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10 Hanukkah Family Traditions To Start This Year

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Every year, my family and friends get together to make latkes and sufganiyot and listen to Adam Sandler's "Chanukah Song" while lighting the candles on the menorah. It's not our only tradition, but it's my favorite. If you're looking for Hanukkah family traditions you can start this year, look no further. I have oodles of ideas, and you might just find one that you love. (But don't worry, Chinese food and movies are still on for December 25, even if it falls during Hanukkah — this tradition is sacrosanct.)

Hanukkah is a holiday celebrating miracles, and the power and purpose of resistance. Over the centuries, the way it is celebrated has evolved, and traditions that families follow are a beautiful example of this. I have friends that choose a protest every year to attend, others who make the same jams each year for their sufganiyot from the figs in their backyard, and my neighbor, the Rabbi's family, does acts of service. They also hit up the same bakery every year for their famous chocolate donuts. (They are, in a word, miraculous.)

A few traditions are universal — like fried food. Because a part of the holiday celebrates the fact that a small amount of oil burned for eight days, foods on Hanukkah more closely resemble those found at a state fair than on a dinner table. The other is lighting the candles on the menorah at dusk. Each candle or oil wick burns to represent each of the eight days that the oil burned during the rededication of the temple after the Maccabees defeated the Syrian army and reclaimed it for G-d and the Jewish people.

1. Make Your Own Candles

I honest to goodness did not know that this was a thing until my girlfriend told me that all the kids in her shul do this every year. And it's just a fab idea. Get the kids involved and make your own menorah candles. How lovely.

2. Read A Kids' Hanukkah Story Together

This book is adorable. Settle in with your littles and read about the Hanukkah story as told by Grandpa Latke who completely bungles it, but don't worry — the family dog sets them straight.

3. Little Acts Of Resistance

Hanukkah is the story of how a small army of Jews rose up against a huge Syrian army and won. Hanukkah is the perfect time to write postcards in support of causes that you care about. This year, my kids and I will be spending time writing letters to members of congress in protest of the border camps.

4. Make & Paint Your Own Dreidels

Get some modeling clay, some paint brushes, and some acrylic paint, and make your own dreidels together. You're only limited by the rules of the game and your own creativity. Also, I suggest buying the kind of modeling clay that air dries, because who wants to turn on the oven when you have five deep fryers going all at once?

5. Try One New Thing To Fry Each Year

Deep fried Starburst, tempura turnips, batter dipped banana — I've done all of these, and let me tell you, skip the Starburst. Still, the point is to try something new and fun in the fryer for the holiday. It's hilarious every year. On Sunday, we are going to be frying batter-dipped halvah because we apparently want to bite into the molten core of the earth. (Note: halvah was not my idea, and I'm against it. I wanted to try to make fancy corndogs.)

6. Argue With Your Relatives

Just kidding. That's already a tradition.

7. Three Words: Matching Hanukkah Socks

I am a fan of the novelty socks, and I see no reason why the whole family can't wear matching pairs to Hanukkah supper. Then I would insist everyone stand in a circle with their feet together so we can take a picture for Instagram, but I'm extra like that.

8. Watch A Hanukkah Movie

When the kids are awake, you watch An American Tail, when they go to bed, you break out Hebrew Hammer and Eight Crazy Nights. It's going to be a cold Hanukkah in the Northeast this year, so a cozy movie sounds perfect.

9. White Elephant Gifts

Who says white elephant gifts are just for the goyim? Uncle Richie never saw that Barbra Streisand poster coming, but I will bet you anything, it will be hanging in his family room by next Hanukkah.

10. Listen to Traditional Music Together

Sure, you could listen to some cantors sing "Hanukkah O Hanukkah," but I'm talking about new traditional Jewish music. Matisyahu, The Maccabbeats, Barbra Streisand, and of course, Adam Sandler.