By Jeni Clancy, PJCC Jewish Family Program & Engagement Manager
In Jewish homes around the world, Hanukkah arrives this year at sundown on Tuesday, December 12, and with it, all the familiar fixings: gelt (chocolate coins), dreidel (four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side), and recipes for delicious fried latkes. While enjoying tried and true traditions, we invite you to engage the family and ignite interest by trying these original spins on conventional customs.
• Explore the “Festival of Lights” with your preschooler, using flashlights for an evening gelt scavenger hunt in the backyard.
• Enjoy family evening walks around the neighborhood to admire the festive lights of other holiday celebrations.
• Make spinning the dreidel a full-blown action sport with a spin arena the kids create out of cardboard for the ultimate dreidel smackdown!
• Teens will enjoy a version of no-holds-barred dreidel with a
pre-fab “spinagogue” available at majorleaguedreidel.com.
• Ditch the common russet potato in favor of latkes made from grated sweet potatoes, zucchini, and apples… you can even make a traditional latke entirely out of cheese!
• Support older kids by letting them take the lead for a Hanukkah meal from start to finish.
Many Jewish families use the fifth night of Hanukkah to talk about tzedakah (charity) and meaningful ways to donate. Instead of exchanging gifts, they opt to:
• Give a gift to a family or community organization in need of help.
• Donate time. All ages can help with beach cleanups or food and clothing drives. Children as young as four years old are able to join their parents as volunteers at the Second Harvest Food Bank to sort food items; kids 12 and older can volunteer with their family at Samaritan House, packing food in the pantry or serving meals.
Hakarot Hatov, the Jewish value of gratitude, translates to recognition of that which is good in our lives. Hanukkah is a fine time to talk about miracles great and small and the role they play in your family’s lives. On each of the seven nights of Hanukkah, record your blessings on slips of paper in a jar or in a special notebook. Next year revisit what was recorded and add to it again.