Chanukah is coming! Hannukah is coming!
I always try to make Chanukah fun in my house but it’s not so easy constantly thinking of new ideas and activities to do. Add a budget to that and…. I’m always wracking my brains for fun, child-friendly things to do that DO NOT involve spending money or giving presents. I want Chanukah to be a real fun time for my kids (and myself!) which is hard, especially when the kids have school and I have work.
We always light candles and sing songs but that doesn’t take us very long and we have a whole night ahead of us with not that much to do. After the kids are asleep I always want to keep the “magic” and “special feeling” going but again- there are only so many times you can eat plain latkes (even if you switch off between applesauce and sour cream!)
I do give my kids some presents on Chanukah but I keep them very low-key and we only do that one night. I know some people like to give presents every night but not only can I not afford to do that I also don’t want Chanukah to be about the presents. It’s about the triumph of good over evil, about keeping our religion in the face of obstacles, about NOT letting materialism run our lives, and about being a light onto the nations.
There are 8 nights of Chanukah and 8 ways to enjoy Chanukah (the 8th is to make an amazing Chanukah party). You can create a theme for each night or do one of these things each night. As we stay in our homes and gaze at the beautiful lights that we light every night we are grateful for all that we have and all that we have been given and been able to give.
8 Ways to Play the Game of Dreidel:
Dreidel is THE Chanukah game. This game goes back to the actual story of Chanukah and is filled with symbolism. No Chanukah is complete without at least one game of dreidel. Read here about why we play with a dreidel on Chanukah.
Our family doesn’t use money for the classic Dreidel game. We like to use something else instead. You can use either jelly beans, chocolate chips, marbles, even chocolate coins if you are fancy. Here are the rules of the classic dreidel game.
This dreidel computer game is perfect if you have someone who is addicted to the tablet or you need a break while frying latkes and doughnuts! This goes double if your kids are off of school. A perfect Chanukah-themed computer game!
Dress Up Dreidel
Every person has to pick 4 things that start with the 4 letters on the dreidel. Take all the items and put them in 4 separate baskets. Each time you land on a letter you have to pick an item from that bag and put it in. The game ends when everyone gets bored or there are no more items in the basket. You can also put a slight twist on this to make it last longer: set a timer and have everyone run around the house collecting the 4 items in a short amount of time. The less time you have to think about than the more random and, hopefully, funny, items you have to choose from!
Do you have teenagers? Then this is a great way to get them involved! The betting works like in poker (I suggest using fake money or jellybeans). Everyone gets their own Dreidel. The betting begins. The bets determine how much “money” is in the pot. Everyone spins at the same time.
Gimmel- you get the whole pot but you must split it with anyone else who gets gimmel.
Hey-you win ½ the pot but you must split it with all the other “hey” winners- you get nothing if someone else got a gimmel.
Nun- gets nothing, as always
Shin- has to put money into the pot.
There is no winning in this game but a lot of hilarity! Each time you land on a letter you have to do an action that starts with that letter. No repeats!
For Adults Only.
Everyone gets a shot of alcohol and a dreidel:
Gimmel-take a shot
Hay- a half a shot
Shin- pick someone else who has to take a shot
Make it a Learning Opportunity
Koala Coach has a cute way to use dreidel as a learning game. If you don’t think that will go over well- you can make it more fun by creating questions that are family-related or make a list of fun activities to go with this game!
5 Ways to Play with Dreidels
Redtri has some cute ways to play with dreidels that isn’t the actual dreidel game. Here are 5 creative ways to play with Dreidels.
In the spirit of frugality and budgeting, read about money lessons from the game of dreidel.
8 Creative and Frugal Chanukah decorations
I love to decorate my house for Chanukah. I am not particularly creative or good at crafts but my kids LOVE arts and crafts so I am always looking for things for them to do. We take their crafts from school and home and use them to decorate the house- living room and their bedroom for Chanukah.
