Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, is so much more than eight days of presents (no matter what little kids tell you). It is a wonderful celebration of family, fun, and wonderful traditions. There are so many fun ways to celebrate Chanukah, and in fact, here is a great guide to celebrating each day of Chanukah in a different way.
1. The first night of Chanukah is the most exciting in my opinion. It starts the eight days of creating new family memories. The first activity that you should try is making your own menorah
. I know that most people have their own menorahs, whether they're family heirlooms or contemporary pieces of art, but this is a fun activity for the kids and parents to do together. You will have to start on this project early if you want to use it for the first night so that the glue has time to dry.
2. The second night of Chanukah, after the gifts have been opened, is a great time to play a few fun games. The most popular game during Chanukah is a game of chance- the spinning of the dreidel. Each Hebrew letter on the 4-sided top/dreidel stands for a game action:
N (nun)= Get nothing from the jackpot.
G (gimel)= Get everything from the jackpot.
H (he)= Get half of the jackpot.
S (shin)= Put ½ the money in the jackpot.
If you don't have a dreidel already, you can purchase one from a goods supply or toy store. Have your guests bring pennies, gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins (also called gelt), or candies to put in the jackpot, or distribute these items yourself during game time. Have everyone place a penny/candy into the jackpot and then take turns spinning the dreidel to determine who wins or loses. At the end of the game, have everyone count their winnings, and use the pennies and candies to "purchase" small, wrapped gifts that you've prepared ahead of time.
3. On the third night of Chanukah have a latke exchange! Let's face it, people like to eat latke with many different toppings. Some like them plain, while others cover them in applesauce to add to or hide the taste (I confess, I like a little latke with my applesauce). Sugar and cinnamon is one of the most popular seasonings that kids like to use to add to the taste of latke. I even have an uncle who likes to cover them in sour crème. Everyone gets to make some of their favorite latke (enough for each person to taste one), and then share their favorite latke recipe with the group.
4. On the fourth night of Chanukah, have a gift exchange with your family and or friends. A super fun way to exchange gifts is the Right-Left Gift Swap. Whether you use gag gifts, thoughtful gifts, or "white elephant" gifts, this is sure to add a lot of excitement to the fourth night of Chanukah.
5-6. Although Chanukah is a fun holiday and a time for celebrating family, it is also a time to think about those who are less fortunate. One of the most compassionate and rewarding activities that you can do on the fifth night of Chanukah (or any other night) is to volunteer your time and or money/gifts to those who are less fortunate. Whether you volunteer your time as well as canned goods to a soup kitchen, or donate toys/clothing to a shelter or charity, there is no better feeling in your heart than when you make someone else's life a little bit easier. In fact, this is such a rewarding experience that you might want to do it on the sixth night as well.
7. On the seventh night of Chanukah have a Chanukah Hunt. Divide everyone into teams (or hunt individually) and give them a list of Chanukah related items to locate, either around the house or around the neighborhood. The team/person with the most items found wins a bag of chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil called Chanukah gelt.
8. On the last night of Chanukah, have your family and friends over for a party. At this wonderful celebration you can make and decorate sugar cookies in the shapes of dreidels, the Star of David, menorahs, etc., eat latkes and Soofganiyot, tell the story of Chanukah, and have a gift exchange.