8 Nights of Family Fun

By Gila Ross

I love Chanukah! And not just because it’s my birthday – there is something so wonderful about the story – of right triumphing over might and the bright little lights by the window in the middle of the winter. As our kids have grown one of the things I don’t love, has been the kid’s focus on gift getting! Interestingly enough, giving gifts on Chanukah has less to do with Chanukah then with another holiday that falls in December…


But there is a custom to give children money over Chanukah – “the Hebrew word Chanukah shares the same root as chinuch, “education.” The Greek forces were determined to force Hellenism upon the Jewish population, at the expense of the ideals and commandments of the holy Torah. Unfortunately, they were quite successful in their endeavor. After the Greeks were defeated, it was necessary to re-educate the Jews—to reintroduce a large part of the population to Torah values. Appropriately, during Chanukah it is customary to give gelt (money) to children as a reward for Torah study.” (courtesy of Chabad.org)


As a family we don’t give gifts on Chanukah, but we do give chanukah ‘gelt’. So how do we make Chanukah special while resisting the temptation to make it all about the commercialism of getting gifts? We focus on doing something special each night of Chanukah after we light the menorah. Here are 8 ideas for this year:


1. Gelt ladle –  We get some pennies and small change and put it into a large bowl full of change.  Each kid is allowed to scoop up a ladle-full of change and keep it.  The kids love it!  It’s not so much money, but it’s experientially delicious. (From my friend Ruchi Koval, www.outoftheorthobox.com)


2. Make chocolate lollipops – very easy and fun!

a) You will need paper lollipop sticks, chocolate, parchment paper, ziplock bags and marshmallows and sprinkles to decorate.

b) Melt the chocolate and pour into the ziplock bag, cut a small hole on the end of the ziplock bag and then use to trace the shapes you have drawn on the parchment paper.

c) Decorate and refrigerate until set.


3. Donut decorating


4. Mystery Maccabee – every member of the family, including parents pick someone else to either buy or make a small gift for and then the recipient has to guess who the giver was. Give the names out ahead of Chanukah so that everyone has time to make the gifts and for the suspense and excitement to build! It’s wonderful to see the kids thinking about what they can give to the person they picked.


5. Dreidel playing – to make this even more fun, play with pennies that the kids get to keep!


6. Edible Menorah:

a) You will need chocolate wafers for the base, tooth picks, chocolate cheerios and candy corn for the flames.


7. Dreidel Surprise game – this is a really fun one! Get a variety of small prizes, enough for each family member to have two as well as some other random objects, like a raw potato, sponge etc. Now, while noone is looking, set up all the prizes as well as the random objects under various different sized containers, like pots, pans, bowls etc. Play the dreidel and when a person lands on Gimmel they get to choose a container and get to keep whatever is under it. Sometimes they will win a prize and sometimes it will be a random object!


8. Each member of the family, parents included, writes down a reward or privilege that they want on a paper.  For example: miss a half-day of school, dinner with mum, a day with no chores.  So each member of the family writes down two, each on its own paper.  We fold all the papers and put them in a little bowl, and then we go around and everyone chooses.  It’s hilarious to see each person pick out things that are totally incongruous (my husband picked out “double screen time”).  After everyone chooses, each person can make one trade, so the campaigning and lobbying ensues.  It’s our little way of giving our kids stuff, where most of it is privilege or time with us as opposed to “stuff.”  And the game itself is really fun family time. (Courtesy of Ruchi Koval, outoftheorthobox.com)


We hope some of these ideas can create some wonderful chanukah memories for your family! Happy Chanukah!


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