Hanukkah is always fun; shorter days, longer and chillier evenings and of course, celebrating the Festival of Lights. It is always my favorite time of year since it is the holiday season and who isn’t happy during the holiday season? Unfortunately, we live in incredibly strange times so Hanukkah will be very different this year. This is not necessarily a bad thing; we just need to get creative. There are a multitude of ways to have an enjoyable Hanukkah this year. As a mom of three little kids, I know that I will personally try to do most of these activities listed below. A little creativity (and food) can go a long way. Happy Hanukkah to all!
1. Donuts and Latkes — Make sure the activities are age-appropriate. For example, the younger kids can help mom or dad mix the ingredients for the dough, while older siblings can insert the jelly once the doughnuts are fried. All the kids can have a cooking and science lesson while the doughnuts are prepared. This activity can be done with family and friends who do not live nearby by connecting via Zoom. The host family can show videos of the history behind these foods, along with songs to get everyone in the mood. When it is done, everyone can show how their donuts turned our and then they can all sit down and enjoy them together, giving a feeling as if everyone is in the same room. For tips on how to make donuts, visit: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017060-doughnuts, and for latkes visit: https://www.chabad.org/recipes/recipe_cdo/aid/2742159/jewish/Traditional-Hanukkah-Potato-Latkes.htm
2. Dreidel Game — The traditional dreidel game that passes from one generation to the other is always a hit. Everybody gets a certain amount of money or candies, depending what is available. Each player places a certain amount of their stash in the center, and everyone takes a turn to spin the dreidel. If it lands on a nun, which means nisht in Yiddish (meaning “no”), the person does not win and does not lose.
If it lands on a gimmel, which means gantz or whole, that player gets everything. In this case, each player must contribute to a new stash once again.
If you get a Hay it is halb, or half. That player gets half of the stash.
If it lands on a shin it stands for shtel, or put, meaning the player must put their money or candies in the center.
For more about the history of the dreidel, visit: www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-origin-of-the-dreidel/
3. Hanukkah Bingo — The special board can either be bought or made. If made, think of Hanukkah themed characters: Maccabees, dreidel, Menorah, oil etc. Ask everyone playing to have the same board game and the game can be played via Zoom. While the game is going on, feel free to ask all the kids Hanukkah trivia questions to see how much they know about the holiday. Little kids will enjoy this cute memory game. A suggestion for the game may be viewed here: https://learningideasforparents.com/hanukkah-memory-game-free-printable/
4. Virtual Dreidel — Each family is assigned a different letter and when they all play dreidel and it lands on that letter, everyone calls the winner.
5. Gelt — Consider giving Haunkkah “gelt” in a form of a gift certificate to a favorite store or restaurant. This can be more fun by placing the gift certificate in a small box and then putting the small box in a bigger box. Eventually, it will be covered in a huge box. The family can all sit in a circle and pass the box around while music is being played. When the music is paused, then the person holding the box must unwrap only ONE box. Eventually, the certificate is open (make sure a child does this), and voila! The child has a gift certificate to their favorite store or restaurant.
For ideas on how to decorate the boxes, visit: www.zionjudaica.com/search.asp?Keyword=wrapping+paper&submit=
For an alternate and more creative idea, the family can grab simple white paper, draw Hanukkah pictures on it and use that as wrapping paper.
6. Hanukkah Charades — This can also be done via Zoom, so more can join. Each group acts out a scene from the Hanukkah story (or the Torah), and family or friends can guess using Zoom’s chat feature. For the full Hanukkah story, go to: www.chabad.org/kids/ and click on Holidays.
7. Scavenger Hunt — One person gives a vague description of an item of their choice, and the rest of the family members playing must send in a photo or show the object over Zoom. The family with the most points, wins.
8. Outdoor Fun — If it is a nice day out, the kids can grab some chalk and draw Hanukkah themed pictures on the sidewalk, such as a dreidel, Menorah, or Judah the Maccabee, depending on their age. Older kids can play Hangman on the sidewalk, where players have to guess what word they have in mind.
May we all have a safe and Happy Hanukkah stay safe!
Rachel Stern is a contributing writer to JLife Magazine.