11 Festive Hanukkah Party Ideas
Hanukkah is an annual eight-day Jewish celebration that falls in December. This “festival of lights” celebrates the Jewish victory over the Syrian Greeks, who ruled the Holy Land and tried to force their own culture and beliefs upon the people of Israel. The small army of Jews (led by Judah the Maccabee), miraculously defeated the mighty Greek army and reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem for their own religious worship.
When they went to light the Temple’s menorah, they found only a one-day supply of purified olive oil. The oil burned for eight days, hence the reason the holiday lasts eight nights and is commemorated with the lighting of a menorah. Hanukkah (or Chanukkah) has since become a combination of both a religious and commercialized, secular holiday that combines traditional rituals and prayers with a Christmas-inspired gift exchange. Host a party for the festival that is both fun and meaningful with these festive Hanukkah party ideas.
1. Celebrate the season of giving
Part of celebrating Hanukkah involves giving gifts, but it can also entail giving back. The sixth night of the festival features the “Candle of Righteousness.” It presents the opportunity for families to learn more about the issues affecting their community or the communities that matter to them, allowing a chance to give back in some way.
To celebrate this at your Hanukkah party, ask guests to bring canned food donations for the local food pantry, clothing for a homeless shelter, or toiletry items for care packages. You can assemble care packages or gifts for the needy as part of the party and write cards to the recipients. This is one of the Hanukkah party ideas that can turn what could be a materialistic, commercial holiday into an impactful event.
2. Create the perfect Hanukkah playlist
Music is a big part of any Hanukkah celebration, and there is no shortage of Hanukkah-themed songs out there. The Canadian band Barenaked Ladies have a few Hanukkah tunes, such as “Hanukkah Blessings” and “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah.” You can also find plenty of songs by other artists on Spotify.
3. Make your own gelt
Instead of ordinary chocolate coins for the dreidel game, try a new recipe for them with fun mix-ins and quality chocolate. This Martha Stewart recipe gives generic chocolate coins a delicious upgrade. When it comes to delicious Hanukkah party ideas, this is one of the best!
4. Celebrate with sweets
In addition to handing out plenty of gelt, serve an array of festive desserts, such as the classic black-and-white cookies, sweet cherry blintzes (instead of cheese ones), rugelach, sufganiyot, and Hanukkah cake. Decadent, fried foods like latkes are a hallmark of Hanukkah, but the desserts are just as important as the savory dishes!
5. Decorate for the occasion
You may not have a tree to adorn with ornaments, but don’t let that stop you from decking the halls. Hit up your local party store or Target for Hanukkah decorations, or create your own using a silver-and-blue color scheme, lots of menorahs, candles, stars, and dreidels. You can also incorporate some snowflakes and other winter-themed decorations.
6. Get carried away with candles
Don’t leave the candles to the menorah. Incorporate candles in every aspect of this festival of lights by setting up a craft station where guests can make their own candles. Or, host a candle guessing game. Ask everyone to bring a candle with the label hidden. Have the other guests guess the scent, and hand out gelt as prizes to those who get the scents correct (or as correct as they possibly can when candles are named things like Frosted Coconut Snowball). Tip: TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross have great deals on candles!
7. Have a laugh
It’s no secret that Jewish performers in Hollywood are comedy royalty. Celebrate that with a Jewish comedy marathon. Play shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Jenny Slate’s stand-up special Stage Fright, and, of course, Seinfeld. There are also plenty of comedic movies about Hanukkah, like The Hebrew Hammer.
8. Host an ugly sweater contest
Ugly sweaters aren’t just for Christmas! Ask guests to show up in their best Hanukkah or Jewish-themed sweaters. While department stores have no shortage of ready-made sweater options, you can also encourage guests to get crafty and decorate their own sweaters from thrift stores. For the artsy among us, this is definitely one of the most fun Hanukkah party ideas.
9. Choose the perfect venue
Celebrate the occasion in an upscale space by booking a unique venue on Peerspace. Rent out a mansion, a loft, a historic home, penthouse, or event hall. You can even request places with fireplaces, pianos, and kitchens. This way, you don’t have to put a cap on the number of guests you can invite (unless you want to, of course).
10. Play White Elephant
Since Hanukkah usually involves giving a single gift on each of the eight nights, give everyone a gift at your Hanukkah party through a White Elephant gift exchange game. The game requires that everyone bring a wrapped gift. The players then draw numbers to determine the order in which everyone will get to unwrap a gift. On each person’s turn, they can either choose to unwrap a new gift or steal an already opened gift from someone else. Once all of the gifts have been unwrapped, set a timer and let the gift-stealing commence. Once the timer runs out, everyone must keep the last gift they were holding. This Hanukkah party idea makes the nightly gift giving part of the festival even more fun.
11. Entertain with more games
Dreidel isn’t the only Hanukkah game you can play. This blog features a list of adult Hanukkah games (lots of which involve drinking, so stock your liquor cabinet!) like the Jewish version of Cards Against Humanity. However, if children are in attendance at your Hanukkah party, stick to the traditional dreidel game.
Hanukkah doesn’t have to be overshadowed by Christmas festivities. Whether you are looking for a more secular celebration or want to share your faith with others, this list can help you design the perfect Hanukkah party. So light the menorah, fry up some latkes, select the perfect gifts, and make the holiday your own with these festive Hanukkah party ideas.