Four Families, One Festival: Celebrating Hanukkah Traditions

Four families share their family's favorite Hanukkah traditions, from latkes to Adam Sandler

By Macaroni KID December 8, 2023

In 2023, Hanukkah begins Thursday, December 7 at sunset
and ends Friday, December 15 at nightfall

Families worldwide gather each year to celebrate Hanukkah. This eight-day-long holiday, rich in history and tradition, is actually considered one of the more minor Jewish holidays, but some families celebrate it with enthusiasm to honor its distinct cultural importance and give children a memorable holiday experience.

Against the backdrop of the Oct. 7 attack in Israel, this year's Hanukkah celebrations take on added significance for many Jewish families. In the wake of ongoing challenges and the rise of anti-Semitism, it's especially meaningful to remember Hanukkah is a holiday that celebrates light, unity, resilience, and hope. 

Whether or not you are Jewish, take the opportunity this Hanukkah to come together to celebrate, share in the joy, and embrace the diversity of traditions that weave our world into a beautiful tapestry of understanding and unity. Explore the warmth of community festivities by attending public menorah lightings and Hanukkah celebrations open to all in your area. Join your neighbors in celebrating Hanukkah together. 

For many families, it wouldn't be Hanukkah without a game of dreidel or treats of latkes and sufganiyot. We are grateful to share the joy four of our Macaroni KID families find in their favorite Hanukkah family traditions, from the lighting of menorahs to celebrate the miracle of the Festival of Lights to finding laughter with a favorite Adam Sandler movie:

Sharing the meaning behind Hanukkah

One of my favorite Hanukkah traditions is going to my daughters' secular (non-religious) preschool and school classes to share about the holiday with their classmates. It isn't to compete with Christmas, but rather to help understand that:

  • Not everyone celebrates Christmas, and that’s more than OK.
  • Hanukkah is NOT the “Jewish Christmas” or even a major holiday.
  • Hanukkah has some fun traditions! For my kids, I love that they’re able to feel special FOR celebrating Hanukkah – rather than excluded or odd. 

The basic observances are simple and approachable, like lighting the menorah, eating foods with oil (to commemorate the miracle of the oil for the lamp lasting 8 days), and songs that are simple — all things you can do at home. To me this makes it approachable, and allows for celebrating the themes of rededication, sharing the light — tradition says to display the menorah proudly in your window — and overcoming challenges, which is relatable every year.

Want to learn more? PJ library has lots of great resources.

— Aaron Seligman, publisher of Macaroni KID Madison, Wis.

How many ways can you say Hanukkah?

Confused because you see Hanukkah spelled different ways? There's a reason for that! Hanukkah has various acceptable spellings due to its translation to English from Hebrew. Common alternatives include "Chanukah" and "Hanukah."

Collecting menorahs

I have been collecting menorahs for decades. I display them in my family room all year long. Each year it is super exciting for us to decide which one we will use for Hanukkah. I especially love the one I have that is a beach-themed menorah (pictured above). They all bring back special memories of celebrating the holidays with our kids.

— Jamie Ratner, Macaroni KID CEO

A special tradition

My kids made menorahs in preschool, and we go back to our synagogue every year to all light our menorahs together.  

— Jessica Kline, publisher of Macaroni KID Clifton - Montclair, N.J.

Food, games ... and Adam Sandler

Growing up, we would light the menorah each night, play dreidel with pennies or candy, visit family and eat latkes and donuts then open presents. As far as gifts go, my sibling and I either got one big present, something smaller each night, or something in between. As we got older, the presents lessened or we might just get some gelt — that's Hebrew and Yiddish for money. I've carried on a similar tradition with my boys. 

For my family, Hanukkah is all about the latkes! My hubby likes them plain, my boys like them covered in ketchup, and I'm more old school with sour cream and applesauce. It also wouldn't be Hanukkah without some sufganiyot, similar to a jelly donut. 

Get the recipe: These Sweet Potato Latkes are a Hanukkah Favorite

Another fun thing we do is read Hanukkah books and watch Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights. I have to warn you, though — it's PG-13 and full of potty humor. Not appropriate for younger kids! 

—Brenna Gutell, publisher of Macaroni KID Conejo Valley - Malibu - Calabasas, Calif.