Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you should observe good social distancing and COVID-safe practices. This may make some of the suggestions in this article a bit more difficult, specifically the local Hanukkah celebrations. It’s not ideal, but if we all do our part, we can prevent more deaths and get control of the pandemic sooner.

Hanukkah, or Chanukah as it’s commonly spelled, is the Jewish festival of lights. Based on the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah begins on the eve of Kislev 25 and runs for eight days. Hanukkah is held each year to commemorate the miracle of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.

Despite its fame, Hanukkah is not the most important religious holiday in Judaism. Instead, it’s secular importance, and proximity to Christmas, make it a celebration of the religion and heritage of the Jewish people. For any seniors taking part in the Festival of Lights, here are a few ways to fill those eight nights with celebrations and happiness.

Storytime with the Family

Hanukkah is the perfect time to gather your family close, and share stories with your children and grandchildren. The first one that comes to mind is the story of the event Hanukkah commemorates, the Maccabees and the Holy Temple. While the story itself is quite long, the gist of it is:

You can take this time to share more stories than that, though. Use this as an opportunity to envelop your grandchildren in the ancient stories of Judaism. You can tell them about the famous Golem of Prague or the story of Exodus. This is your chance to share their heritage with them. There are few gifts as valuable the gift of a shared heritage.

This is also a great opportunity to share stories from your own family. Pull out the photo album, and tell tales about the time Aunt Millie lost her glasses or your brother Nick sat on a cactus. These stories are as valuable as any treat or toy. It’s a tangible connection to family history, and time to grow your bond with your grandchildren.

Cook Up Some Traditional Treats

What would a holiday be without food? Hanukkah is no exception to the tradition of stuffing our faces at any opportunity. In keeping with the theme of oil lasting a miraculous eight days, much of the traditional food of Hanukkah is fried! Chief among these is latkes! These fried potato pancakes are permanently linked with the holiday. If you’re interested in making some latkes at home, try the New York Times’ Classic Potato Latkes recipe.

If you love donuts, try your hand at sufganiot, a traditional jelly-filled donut made during Hanukkah in Israel. These are only two examples of traditional Hanukkah dishes. There are treats you can make with the family, most of which are fried! Just make sure to keep fit and avoid the winter weight gain.

Find a Local Hanukkah Celebration

Finally, a great way to celebrate Hanukkah is to find events near you. If you subscribe to a Jewish magazine or newspaper, there may be a list of nearby events or meetups. Some senior communities or groups will host luncheons for Jewish seniors wishing to celebrate with their peers. Visiting your local synagogue or temple can also be a great way to find Hanukkah events. After all, Hanukkah is still a religious holiday, so services are observed.

That said, the secular reputation of the holiday has caused many to host public celebrations. If you find an event near you, bundle up the family in warm clothes and share the experience with your loved ones.

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Hanukkah may not be the most important religious holiday on the Jewish calendar, but its significance has grown as a representation of pride in the Jewish tradition. This makes it the perfect time to celebrate your heritage with your loved ones and community. From all of us at the Shop & Enroll blog, Happy Hanukkah!

Further Reading

Chabad.org — 13 Hanukkah Facts Every Jew Should Know
Chabad.org — Chanukah (Hanukkah)