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Great Ideas for Celebrating Hanukkah at Home During the Pandemic

December 6, 2020 | by Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP

Don't let being housebound get you and your family down!

I love this time of year. Unfortunately, many of us are still hunkered down at home. Our regular Hanukkah activities may be cancelled. However, we still want to tap into the beauty of the holiday. We want to remember that it is a time of, miracles, bravery and religious freedom. We still want to make sure to celebrate and enjoy this time with our families.

Here are a bunch of ways we can do that:

1. Get your kids involved in the planning:

Parents often think that they have to come up with all the activities. However, kids have the best ideas. They will be more invested in the holiday if they are involved in the planning.

You can say “We might not be able to do our regular Hanukkah activities, but we can make new traditions. Let’s not give up on making it fun and exciting this year. What would you like to cook? What games do you want to play? Do you want to set aside time for favorite videos? What kind of music do you want to listen to?"

2. Cooking and Baking:

If you've always bought your latkes and donuts, now might be the time to try making them from scratch. The kitchen has become the new playground!

There are great Hanukkah themed cookie cutters in shapes of menorahs, dreidels, gelt etc. Kids love to bake and decorate their cookies with colored sugar, rainbow sprinkles and icing. You can also make donuts and decorate them as well.

Latke making is definitely an activity, where the whole family can get involved. Peeling, grating and frying, everyone can have a job.

Make sure to get include grandparents, who may be shut in. It can be as simple as asking them for their secret latke recipe or their favorite sugar cookie recipe. You can then have them teach you how to do it over Zoom.

To get the feeling of community that we are missing, perhaps you can swap dishes with your neighbors or your family members.

3. Arts and crafts:

You can also kick your decorations up a notch. The internet abounds with ideas for Hanukkah crafts. You can make your own Hanukkah menorahs, papier mâché dreidels, and even candles.

If your family is tech-savvy you can build virtual family albums, videos or books for other family members, especially the ones who are in shut in.

One mom said, “Creating handmade decorations and treats, together, is a big part of our family right now!”

4. Go outside:

I know this is really dependent on where you live, but weather permitting you can host a Hanukkah party outside. Even if it is cold you can light a fire (think Hanukkah meets Lag B'Omer), serve hot chocolate and make smores.

5. Keep it simple and traditional:

You can just play the game that Jewish children have been playing on Hanukkah for years: dreidel. Here is a quick review of the rules:

Each player begins with an equal number of game pieces (usually 10–15). The game pieces can be any object, such as chocolate gelt, pennies, candy etc.

  • To start the game, every participant puts one game piece into the center "pot". Every player also puts one piece into the pot when the pot is empty or there is only one game piece in the pot.

  • Each player spins the dreidel once during their turn. Depending on which side is facing up when it stops spinning, the player whose turn it is gives or takes game pieces from the pot:

    • If נ‎ (nun) is facing up, the player does nothing.

    • If ג‎ (gimel) is facing up, the player gets everything in the pot.

    • If ה‎ (hei) is facing up, the player gets half of the pieces in the pot. If there are an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes half the pot rounded up to the nearest whole number.

    • If ש‎ (shin) or פ‎ (pe) is facing up, the player adds one of their game pieces to the pot (sometimes accompanied by the chant "shin, shin, put one in"). In some game versions a Shin results in adding three game pieces to the pot, one for each stem of the letter shin (ש‎).

  • If the player is out of pieces, they are either "out" or may ask another player for a "loan".

6. Gift Giving:

A great game to play is with gift giving. Each person in the family can prepare a small (free or low cost) gift for every other person in the family. The planning can start weeks in advance.

7. Zoom Festivities:

If you nixed the outside party idea, you are in good company. The safest way to celebrate is obviously, virtually. I have been to many Zoom parties this year. Some ideas:

Chopped Party: Here everyone is given a list of ingredients beforehand and they have to make something edible out of it.

Cooking Party: Similarly, everyone gets a recipe and a list of ingredients and everyone cooks together in their own kitchen. It is a great option for Hanukkah since, latkes and jelly doughnuts are challenging, fun and can be made with a creative twist.

Kahoot: is a game-based learning platform, played online in groups. One person creates user-generated multiple-choice quizzes that participants have to answer.

One of my nieces is a Kahoot expert. She gathers information from the family before and creates tailor made questions. It is a lot of fun.

Virtual Games:

The most popular games out there have virtual versions and are great for groups: Scattergories, Bingo, and Codenames. There is even an online dreidel game.

Take a Virtual Tour:

If you can’t travel, the next best thing is a virtual tour. There are some great virtual tours of Jerusalem, which can be a great Hanukkah activity.

Gift exchange:

This is similar to above, but can be done with the extended family as well. A few weeks before Hanukkah each family member is assigned one person. They need to buy a gift for that person. Then you can open those gifts on Zoom.

Have a wonderful Hanukkah!

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