Since my artistic skills are nil I gravitate towards crafts that are super easy to make. I also do not spend a lot of money on craft supplies. While I try to have all the basic in the house on a regular basis I believe that having access to creative supplies is great for kids) I try not to buy supplies that can only be used for a specific purpose. So I buy things and reuse things that can be used in a multitude of ways. I save magazines, cardboard boxes, toilet paper, and paper towel rolls, etc. and I try to buy cheap craft items from the dollar store (or the like) and sometimes even from Ali Express.
These are all crafts that I either make with my kids or found online from other great sources.
Mostly Frugal Chanukah Crafts
I tried to only pick crafts that have materials that I thought most people would have readily available to them. I don’t consider a craft to be frugal if I have to buy a specialty item for it. Although you may not have all these materials in the house they are all pretty basic materials that probably can be purchased for pretty cheap and that the average family will have already so I feel like it can be called “frugal” even if you personally have to purchase the materials.
Of course, if you don’t have it and don’t have the money to buy it then adapt to whatever you can find! That is the best part of creative crafts- you can always make it work for you and your family.
8 Chanukah Crafts to make with your kids:
Cardboard or paper
Markers, crayons, or stickers
I make these dreidel crafts every year. This year we used an old cereal box. I cut the box into small dreidels and the kids decorate them as they see fit. This year we used dot paints and markers but we have also used stickers, cut up- magazines, and regular paint. You can use this template to trace a dreidel if you feel like you can’t draw one yourself.
Once the dreidel is decorated I poke a hole through the top and thread a thread or string through it and hang it from the curtain rods. My kids love it when I hang some in their room.
I suggest doing this with a menorah because all the straight lines make it sort of idiot-proof. Take tape (preferably painter’s tape but other tape is fine as well) and put it in the shape of a menorah on the paper. Give kids paintbrushes to paint over it. They can get creative and do different designs etc. This picture is from my son when he was 2 so it was a one-color type of thing. After it dries, slowly and clearly remove the tape, underneath the paint will be a menorah design!
Chanukah Handprint Menorah
I love this because it is so easy! The little kids love it because it is super sensory. If you are really good at these type of things, try to do it a few years in a row so you can see their adorable little hands grow! Don’t forget to write their name and year on the back of the paper so that you don’t forget which year each handprint was from.
Paper Towel Menorah
I made this one year but it didn’t look like the picture! It was a simpler version which worked for us. The great thing is that you can make it more or less fancy-depending on how much time and energy you have. You can really use any material to decorate the rolls. Don’t feel like you have to make it exactly as pictured. Bonus points for using recycled materials that would ordinarily go in the trash!
Paper Plate Menorah
I love using household goods to make crafts! It excited the frugal me. Even if you don’t have paper plates around they are super cheap to buy and better than plastic for the environment so a lot of wins! This is an oldie but a goodie. Simple, easy, and festive. What could be bad?
Star of David Bunting
Chanukah is all about being Jewish so these star of David crafts fit into the theme even though they are not specifically Chanukah related. They can be more simple or more complicated depending on the age of the child doing them. I like the idea of having them in a hallway or around a staircase to make it look really nice.
Paper Chain Menorah
I love this idea! This is really great for older kids who want something they can do on their own. You can use leftover papers or magazines if you want something really super frugal. You do need a nice blank wall for this to work though. If you live in most places, the paper won’t stick to a window if it’s cold and rainy.
Maybe this can even be turned into a great Chanukah party game? Keep posted for the details on a later night!
Chanukah Candle Clothespins
I like to hang all the projects on a string in front of my large window. We do this with clothespins. To make them Chanukah friendly I use wooden clothespins and either color or paint the bottoms yellow and the tops orange to look like a candle. It’s just a little festive touch that makes it look more pulled together. I save these from year to year.
Decorate your home with your Chanukah Crafts!
A few really important things to keep in mind:
NEVER put paper or any type of crafts near where you may be lighting the Menorah. Even if you want that area to look nice it can be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS to put any sort of crafts anywhere you have open flames.
I did not include any Menorah crafts for this same reason. Making a homemade menorah to actually light should be handled with extreme caution. For this reason, in our house, we have the rule that even menorahs that are made in school are for “show” only. Chanukah crafts are to be seen and not used! We set a small table with a display of menorahs that the kids made (and some projects that don’t hang well). Better safe than sorry!
