Mazal Tov! Throwing the Perfect Hanukkah Party

Hanukkah is a beautiful and bright time of year, full of light, family, and hope.  It’s a time for both family and friends to gather together in an atmosphere of thanks, as well as festivity.  To get the most out of the season and host a truly unforgettable party, check out these ideas that bring together traditional celebrations along with innovative new options.

Food:

This is one of the most important aspects of any Hanukkah celebration.  Food is something that brings people together, celebrates cultural as well as family traditions, and that offers a great deal of fulfillment.  No celebration is complete without traditional latkes.  You can pull out a time-honored family recipe, or even mix things up a bit, as there are a wide variety of latke recipes available.  Who knows? You might stumble upon a new family favorite destined to become a new tradition.  Also think of brisket, smoked salmon, and garlic mashed potato croquettes.  Matzo balls and various spreads/dips are also great, but don’t neglect dessert items: fritters with a variety of fillings, doughnuts (sufganiyot), even sugar cookies and pastries shaped like menorahs or dreidels.

Decorations:

While you certainly need a menorah placed in a central place of honor, where everyone can see it, you also should pay attention to other features of the party – both those of symbolic characteristics and more stylistic tendencies.  Decorate in blue and white – something which evokes the flag of Israel – and stay true to the theme of light by lighting various candles and decorating with white electric lights.  Hang paper streamers in blue and white – even gold – and include glass ornaments in the same color scheme.  Hang such ornaments in front of mirrors in alternating lengths that can them be illuminated by soft candle light.

Bringing Everyone Together:

It’s important to let guests mingle and talk, but including activities in your celebration is also a great way of getting everyone to come together and socialize in a lighthearted manner.  Traditional games like dreidel are great additions, especially when you throw in gelt.  You can use gelt in other fun games, though, like swapping out the chips of a Connect Four game with gelt pieces.  Make a variety of edible dreidels, letting guests choose from a variety of ingredients to make their own and then enjoy.  Hanukkah is an important time for culture and religion, so this is a great opportunity to share stories.  Of particular import is the story of Hanukkah itself, so this should certainly be included, especially if there are children in attendance, as this is their opportunity to learn of their own heritage.  Share fond family stories and recount funny or exciting escapades from the past.

Picking the Right Date:

Decide which day of the Hanukkah festivities you would like to use as the date of your party.  The first and last days are popular choices, but, keep in mind, many other people may be using these days as well, so picking a different day may help ensure that you avoid any sort of scheduling conflicts.  If you’re throwing a big party, consider renting a venue if you feel that your home may not provide enough space or options for the sort of event you’d like to host.  If you do go the venue route, again, be mindful of dates, especially considering how many celebrations take place in December.  You’ll want to book well in advance to make sure you get the spot you want.  Send out festive Hanukkah card invitations, either making them yourself or ordering a selection from a stationery provider, such as American Stationery.

Gifts:

Buying a bunch of things isn’t what Hanukkah is all about, but you can focus on smaller gifts for your guests as a token of appreciation and to help them remember the fondness of the celebration.  Make little gift bags with treats inside, even setting up a gift bag station where people (particularly kids) can design their own gift bags to either keep or give to others.  Think of sending thank you cards to your guests for coming to celebrate Hanukkah with you and, once more, expressing your Hanukkah wishes of happiness.

Lighting Ceremony:

Of course, the evening wouldn’t be complete without lighting the menorah.  This is a special time for everyone to gather around and join in the spirit of the holiday.  You can sing traditional songs or prayers and exchange well-wishes with all of those around you.  This is also a great chance to explain to younger guests the traditions of lighting the menorah and why it’s so important.

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