Traditional Hanukkah Celebrations

For those who are unfamiliar with Hanukkah, this handy primer will tell you everything you need to know for planning a family Hanukkah celebration. The perfect family Hanukkah, or Chanukka as it is sometimes spelled in English, should include party games to make it a memorable Hanukkah gathering for everyone. When you have activities to go with your Hanukkah celebration, all of your guests including the children will have a good time. Of course the party gifts, food and decorations that you have will also give everyone warm memories of your celebration.

Details to Make Your Hanukkah Perfect

1. Greet Guests

Some things that people forget are simple Hanukkah gathering etiquette. Little things like greeting guests at the door, introducing everyone to each other, at least one planned activity, and kid-friendly food will go a long way towards making people feel welcome.

2. Don’t Forget the Menorah!

Have your Menorah and candles ready before your guests arrive and display it in a prominent place.The Menorah is usually lit before eating, but at least one half hour after it gets dark and before playing any games. Only one candle is lit every night of Hanukkah. There are eight candles in a row and one high in the middle. This one is the Shamash and is used to light the other candles. On the first night of your Hanukkah Celebration, place one candle on the far right of the Menorah and another for the Shamash. A blessing is said and then the Shamash candle is lit first. The Shamash is then used to light the other candle. On every day of Hanukkah, add a candle and light it using the Shamash candle. Any of the guests, including the children can be invited to light the Menorah.

3. Exchange Gifts & Spin the Dreidel

It is common to exchange gifts after the lighting of the Menorah. One gift per day is the tradition. After the lighting of the Menorah and the exchanging of the gifts, it is common to play the dreidel game. The driedel is something like a small top with markings on the sides. Depending on what side the dreidel lands on someone will either win a candy or coin from another player’s “pot” or they will have to give one up.

After the Lighting of the Menorah, the gift giving and the games, it will be time to serve the traditional foods of the Jewish Hanukkah celebration.


4. Eat a Traditional Jewish Meal

The menu for a true Jewish Hanukkah celebration should include the foods that are symbolic of the events that are celebrated. Many foods are fried in oil to represent the oil that was only supposed to last one day to light the temple Menorah but miraculously lasted for eight days (the reason for the eight candles). Loukoumades, or deep-fried honey puffs are just one traditional food for your Hanukkah celebration. Latkes or potato pancakes are another fried food that should be including when you are planning a family Hanukkah celebration.

Cheese and dairy dishes are to be served in honor of Judith, a wealthy widow, who seduced a Syrian General, fed him salty cheese and gave him wine to quench his thirst. When the General fell asleep, Judith cut off his head. As the story goes, when his army found him they fled as opposed to attacking the Jewish people. A few good dishes to serve are cheesecakes, cheese blintzes, and cheese bagels.

Sufganiyah or jelly donuts should also be served. They represent the “circle of life,” and when the jelly inside is reached people are supposed to look into their souls.

If you follow these details when planning a family Hanukkah celebration, and use others you may have in your family, you will have a wonderful Hanukkah gathering.


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Tracy is the Editor in Chief for WomensForum. The daughter of a Texas football coach and a high school teacher, Tracy is a passionate sports fan, an avid reader, world traveller and connoisseur of barbeque. When she's not being a workaholic, our Gal Friday is catching up on the latest binge-watch show, exploring a new neighborhood or being Sid and Harry's favorite aunt.