8 Types of Chanukah Latkes
Chanukah Latkes! Latkes are delicious. That is a fact. You can fight me on this if you want.
To celebrate the miracle of oil we have the custom to eat foods fried in oil. I love my latkes with both sour cream and applesauce (yes, both!) but sometimes it can be a bit bring to have plain potato latkes every night! (I know you don’t NEED to have latkes every night but…. Like I said before, they are delicious!). The good news is that Jewish Cooking has exploded with all sorts of new cooks, chefs, and websites who have all put their own twist on the classic potato latke.
You can make a different one every day or even have a Latke Cook-off where each person makes a different latke for everyone to taste! Let me know which one you love the most!
- Classic Potato Latkes. Because we don’t mess with tradition! https://jamiegeller.com/recipes/latkes-potato-pancakes/
- Beet Latkes with Chive Goat Cheese. https://blog.williams-sonoma.com/beet-latkes-recipe/
- Gluten-Free Latkes. https://healthyrecipesblocom/latkes/
- No-Potato Vegetable Latkes. https://jamiegeller.com/recipes/no-potato-latke/
- Potato-Apple Latkes. https://www.landolakes.com/recipe/19504/potato-apple-latkes/
- Salami Potato Latkes. https://www.busyinbrooklyn.com/tag/latke-recipe/
- Easy Sweet Potato Latkes Recipe. https://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/easy-sweet-potato-latkes/7bf1a993-9772-4df5-a393-c55129dab4ae
- Falafel Latkes. https://www.thedailymeal.com/recipes/falafel-latkes-recipe
I wrote this list but then when I was researching other Chanukah things I came across this recipe. How could I not include it? It looks delicious! And so different and interesting. We will TOTALLY be trying it this year. I mean, how could we not?!?! So instead of 8 latke recipes, you get 9. Please don’t hate me!
- Mexican Chocolate Latkes with Cinnamon Whipped Cream https://whatjewwannaeat.com/mexican-chocolate-latkes-wayfair-hanukkah/
8 Types of Chanukah Doughnuts
Sufganiyot or doughnuts have become a Chanukah staple. While the classic is a jelly-filled doughnut there are many different types of fillings you can put in.
In Israel, caramel filling is also a classic (yum!) and bakeries outdo themselves with creative and delicious fillings for their doughnuts.
If you live in Israel Chanukah is a great time to do a “doughnut crawl” and go to each bakery and try a doughnut. It will NOT be frugal or healthy but it will be delicious! Since the more creative and fancy the doughnut is, the more expensive it is we poor folk have to content ourselves with homemade doughnuts.
Without further ado….
- Vanilla Cream-Filled Doughnuts. https://www.browneyedbaker.com/vanilla-cream-filled-doughnuts/
- Cheesecake Stuffed Baked Doughnuts. https://www.handletheheat.com/cheesecake-stuffed-baked-doughnuts/
- Mexican Chocolate Filled Doughnuts. https://www.cakenknife.com/mexican-chocolate-filled-doughnuts/
- Whipped Cream-Filled Doughnuts. https://www.ricardocuisine.com/en/recipes/6034-whipped-cream-filled-doughnuts
- Peanut Butter Cream Filled Doughnuts. https://www.howsweeteats.com/2012/11/peanut-butter-cream-filled-donuts/
- Coffee Custard Filled Doughnuts. https://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/coffee-custard-filled-doughnuts
- Cinnamon Salted Caramel Doughnuts. https://www.janespatisserie.com/2019/01/05/cinnamon-salted-caramel-doughnuts/
- Pistachio Cream Filled Doughnuts. http://www.thelittleloaf.com/2017/02/22/pistachio-cream-filled-doughnuts/
And one more, sort of, for my Gluten-Free friends. You can use this recipe for the dough and then add whatever filling you want!
- Gluten Free Sufganiyot. https://www.kosher.com/recipe/gluten-free-sufganiyot-4350
What about the classic Jelly ones?!?!
