Throw a Hanukkah Party

By Heather Camlot

Although not the biggest Jewish holiday of the year, Hanukkah is certainly one of the most exciting, especially for kids. An evil king, a triumphant battle, and the miracle of a teeny bit of oil lasting eight days instead of one — pretty amazing stuff.

To celebrate, Jewish families gather to light the menorah, eat fried foods like potato latkes and jelly-filled doughnuts, and play dreidel, the letters on each of the four sides representing the phrase “a great miracle happened there.” We’ve come up with a few more fun ideas to add a festive flair to your Hanukkah party and to teach children about the miracle that occurred more than two thousand years ago.

Plan the activities

Hanukkah lends itself to family-friendly games and activities quite naturally.

  • Start things off with a puppet show to recount the story of how the small band of Maccabees won a battle against the cruel King Antiochus to regain religious freedom and rededicate the Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration. Okay, pretty heavy stuff; follow The Chanukah Puppet Show by Raina Baroff for a kids’ version.
  • Cut a giant menorah out of kraft paper and affix it on the wall with low-tack tape. Cut out nine paper candles, to fit the menorah. Blindfold each child, hand them a candle and see who can pin the candle on the menorah.
  • Pull out the Play-doh, plasticine or clay and let children create their own menorah.

Set the atmosphere

Every party needs a soundtrack. But Hanukkah songs are a bit harder to come by than Christmas tunes, as you can well imagine. Still, there are a few modern albums that will definitely get kids and adults dancing alike. Our picks:

  • Hanukkah Rocks, the LeeVees. The indie pop duo adds a humorous lilt the holiday, with songs like “Applesauce vs. Sour Cream” and “How Do You Spell Chunnukkahh?”
  • Barenaked Ladies for the Holidays. Can any band beat the Ladies when it comes to fun music? We don’t think so. Tip: Download the album, then rearrange the tracks to have all Hanukkah songs together and all Christmas songs together.
  • Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanukkah, The Klezmatics. Nope, folk legend Guthrie wasn’t Jewish, but that didn’t stop him from writing about the Festival of Lights. The Klezmatics do a great job putting his words to their swinging beat.


What would Hanukkah be without the traditional menu of latkes, brisket and doughnuts? Go on, indulge. You still have three weeks before the “lose weight” resolution kicks in.

Happy Hanukkah!

First published December 2009 on


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