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Eight Nights of Hanukkah Family Time

November 29, 2012

Our bellies were barely filled with Thanksgiving sweetness — pumpkin and apple and pecan pies, of course — before my kids started asking about Hanukkah.

And while I was about to argue — Not now! Too soon! Enjoy one holiday at a time! — a quick glance at the just falling snow and a flip of the calendar told me they were spot on.

Hanukkah is just around the corner and while I'm gearing up for candles and latkes and apples sauce and more latkes, one thing I'm not doing is shopping.

Here's why.

My Hanukkah memories have softened edges.

My mother, father, and I sitting around our wooden dining room table — covered in a plastic tablecloth lined with tiny eyelets — latkes and apple sauce and sour cream piled between us, and Hanukkah music playing on the stereo by our side — the tape so old, the static in the music familiar, warm, comforting.

Moments before we lit candles one of the nights, it didn't matter which one, my mother would hastily wrap a present for me in shiny blue and silver paper. Something I needed — a sweater, a purse, a book, and in later years, a check so I could get exactly what I wanted.

My husband Jason was raised Catholic and has been incredibly open to celebrating Hanukkah in a way that works best for our family.

And since my Hanukkahs were about spending time together, that's what we're trying to recreate today.

Here's how we do it (with a gift ideas included).

Suggestions for the Eight Nights

  1. First Night: Kid Hosted Hanukkah:
    • Our kids always host the first night of Hanukkah. Last year they chose latkes, brownies, and Shirley Temples for dinner followed by playing dreidel.
    • Kids give gifts they made or bought for the family.
  2. Second Night: Art Night
    • Water colors, markers, glue, play doh. Use whatever you have at home and craft together.
    • New supplies, funky scissors, art pads.
  3. Third Night: Dance Party
    • Turn up the music and dance. All of you.
    • New CD.
  4. Fourth Night: Game Night
    • Pictionary? Hullaballoo? Uno? Uninterrupted play time is rare, and treasured.
    • New game.
  5. Fifth Night: Lego Night
    • Clear out a space, gather around, and build. Swoon.
    • New lego set.
  6. Sixth Night: Puzzle Night
    • Big, small, finish-able, or not, this is one of my favorites.
    • New puzzle.
  7. Seventh Night: Family Sleepover
    • Camp out in the family room or everyone pile into one bedroom. I've learned that sleeping bags make everything magical. Trust me.
    • New pajamas.
  8. Eighth Night: Baking Night
    • As long as everyone's in the kitchen together measuring, mixing, and stirring, it doesn't matter what you make. Although my vote is always for brownies. Or popcorn balls. Or mini donuts. Yum.
    • Kid aprons, kid recipe book.

There are so many possibilities, depending on your kids' ages and interests. I love planning the nights, but it might be fun to see what the kids come up with, too.

From Ice Cream Sundae Night to Wii Night to Movie Night to Reading Night (read and read and read a chapter book), the point is to just be together. And to eat latkes.

What Family Night ideas would you add?

Hanukkah (known by many spellings) is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd Century BCE. It is marked by the lighting of a menorah and the eating of fried foods. Yiddish for "spin," a four-sided spinning top played with during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Yiddish word for a potato pancake, traditionally eaten during Hanukkah.
Galit Breen

Galit Breen is a Minnesota writer. On any given day she can be found juggling three kids, one husband, one puggle, and her laptop. Galit writes women's fiction, is the series editor of Pens and Paint, an anthology of children's poetry and artwork, and is co-producing Listen to Your Mother Twin Cities 2013. Galit blogs at These Little Waves and (it has to be said) tweets and Facebooks a lot.

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