I usually make this recipe from Bon Appetit and then just fill them with Jelly. I like that they are not too big so you get a good jelly/doughnut ratio. There is no fun in having too much doughnut to jelly! The chocolate dipping sauce is delicious as well!
- Zeppole with Chocolate Sauce. https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/zeppole-with-chocolate-sauce
Which ones are you trying?
Of course, you can try these any day of the year- you don’t need to wait for Chanukah to indulge! I guess I can even call this evergreen content. After all, who doesn’t love a delicious doughnut any day of the year?
8 Fun Chanukah Games and Activities
There is nothing better than playing a game as a family and what better time to do that than on Chanukah? We can do a boring game night or we can play some awesome Chanukah Games! These are great to play with your immediate family or even an extended family game on zoom.
So without further ado, I present…
This is a great game for older kids or adults in the family.
The Challenge: Make a Latke for everyone to try
The Criteria: The majority of judges have to agree that it is considered a latke. Otherwise, no rules. Any vegetable or format is acceptable.
Find the Jug of Oil
A simple pitcher or other large item is covered in foil and hidden somewhere in the house. Whoever finds it first wins! An added twist- make a few foil-covered objects to represent the jug of oil. Only one has the seal of the Cohen Gadol on it- that is the one that must be found!
This should be really self-explanatory. Write Chanukah words, names, or ideas on a card. You have to act out the word on the card.
Pin the Light on the Menorah.
If you made my menorah craft then you will have a menorah that is perfect for playing Pin the Light on the Menorah. Take the Shamash and hand it to a child (or adult!). Blindfold them, spin them around and hilarity ensues!
Greeks and Jews
My son played this in his preschool class. Basically, a spin on hide-and-seek and cops and robbers. The Jews have to hide and the Greeks have to find them and “jail” them. You can use the costume ideas here to make it a little more exciting.
The Great Dreidel Hunt
This is particularly great if you are lucky enough to be living in a place with a nice yard AND nice weather. You can play it indoors as well. Take a handful of dreidels and strew them about. Whoever finds the most wins! You can use chocolate coins if you don’t have a lot of dreidels around. We happen to have a plethora of dreidels just sitting around but not everyone does!
Squirt the Menorah
This one is a bit more creative and takes a bit of guts from those in charge but Bible Belt Balbuste has a great Chanukah Game where you shoot water pistols at a lit menorah. This great if you live in a warmer place and celebrating outside!
5 Second Chanukah Categories
Each person gets a piece of paper and a pen. You have 5 seconds (a timer is a good idea) to write 3 things that fit into each category.
Some Category Ideas:
Events of the Chania Story
And of course….The Best and Classic Chanukah Game of…
What can be bad about a classic game of dreidel? What about a not classic game of dreidel? Here are 8 ways to play dreidel
8 ways to make your Shabbos Chanukah Special
We always get one Shabbos Chanukah and this year we get two! While every single Shabbos is special, I like to make Shabbos Chanukah a little more special. When Shabbos comes every week it’s hard to get into it all the time. Once you have kids, Shabbos is not as relaxing or fun! That’s why its important to make at least some special. I’m not going to pretend that I make every Shabbos special because I don’t. But I do like to put in an effort every once in a while and Shabbos Chanukah is that time.
Take a walk
This is particularly great if you live in a predominately Jewish neighborhood! After you light candles and your Kabbalas Shabbos (Kabbalat Shabbat) take a walk around and look at all the beautiful menorahs. It’s amazing to see how many people are still lighting Chanukah candles this many years after the Chanukah story. You can also take a peek at the lit-up decorations of our non-Jewish friends.
Make Chanukah theme foods
While traditional Shabbos food is delicious jazz it up with some Chanukah touches. Jamie Geller has a great Chanukah menu for you to try.
This is a perfect time to either invite family or someone who can use a nice meal. There is no better time than Chanukah to practice our Hachnasat Orchim or Hospitality.
Play a Chanukah game together
Whether its dreidel (See above!) or another Jewish-themed game take some time to play a game as a family.
Make your Challah into a Menorah
We have to have challah but that doesn’t mean it needs to be boring! Make a Menorah Challah! Having special challah will take a regular item and give it a super fun twist! What a way to celebrate Shabbos Channukah.
