukkah is unique when compared to other Jewish holidays. “We are allowed to work, there are no real restrictions and no big meals. The only obligation on Chanukah is to light the Menorah (an eight-part candelabra),” says Seth Weinberg, vice president of Kent Marketing, representative for Royal Wine Corp /Kedem, the world’s largest kosher wine importer and distributor.
That being said, “there is not really that much to prepare besides making sure you have candles,” says Rachel Teichman, creator of the online resource oogiah.com, where you can find Jewish family resources. “You need candles, which are usually small and come in different colors. The candles are put in right to left and lit left to right with the shamash (the helper candle in the tallest candleholder).”
Other components of this holiday are optional, including food, games and gift giving:
“Traditional foods include potato pancakes (latkes) or jelly doughnuts,” says Weinberg. These foods are typically fried in oil to commemorate the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days after a small army of Jewish soldiers defeated the Greeks, who were trying to destroy their temple. Other popular foods and sides include applesauce, brisket and kugel, says Teichman.
Easy to make, these foods are the perfect way to break in your new gourmet kitchen. They also make for easy cleanup and are crowd-pleasing for the family that loves to entertain.
“The most traditional game is the dreidel (Yiddish for top),” says Weinberg. The game includes spinning the dreidel to win coins or candy. There are 4 Hebrew letters on a dreidel. Together they stand for “a great miracle happened there” and each letter tells you what to do with the coins or candy.
Perfect for the modern home’s open floor plan, children and parents can unite in playing games, eating and catching up all at once and in the same space.
“Some parents give coins. Some give one big gift one night. Some give gifts every night. Although kids may feel differently, gifts are not really the point of the holiday,” says Teichman.
Instead, she suggests celebrating by contributing to a charity or spending a night volunteering. Additionally, a family can celebrate with something intangible like a movie night, she says. (How about giving that new media room a try?)
“Decorating is not a major part of Chanukah, but people have started doing that,” says Teichman.
Some people get electrical menorahs to display in their windows. Other increasingly popular elements of Hanukkah are decorative plates and latke servers. Throwing parties to commemorate this holiday and sending out Hanukkah cards are also a fun way to mark this important celebration. The use of blue, white and silver is also a fun element of Hanukkah celebrations.
This year, enjoy Hanukkah at home with your loved ones. May your menorah burn bright for eight days.