By the time you read this, it will be day two or possibly day four of Hanukkah. Whatever the timing, there’s still plenty of opportunity to seek Festival of Light events for this eight-day binge of fun.
So for the purposes of this top five of Hanukkah festivities, we’re going to focus on light, dreidels, and a way celebrate the combination of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, if you still care. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter, they’re still good ideas.
1) It may seem Christmas-y, but it’s always fun to take a self-guided tour of lit candelabras, or hanukkiyot, set in windowsills and ledges. There are a few cities that offer great menorah viewing, including Bnei Brak, Safed and Jerusalem, and it’s easy enough to take a stroll while keeping an eye out for the window displays. In Jerusalem, there are several neighborhoods particularly worth viewing, including Yemin Moshe, Nahlaot, Shaarei Hessed and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, where you’ll see lots of “aquarium” hanukkiyot — metal and glass cages that keep the lit candles safe from winter winds. Given the current warm weather, there doesn’t seem much of a chance of any menorah blowing out, but it’s a pretty way to spread the light.
2) Tired of potato latkes but not of batter? Make menorah and dreidel pancakes! Thanks to Buzzfeed (see #30), we now know that the best way to store pancake batter is in an emptied squeeze bottle — it can even be kept overnight as long as it’s refrigerated. The squeeze bottle also offers an excellent pouring mechanism. If you have Hanukkah cookie cutters, use those by all means, but free form could work even better, as demonstrated by this blogger.
3) Here’s one for any age. Our family truly enjoys playing dreidel, whether just setting up a spinning party or playing for a stash of chocolate chips. But if you’re not into gambling, make an origami dreidel. It takes just two pieces of paper and a little more than nine minutes to watch the video. Slow, yes, but infinitely calming. Also, I’m thinking of setting up a domino menorah like these guys at the Israel Museum did. True, we don’t have multi-colored tiles, but I’m just fine with the black-and-white version.
4) Do you keep on staring at the mounds of colored candle wax stuck to your menorah, thinking about how annoying they are to clean (hot water usually does the trick) and how much wax you’ll be throwing out at the end of Hanukkah? Make a new candle using the old wax and a leftover birthday candle. Put all the leftover wax into a small, clean metal can, then place the can in a small pan of boiling water. Once the contents are melted, carefully pour a small puddle of the melted wax into a fat glass candle holder or something similar, and wait a minute or two for the wax to harden before inserting the used birthday candle into the mostly hardened wax. When the wax is firm enough to hold the candle straight, pour the rest of the wax in and let it sit for several hours in order to fully harden. Voila, a new candle.
5) And here’s a final Thanksgivukkah idea: Utilize a pumpkin (that’s the Thanksgiving angle) as a menorah lantern, offering a Hanukkah take with a somewhat Halloween theme (technically, another fall holiday). It’s not clear if this really works, or if it’s just another opportunity to try your hand at pumpkin carving, but whether you go the route of individual squashes as candle-holders or an entire pumpkin as a kind of alternative Hanukkah lantern, you can always use the pumpkin flesh for stuffing sufganiyot or in latkes. Remember, you won’t have this opportunity again in a long time.