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Unique Hanukkah family traditions

There are many traditions observed on Hanukkah, but innovative Jewish families change up the standard activities with their own original ideas. Read on for their unique activities and maybe you can incorporate them into your family’s traditions.

Unique Hanukkah traditions

Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration filled with time-tested traditions and family activities. However, some families aren’t satisfied with keeping things simple. Instead, they switch up their Hanukkah traditions and personalize them according to their family’s interests, backgrounds and sense of humor.

Looking for ideas to switch up your family’s Hanukkah traditions? These families have some pretty innovative — and hilarious! — ideas.

High-tech Hanukkah

Glenda Lutz, a communications director in New York City, says her family knows how to bridge the distance gap in order to be together during Hanukkah.

“My parents live in Connecticut, my younger sister lives with them, my brother is away at college and I live in New York City. Each night of Hanukkah, before my parents light the menorah, they gather up every phone they have in the house — their cell phones and land lines — and call me, my brother and my grandmother. They put all the phones on speakerphone and everyone starts singing the blessings. It’s kind of silly, but it’s a really nice way to feel like we’re all together even if we’re in very different places.

This is what my mom wrote on facebook today:

‘Chanuka – call everyone on all the phones you have – put them on speaker – light the candles, sing the prayer and songs – a family chanuka tech style.'”

Special food preparation

Holly Landau, from Reading, Penn., starts planning her family’s celebration way in advance.

“I started a family tradition a few years ago: in the fall, I do some canning. I make a spiced applesauce that I can break out a Chanukah to eat with our latkes. My family loves it and it’s a way to start preparing our holiday feast in September.”

Food and family fun

Janita Pavelka of Oxford, Neb., finds a way to give each of her children individual attention during the festival.

“We have four children and they each take a night to light the Hanukkah, say the blessing and give their gifts. We eat supper together nightly and reflect on the meaning of the story of Hanukkah and how it relates to today’s life. And of course there is the annual latkes and chicken cutlet meal, and hopefully only once as the calorie count is huge!”

Unique dreidel spinning

Ellen Vaknin of New York City says her family has quite a unique spin (literally) on dreidels.

“Our Hannukah tradition involves spinning dreidels on my sons’ belly-buttons. Makes us all giggle!”

Dual celebrations

Michele Palenik’s family finds a way to combine both Hanukkah and Christmas into her Jewish and Christian family.

“We have a mixed religion household, so we do both holidays. I try to make it fun! On Hanukkah, we give our children one gift per night, but two specific nights have special gifts. One is “book night” where everyone receives a book specific to their interests and we have some great diversity from Rock Legends to Serial Killers! The other is “Art night” where we all receive a small piece of Art so that we each have a collection. I know that one day, the kids will have their own households and I want them to have good books and good art!!

My husband is Catholic, so we do Christmas too. It is a one-gift event and the stocking-stuffers (which is my favorite!) I told the kids when they were very small “Santa only stops here because Daddy is so good!”


Rabbi Robert Alper of East Dorset, Vermont, finds a way to incorporate comedy into Hanukkah.

“We generally light candles, exchange presents, and make bets on which tv newscaster will do the worst job pronouncing ‘Chanukah.'”

How does your family celebrate Hanukkah?

More on Hanukkah

Hanukkah recipes
Real Moms guide to Hanukkah

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