Hanukkah, as a recent poll among the ISRAEL21c team recently showed, is probably the most fun holiday the Jewish calendar has to offer. And for good reason, too. Not only is it a beautiful festival of light, but it involves plenty of fried goodness, chocolates, gifts, family and friends. Still not convinced? Scroll down below.
1.You feel flush
While stories of never-ending oil lamps and the heroic adventures of our ancient ancestors are all very well, there’s nothing like cold, hard cash to make a holiday a successful one. And on Hanukkah, it is traditional for children (also grownup ones) to receive money, called gelt, from their parents and grandparents. Not only does this mean that you get to later spend this sum on a present of your own choosing, but it also makes you feel incredibly flush. Which, combined with the chocolate high that accompanies the week (more on this below), spells out a very good one indeed.
2. You get chocolate
For kids too young to receive money or those unfortunate enough to have parents who find it non-educational for them to receive it, chocolate gelt is a delicious substitute. Silver- and gold-wrapped chocolate coins make an appearance in households everywhere, making the holiday table feel somewhat like a pirate’s den. The chocolate itself is surprisingly yummy and definitely of the melting kind, so make sure your child eats it quickly before the whole house is schmeared with it.
3. You’re practically obligated to eat fried foods
It’s a good thing that the lamp in the Temple burned for eight days using oil and not, say, cucumber water, practically obligating us to eat mountains of fried foods to remember that particular miracle. While in Israel donuts, or sufganiyot, are the main hallmark of the holiday, people in the know concentrate their attention and additional calorie intake on latkes, or fritters. Potato latkes are hands-down the best food the Jewish holiday calendar has to offer, particularly when paired with sour cream and applesauce. We urge you not to waste your time on zucchini, beetroot or other, more healthy-sounding options. They’re fine for the rest of the year, but potatoes are the way to go this week.
4. There’s no fish head on the table
Continuing with the culinary aspects of Hanukkah, it’s worthwhile pointing out that no gruesome food items make an appearance on our dinner table during the week. On Rosh Hashana, for example, we’re expected to eat dinner while staring a fish head back in the eye (top tip: block it from sight with the flower arrangement), while on Passover we have animal bones casually taking up center position. Thankfully, on Hanukkah the table groans only under mountains of latkes, donuts and candles, meaning the only strategy to keep in mind while choosing your seat is which one has easiest access to all that fried goodness.
5. There are plenty of nights, sparing family arguments
Another great thing about Hanukkah is that unlike other festive occasions, this one lasts for eight days. Why is that so great? Because you don’t end up mortifying one side of the family by celebrating with the other, sparing you needless guilt trips. You can conveniently celebrate with whomever you want whenever you want, and don’t for a second believe your mother-in-law when she tries to point out that the first night and the last night of the holiday are the most important ones for a get-together.
6. It’s casual and friend-based
Following up on the previous point, Hanukkah is also a really great occasion to meet up with friends for some festive candle-lighting. Meeting up sans kids? Make an adult evening of it with hot mulled wine or ice-cold gin and tonics. Meeting with young kids in tow? Double up on the G&Ts but make sure to have some dreidels around to keep them busy. Alcohol aside, some people opt for themed candle-lighting parties, others utilize the holiday for a long-overdue army reunion and many just have over their nearest and dearest for a fun night among friends.
7. You get to play with fire
Seeing how lighting candles is the biggest part of the holiday, it comes as no surprise that Hanukkah is a favorite among all the secret pyromaniacs out there. Fiddling with colorful candles, melting them into the hanukkiah to make sure they stick, that wonderful smell of striking matches – what’s not to love? We’re of course asking you all to light your candles responsibly and to keep them as far away from curtains, tablecloths and young children as possible. And then sit back and enjoy a warm glow from both within and without.
8. It’s flashback to your childhood years
It appears that preschools in Israel haven’t changed their holiday song repertoire in the past 60-odd years, otherwise there’s no explaining why my mother and infant daughter both know the very same Hanukkah songs (dance routine and enthusiastic hand-clapping included). Teenage eye-rolling aside, there’s no doubt that Hanukkah songs are pretty cool – some of them even involve turning all the lights off – and it’s nice to have a chance for such intergenerational fun. After all, that’s exactly what holidays are for.
9. Presents. Lots of them
On Hanukkah, kids are faced with a tough dilemma: do they opt for one small gift every night of the holiday, or do they exercise some self-control and ask for one big one to last them through the week? Experience shows that children are pretty clever, asking their parents for the one big thing they’re really after, knowing full well they’ll get something small each night from the different crowds with which they’re celebrating. Whatever they choose, by the time the week is over your house will likely be full of horrid plastics, but also hopefully of a nice little gift or two for you too.
10. Free donuts. Everywhere
Thought you’d make it through a Hanukkah story that didn’t focus even a tiny bit on donuts? Sorry to disappoint. Donuts really are one of the things that make Hanukkah the funnest holiday, particularly when they’re free. A simple poll among your Israeli friends and family is sure to show that everyone enjoyed at least one free donut during the holiday: handed out in schools, workplaces and even the army. What they won’t tell you is that these free donuts are most definitely not worth the calories, but then again, we don’t want to ruin the holiday spirit.