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How to Celebrate Hanukkah at Home in California
Events & Weddings

How to Celebrate Hanukkah at Home in California

From the lighting of the menorah to the traditional foods, here's everything you need to know about hosting Hanukkah celebrations at home.


5 min read

December 01, 2021

It's officially time to bust out the blue and white decorations: Hanukkah is right around the corner. Though the latkes may be the stars of Hanukkah, there's so much more to the holiday than just the delicious traditional food. Commonly known as the Festival of Lights, the eight-day celebration is also commemorated with the lighting of the menorah, games, and gifts.

First things first, before deciding how to celebrate Hanukkah at home, you’re in for a brief history lesson. Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 160s BC. Back then, the Jewish peoples of Judea were ruled by the Syrian king Antiochus, who ordered the population to worship Greek gods instead of practicing their own beliefs. A small army of the Jewish population—the Maccabees—rebelled against the religious persecution and regained control over the Temple, which was seized and used as an altar for Zeus; thus, thankfully, they were able to keep their Jewish identity.

Everything You Need to Know About Hosting Hanukkah Celebrations at Home

The best way you can go about celebrating Hanukkah is at home, surrounded by family, friends, and loved ones—honoring the true spirit of the holiday. If the idea of hosting people over the holidays is stressing you out, don’t fret; here’s everything you need to know on how to celebrate Hanukkah at home and commemorate the holiday the right way.

Gather with your closest family members for Hanukkah and light the menorah, spin the dreidel, and enjoy a delicious meal.

How long is Hanukkah?

The dates of this Jewish holiday are determined by the ancient Hebrew calendar, which is based on a lunar cycle. While it falls on the same day every year on the Jewish calendar—the 25th of Kislev—it's not perfectly in sync with the Gregorian calendar. Hanukkah can fall anywhere between late November to late December. This year, the Festival of Lights kicks off on December 10 and ends on the evening of December 18.

The eight-day celebration of Hanukkah commemorates the miracle experienced by the Maccabees during the rededication of the Second Temple in their fight to uphold their beliefs. According to tradition, when the Maccabees lit the menorah in the temple, they found only enough consecrated oil to fuel the flames for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight nights, providing them with enough time to prepare a fresh supply. This event is celebrated annually as Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness and spirituality over materiality.

Hanukkah menorah

So, what exactly is a menorah? Also known as hanukkiah, the menorah is a lampstand that has nine branches. Eight of the branches symbolize the miracle of the oil, while the ninth is known as a helper candle (shamash) that helps keep the other candles lit. People usually place the Hanukkah menorah near a window so it can be seen by passersby—publicly honoring the miracle.

The Hanukkah menorah candles are lit one by one. On the first night of the holiday, the candle on the far right of the menorah is lit along with the shamash. A candle is then lit each night, from left to right, after reciting two blessings.

During Hanukkah, there's plenty of fun and games to go around. Who will win the chocolate gelt coins?

Hanukkah dreidel

A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top used in a traditional game played on Hanukkah. There is a Hebrew letter on each side of the dreidel—Nun, Gimmel, Hey, Shin. The letters are the first letters in the phrase Nes Gadol Haya Sham, which translates to, “A great miracle happened here.”

How to Play

All players are given equal amounts of game pieces; a minimum of 10 pieces per person. The game pieces can be any small object such as coins and nuts—Hanukkah gelt (chocolate coins) are popular items of choice. Players take turns spinning the Hanukkah dreidel. Each letter on the dreidel symbolizes an action like “take all” or “put a coin in.” When a player loses all of their pieces, they are out of the game. At the end of the game, the person with the most pieces wins.

Show your favorite people how much you love them with a thoughtful holiday gift from a California company.

Hanukkah gifts

Even though giving and receiving gifts aren't traditional aspects of this religious holiday, many people still do it when celebrating Hanukkah. After all, who doesn’t like to show their love and affection for others with gifts?

Along with other presents, many people pass out gelt as traditional Hanukkah gifts. Holiday-themed items are common presents as well. If you feel like you need some inspiration on what to gift your loved ones on the special day, check out the best eco-friendly gifts from California companies or this helpful holiday gift guide for everyone on your list.

One of the best parts of Hanukkah is the food. It's time to indulge in potato latkes and divine donuts.

Traditional Hanukkah food

If you’re anything like us, you look forward to an abundant table full of traditional Hanukkah foods every year. There is nothing quite as fulfilling as stuffing your face with kugel and donuts and almost slipping into a food coma afterward. Some of our favorite essential Hanukkah recipes are actually rooted in meaningful traditions. Impress your Bubbeh this year by whipping up traditional Hanukkah food with a side of historical and religious knowledge.

We can't think of anything more appetizing than munching on freshly made latkes. Ah, the joys of Hanukkah.

Classic Potato Latkes

Fried foods are an important part of the traditional Hanukkah menu; the oil used for frying is meant to represent the small amount of oil that kept the menorah lit for eight days. No one can resist a crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside classic potato latke. This recipe from Tori Avey is sure to impress.

2½ pounds potatoes
1 large onion
1½ cups avocado, peanut, or grapeseed oil
¼ cup schmaltz (optional)
¾ cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1 tablespoon potato starch
1¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Savor the traditional Hanukkah treat of donuts filled with jam and dusted in powdered sugar.

Hanukkah donut

Hanukkah jelly donuts, also known as sufganiyot, are among the most beloved Hanukkah foods. This recipe from Hilah Cooking is as traditional as it gets.

1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup and 1 tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoons warm water
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
½ cup whole milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3–4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
4 cups peanut or canola oil
1½ cups jam (strawberry, apricot, cranberry) from a California fruit farm
Powdered sugar, for dusting

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