Starting New Traditions :: Hanukkah Edition


Recently, my family began celebrating Hanukkah with some new traditions. Full disclosure though, my desire to integrate more Hanukkah activities and observances into the holiday season didn’t come until my son was born in 2020. Don’t get me wrong, we’d still light the menorah every night and attend a community event, but it was very off the cuff.

Now, with a second little one on the way, I’m pushing hard to make our Hanukkah traditions as prevalent as our existing Christmas traditions have been for years … and as a blended family, it’s not always so cut and dry. This year, our oldest won’t be with us for any of the eight crazy nights, but Shiloh will be, and potentially a newborn baby. So, we’ve come up with a plan to celebrate. 

Our plan to celebrate Hanukkah this year

Here’s how I divvied up each night:

1. Night 1: Gifts (Something you want)

2. Night 2: Donuts (Jelly Donuts)

3. Night 3: Dreidel (Game Night)

4. Night 4: Gifts (Something you need)

5. Night 5: Mitzvah (Cards for the elderly)

6. Night 6: Hanukkah Movie Night (A Rugrats Chanukah)

7. Night 7: Gifts (Something you want)

8. Night 8: Hanukkah Family Dinner

The meaning behind each night


Hanukkah (or Chanukah) dates change year-to-year because it’s based on the Hebrew Calendar, not the Gregorian Calendar (the one you and I use on a daily basis). This year it overlaps with Christmas, running from sundown on Sunday, December 18 to sundown on Monday, December 26. (Side note, Jewish observances start at sundown.) 


I opted not to have a gift exchange every night of the holiday, like I grew up with, since we also celebrate Christmas, and our family is currently in the “we don’t need so much stuff” phase as we work towards a more minimal existence. Additionally, I made the distinction between gifts that are wanted vs. gifts that are needed because, if I’ve learned anything from raising our daughter from the age of five until now, it’s that kids want everything and use very little of it. There’s little I despise more than spending just to spend. 


Don’t knock the donuts outing unit you try it! Hanukkah Sufganiyot are as synonymous with Hanukkah as latkes are. The miracle of a small amount of oil burning and lasting for eight days is commemorated by the latter fried foods. Last year we scored some from Krispy Kreme. This year we’ll probably snag them from Dunkin Donuts or Duck Donuts


We have a Mensch on the Bench that reminded me the importance of teaching our children the significance of giving and receiving. The Yiddish term mensch is a person of integrity, morality, dignity, and responsibility, demonstrated through small acts of kindness displayed daily. It’s a similar concept at play when considering the Mitzvah; good deed, activity.

Cards for the elderly seemed like the most reasonable option, given our son will barely be two years old. The community service aspect will likely evolve as the kids get older, are able to do more, and absorb more. Another consideration was the usual minimum age requirement designated by many local nonprofits and sites for participation. 

Movie night

A few years back, my mom had all of our childhood VHS videos converted to DVDs. Since there aren’t a ton of Hanukkah movies (much like the lack of popular, modernized, radio-friendly Hanukkah music—shoutout to Adam Sandler for giving us something), we’ll snuggle on the couch and watch ‘A Rugrats Chanukah.’ Admittedly, it’s not a movie. Rather it’s an episode from the fourth season of the show. Still, it’s the best I have until the kids get older. 

Family Dinner

It may seem odd that I put a family Hanukkah dinner on Christmas Day. For us, it works. My husband’s family tradition (and thus our family tradition) is to do Christmas brunch. Can you think of a better way to meld our two religions, experiences, and perspectives into one? I know it won’t always pan out so serendipitous, but I’ll soak it in while I can!

What would you add to this list?


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Heather Curtis
Heather is a Florida girl with New York tendencies. She values honesty and authenticity, while not being a huge fan of small talk and surface-level friendships. As a Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor, you can usually find her exercising and exploring the great outdoors. Her love for everything local truly flourished after moving to Columbia in 2015. Heather maintains a strong interest in community-building while balancing work as a Social Media Strategist and life as a dedicated Wife and Mama (by marriage and by birth). Likes: Coffee shops, travel, reality tv, singing (in and out of the shower), dancing (even when the music stops), sunshine, photos, and advocacy. Dislikes: Cartoons, scary movies, laundry, chain restaurants, disorganization, and gossip


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