A friend recently told me about this Hanukkah tradition she created and I thought it was so fabulous, I had to share it with you. The concept is that for each night of Hanukkah there is a theme beyond the usual eating, lighting the menorah, and playing dreidel. On the night of the theme, you do Hanukkah activities related to the theme. She has four themes and repeats them, but I’ve created 8 themes, so each night is truly distinct. Here’s how it goes:
Theme 1: Cooking
The cooking theme relates to communal cooking and the passing down of recipes and cooking traditions. As a family (or a couple, or with friends), you cook a meal together, everyone (even little ones) contributing and sharing stories. If an entire meal seems difficult, perhaps it is a baking project, maybe to be given to others. Decorating cookies is always a favorite because many people can easily be involved and kids love it.
Theme 2: Togetherness
The night of togetherness is all about being together as a family. Maybe it looks like a game night, or maybe family movie night. I don’t know about you, but we get so isolated, everyone with their own devices, it is nice to sit face-to-face, playing a game and talking. I taught my kid how to play gin and other than the fact that he beats me regularly, it is really enjoyable. Although in my mind, not as superior as a game, even watching the same movie is nice because you can discuss it afterwards.
Theme 3: Giving
Tzedakah is a well-known theme throughout Jewish life but on Hanukkah you can empty out the tzedakah boxes (top them up if you need to) and take a look at some new charities to give to. As a family, research a new charity or cause together. This is great with kids because they have all kinds of interesting notions about worthy causes based on what they hear and see on the media and at school.
Theme 4: Jewish Culture
One night (or day) celebrate Jewish culture by visiting a local Jewish museum or historical monument. If you don’t have anything like that near you, maybe this is the movie night. It can be as easy as choosing a Jewish movie on Netflix that is appropriate for the whole family.
Theme 5: The Environment
This theme is all about getting out and enjoying the natural world. Maybe a gardening project, going for a hike, a day at the beach, this day is all about being outside.
Theme 6: Volunteering
This is like the evening of giving, but it is more than writing a check. Find a volunteer opportunity that you can involve the children in. Food pantries, soup kitchens, beach cleanups, and the like are great for kids.
Theme 7: Friends
Have a Friends-giving like party with a friend guest for everyone in the family (meaning, it’s not just mom’s friends). Do a potluck if you are worried about hosting a big event.
Theme 8: Family
Like the previous Friends event but for family. Maybe you do this one already with close family but perhaps you can invite some family that you never have over to make it different and special. If you don’t have family close to you, maybe this is when you sit down and write some letters.
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When you plan out your themed nights, consider your work schedule and the optimal days for executing a particular theme. Perhaps for the inaugural year, work them out with your family beforehand. Perhaps they will even think of other themes. If you are a baton carrier, there are a lot of new traditions that can be created here. Although there is a lot of mention of kids, this is definitely something a couple can do or even an individual…without the kids, it becomes immensely easier!
What theme would you add to the list?