One of the best things about traditions is that they stay the same. This familiarity brings comfort and nostalgia. But even a holiday that’s thousands of years old – or maybe especially such a holiday – needs some new ideas every now and then so it doesn’t get stale.
Since eight is the official number of Chanukah, here are eight ways to re-brighten your Festival of Lights:
1. New candles
Sure, the birthday cake-type ones are easy to get, but there are so many really pretty ones out there that burn much longer and don’t cost that much more. Some are beeswax. These are a bit pricey, but just look at ’em:
2. New menorahs
There is nothing wrong with – and even something heartwarming about – using a traditional style of menorah. But artists today have had a ton of fun with styles, shapes, and themes. And what better Chanukah present to give than something you get to use for Chanukah right away? I mean, there is probably a cat person in your life who needs this:
3. New latkes
Since the miracle was about the oil – and since the Maccabees had never seen a potato in their lives – it kinda doesn’t matter what you fry in your festive fritters. Sweet potatoes, yams, squash, carrots, zuccini, peas… there are all sorts of ideas. Also, you can use them as the base for dozens of toppings.
4. New desserts
The frying fun doesn’t have to stop with the meal. Aside from traditional Sephardic/Israeli sufganiot (jelly donuts on steroids), there are all sorts of fried desserts: fritters, zalabia, churros … deep fried delights from bananas to Oreos to ice cream. Dial the first two digits of 911 before indulging, though.
5. New gift-giving traditions
The “eighth gift” is a great idea for kids. Instead of eight gifts, they get seven, and the eighth gift is the one they shop for specifically to donate to a kid in need. It’s a great way to introduce the idea of tzedakah to small kids and remember the less fortunate in the midst of your celebration.
6. New music
There is ton of great Jewish music beyond the (uggh) Dreidel Song and Adam Sandler. Some of my favorite Chanukah albums are listed here… and they don’t stop at klezmer. They range from alt-rock to reggae to … Woody Guthrie. (His wife was Jewish, and so were his kids, so he wrote them great Chanukah songs, because he was Woody Guthrie.)
7. New dreidel games
Have you ever spun a dreidel upside down? Played Bey Blade-style demolition-dreidel bout with them? Held contests to see how many you could keep going at once, or who could spin theirs the longest? Dipped them in (washable) paint and spun them on paper? Since dreidels are a mash-up of spinners and dice, you can use them instead for games like Parcheesi. Challenge the kids at your Chanukah get-togethers to get creative! Oh, and for the grown-ups, No Limit Texas Dreidel.
8. New “Chanukah.”
This year, resolve to spell the holiday’s name the way Judah the Maccabee, one of the Chashmona’im intended – with a “Ch” and not just an “H” – and learn how to chh. We have two letters in the Hebrew alphabet that make the sound, and speaking Yiddish takes chutzpah, too. You chh when you eat challah or charoset or chrain… you use it when you see a choson under a chuppah at a chasanah… or when you tell your chaver the chazan you like his chai necklace.
Enjoy working some, or all, of these ideas into your Chanukah this year … and Chag same’ach! (There it is again!)