As a Jewish mom of two, it can be hard to celebrate Hanukkah when there are big, commercialized holidays overshadowing it.
Celebrating Hanukkah when you are Jewish can be harder in areas where Christmas is commercialized and in your face. It can be hard to keep your children interested in holidays when they seem smaller and less exciting.
When we celebrate Hanukkah and The Festival of Lights, we have many traditions. We light the menorah, recite blessings, and make latkes. But we have been trying to incorporate new traditions to make it even more enticing and fun. I believe kids need to understand and love their Jewish lives to be more grateful for the holiday we do have. I mean Hanukkah is eight nights when Christmas is only one! All jokes aside, it’s important to show respect and to teach our children about our different religions.
There are helpful resources out there and many Jewish Instagrammers that can help families make their holiday and traditions unique. My Jewish Learning and Everyday Jewish Mom are just a couple I look at often. I really like Marti’s article from Everyday Jewish Mom about Christmas Envy and how to help children through the holidays.
Our family does different themes for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah.
Night 1 :: Family Game Night :: Try a brand-new family board game. The idea is to welcome the first night of Hanukkah with gratitude for the people we love.
>> RELATED READ :: Mom’s Recipes for Hanukkah <<
Night 2 :: Favorite Things Night :: For the second night, everyone picks a favorite thing — food, games, toys — to share with everyone for the evening. We want to celebrate everyone’s unique likes.
Night 3 :: Handmade Gift Night :: The third night honors family with anything made by hand, which could include cookies, knitted scarves, handwritten letters, kids’ art, bookmarks, and jewelry. Or even little handmade gift cards promising to shovel snow, give a foot massage, clean the garage, help a child learn to ride a bike. It can be anything given from the heart.
Night 4 :: Get Cozy Movie Night :: The fourth night is all about the blessing of being warm and comfy. Put on some comfy jammies, grab the popcorn or latkes, and cuddle up with family.
>> RELATED READ :: Local Hanukkah Events <<
Night 5 :: Tikkun Olam :: Tikkun olam is Hebrew for “repairing the world.” This is a night to do something for someone else, an act of kindness that will make the world just a little better. Take a meal to an elderly neighbor. Serve at a soup kitchen. Put together money to donate to a charity. The gift on the fifth night is the goodness of doing for others.
Night 6 :: Book Night :: The sixth night is about sharing our favorite books, and the evening is spent reading and being together with the flicker of Hanukkah candles nearby.
Night 7 :: Laughter Night :: Gifts on the seventh night are chosen to make people laugh. Framed old snapshots, silly toys, comic books, gifts with an inside-joke quality — whatever brings in the light of laughter works great.
Night 8 :: Hidden Gift Night :: The last night of Hanukkah can be any gift at all! The fun is in finding the gift itself using clues, treasure maps, or warmer/colder hints (“You’re getting warmer!”). This is a great, happy way to conclude the holiday.
Even More Hanukkah Ideas
There are also lots of music, crafts, and yummy food that go into making Hanukkah special. I recommend these resources:
Hanukkah is a sweet, beautiful winter gift. We like making it our own by creating new traditions and honoring old ones. As a family, we try not to concentrate only on the presents.
I hope you enjoy your holiday, however you celebrate!