Are you interested in mixing up your holiday celebrations this year? How about throwing a Hanukkah party for some of your friends? It doesn’t matter if any of the attendees are Jewish – it’s a fun way to spend an evening celebrating another culture, eating its most fattening foods, and playing its games! If you’re thinking about hosting a Hanukkah party this year, here are the essentials:
Chabad, a Jewish outreach organization, explains the story of Hanukkah:
More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d.
When they sought to light the Temple’s menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared.
The holiday’s fare thus revolves around oil, making it on one hand incredibly tasty, and on the other, quite fattening.
Latkes, a fried potato pancake, are the quintessential Hanukkah treat, served with sour cream or applesauce. Famous Kosher cookbook author Jamie Gellar has put together a video highlighting how to make the treat, along with her grandfather’s own recipe.
Sufganiyot, a fried jelly donut, is especially popular in Israel. Think you can’t make them at home? Think again!
Gelt: pick up these chocolate coins as party favors or game prizes on Amazon or at your local supermarket. If you can’t find them at a supermarket, try a drug store, or, if possible, a local Kosher supermarket will carry them for sure.
Dreidel is the most iconic game of the Hanukkah festival. The website MyJewishLearning lays out the rules:
Playing with the dreidel is a traditional Hanukkah game played in Jewish homes all over the world, and rules may vary. Here’s how to play the basic dreidel game:
1. Any number of people can take part in this great game.
2. Each player begins the game with an equal number of game pieces (about 10-15) such as pennies, nuts, chocolate chips, raisins, matchsticks, etc.
3. At the beginning of each round, every participant puts one game piece into the center “pot.” In addition, every time the pot is empty or has only one game piece left, every player should put one in the pot.
4. Every time it’s your turn, spin the dreidel once. Depending on the outcome, you give or get game pieces from the pot:
a) Nun means “nisht” or “nothing” [in Yiddish]. The player does nothing.
b) Gimmel means “gantz” or “everything” [in Yiddish]. The player gets everything in the pot.
c) Hey means “halb” or “half” [in Yiddish]. The player gets half of the pot. (If there is an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes half of the total plus one).
d) Shin (outside of Israel) means “shtel” or “put in” [in Yiddish]. Peh (in Israel) means “pay.” The player adds a game piece to the pot.
5. If you find that you have no game pieces left, you are either “out” or may ask a fellow player for a “loan.”
6. When one person has won everything, that round of the game is over!
Unlike Christmas, there isn’t much in the way of traditional Hanukkah music. There are a few fun songs to play for your guests beyond the iconic Adam Sandler tune. The Maccabeats, a college acapella band from Yeshiva University, have recorded two fun and family-friendly Hanukkah songs based on popular songs that year that have found enormous popularity on YouTube.
And new for 2014 (to the tune of Megan Trainor’s All About That Bass):