How I’m Making Hanukkah Special for My Kids This Year

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Cherish Bryck/Stocksy)

Kids ruin everything. Really (not really, but you see where this is going).

You can’t enjoy a great night out without worrying about a hangover the next day. Every trip you plan, you think out worst-case scenarios, pack a great quantity of medicine, and invariably freak out when the airline messes up your seats and places you far away from your toddler.

They especially ruin lazy holidays. Because, whereas before, you would leave the big night of celebration up to the older generations and would just kind of phone it in the other nights, you now are the older generation. And you (if you’re anything like me) want to make sure your kids create beautiful memories and long-lasting traditions that make the holiday season special each and every year.

So long, hash browns from the diner and a viewing of The Hebrew Hammer to celebrate Hanukkah. Hello, new ways I am going to try to make Hanukkah special for my own family this year.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

1. Bring in global influences.

The latkes I grew up with are steeped in Eastern European tradition — grated potato mixed with onions, flour, and seasonings that are fried in oil until crispy on the outside and tender within. However, Jews all over the globe celebrate Hanukkah. I fully intend to branch out and bring in latke and other holiday recipes inspired by Morocco, Ethiopia, and Argentina. It’s a tangible way to foster discussions about the diaspora of the Jewish people and — quite frankly — it also seems like it’s going to be delicious.

(Image credit: Branislav Jovanović/Stocksy)

2. Do not micromanage presents.

We live in a New York City apartment, so we don’t have a lot of room. We have more toys than we know what to do with bursting out of every closet in our home. We also have two sets of grandparents, a doting aunt, and a slew of family friends who are frothing at the mouth to buy stuffed Elmos, animatronic teddy bears, and every possible iteration of Daniel Tiger known to humankind.

I am going to try really, really hard to let people buy the kids whatever they want for Hanukkah. It’s not so much about the kids in the family getting toys, it’s about the joy on the faces of the grandparents when the kids unwrap them. It’s about the memories that are made with people who truly love them. And it’s about me cleaning out the old toys and clothes to donate or recycle — a chore I have been postponing for way too long.

(Image credit: Rugrats/ Nickelodeon)

3. Bring out the good movies.

If you grew up in the ’90s as a frizzy-haired suburban Jewess, you know what I’m talking about: A Rugrats Chanukah. Finally, there was a TV episode (that was age-appropriate) of a popular show that we could watch! Yes! My parents weren’t huge on cartoons, but they were big on being culturally Jewish so this made the cut for my house as a kid — and now, as an adult.

4. Do not miss a night.

We are really not big on “every single night” in our house. Other than brushing teeth and showering, routines come and go. Because of that, it’s hard for us to stick to lighting the candles every night. However, I know traditions are what make the best childhood memories. So, even if it’s late or the dishwasher breaks or we eat out at the local Mexican place for dinner, we are lighting the candles every damn night.

(Image credit: jorgeantonio/Getty Images)

5. Stop the holiday competition.

I’ve always had a little chip on my shoulder about Hanukkah, mostly because I so love all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Americanized Christmas — lights, ornaments, carolers, fancy holiday dinners, a seven-foot fir tree, Santa and reindeers, and fudge and tartan. It makes me green (and red) with envy. But this year, I’m going to remember “compare and despair” — we might not have chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but we have the holiday armadillo, dammit! Wait, I’m still being competitive there, right? Well, I’m working on it!

What are you doing to make Hanukkah special for your kids?