Sing Kabbalas Shabbos
So I don’t know about you, but my Erev Shabbos is usually not the calmest scene. I usually don’t have the headspace to do a whole Kabbalas Shabbos or include my kids in my candle lighting. Especially in the winter, it’s more of a mad dash to light and then a mad dash to finish getting dressed;) the good thing about Shabbos Chanukah is that since we light the menorah BEFORE we light Shabbos candles I am forced to be ready and calm by the time I light my Shabbos candles.
With everyone dressed and gathered around, it is the perfect time to give Tzedaka (charity) with the kids and sing a whole (or part) Kabbalas Shabbos with the kids or by yourself. We don’t need to do real Kabbalas Shabbos – Shabbos songs that the kids now and sing in school are great too! It’s a beautiful thing to sit and look at all the beautiful candles in the house and sing Shabbos and Chanukah songs together. Maybe we should do it every week….
Decorate your Table
Use dreidels, coins, and kid’s menorah crafts to create a Chanukah themed centerpiece. Just take all your “extra” Chanukah stuff and put them in the center of the table for a Shabbos Chanukah tablescape.
Make a Chanukah Dessert
Aren’t these adorable? You can have these for dessert or for a cute Shabbos party. It’s all about the small details that make a beautiful Shabbos into a beautiful Shabbos Chanukah.
What are some ways that you like to spend Shabbos Chanukah? Do you do anything special in your home? There is no need to spend extra money to make this special shabbos exciting. I would love to hear any frugal ideas that any of my readers have. Please let me know in the comments!
8 Ways to Make the Story of Chanukah Come Alive:
Sometimes in all the gaiety, we forget to focus on the actual story of Chanukah. Sometimes we forget in all the candles, doughnuts, latkes, parties, etc. to actually focus on the “true meaning of Chanukah”. I like to take one night to focus on the story and the meanings behind it.
Sitting down and talking about the story is not the best way to do this because then it becomes a chore that no one is really interested in!
Act out the Story of Chanukah. Have your kids (or yourself) put on a little show about Chanukah.
Maccabees are the heroes of our story and everyone deserves to march around singing “Mi LaHashem Aley”. This adorable Maccabee shield will get your little Maccabees to really feel the part. You can get into the action earlier in the day by making the shield with those kids who are interested or you can make them for your kids as a surprise.
Household items make great dress-up items
A paper towel roll is a great elephant nose (of course, you need an elephant to be a good Greek soldier) and a dishtowel draped on a kid’s head makes a good biblical keffiyeh. Sheets can be used for Greek togas. Historical accuracy is not really the point here. There is plenty of things around the house that can be used to make a cute play!
Sing a Song!
Singing all the traditional songs as a family or as part of your play is a great way to get everyone in the festive spirit. Don’t know them? Check them out here!
Let’s move to the present day by listening (or watching) great music Chanukah music videos!
Are you feeling a little out of your depth because either you don’t know much about the story or because you have no way to transmit it to your kids? Here are some places to learn more about Chanukah and some activities you can do.
- Teacher Vision has some great write-ups, videos, and activities about Chanukah. This is mainly geared towards teachers and the classroom but there is no reason you can’t adapt them to your own home. See here.
- We love PJ Library! Not only do they have a great blog with great information and activities but don’t forget to sign up to receive a free Jewish book every month! I am so grateful to PJ library for the books and activities they send us every month. See here.
- Inspire Yourself. If you are looking to explore more about Chanukah and how it applies to us today Aish.com is THE website to head to. Check it out for stories, articles, and inspiration.
Share What You Learned.
I love putting the work on other people so you can easily do this with family or friends. Go around and have each person or child share something about Chanukah with the group. Kids can share what they learned in school or sing a song. It can be a cute thing to record as well so you have the cuteness for posterity! Nothing like a video of your child singing the wrong words to a Chanukah song to laugh about every year!
Shabbos, Shabbat, Chanukah, Channuka, Channukah, Hannukah, Hannuka, Hanuka…. No matter how you spell it you can celebrate in all of these fun ways!