8 Ways to Update Hanukkah Celebrations for a Small-Scale, Socially Distant (and Solo) Holiday Season

published Dec 9, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Prop Styling: Stephanie Yeh

Though Hanukkah is nowhere near as important to many Jewish people as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in terms of religious importance, it was always my favorite holiday growing up. There were seemingly endless nights of presents (that they were mostly socks never deterred me) and, of course, plenty of latkes supplied lovingly by my grandma, who would go all out in the food department. Every night, my family would light the menorah together, and I still smile thinking of the “Star Wars” pajamas my brother and I insisted on wearing. 

While we may not be able to celebrate in person this year because 2020 is the gift that keeps on giving, it’s more than possible to honor the Maccabees’ triumph from the comfort of your apartment, home, or wherever you’ve decided to shelter in place. Accepting that I won’t be able to see my family until 2021 has been a hard pill to swallow, knowing we could risk each other’s health when seeing one another has made our decision to celebrate remotely one for the best. Your mental health is of the utmost importance this season, and making an effort to know what you can do to make yourself feel better if you’re celebrating solo should be a priority.

So, yes, you can still have a special—and even memorable—Hanukkah even in spite of our present circumstances. Here are eight ways to celebrate the festival of lights solo, or at a safe and digital distance with your loved ones:

Plan a zoom menorah lighting 

While it’s one of the most obvious solutions, it’s also one of the sweetest. Remotely and respectively saying prayers while lighting the candles with your family allows you all to be together in spirit, even if it’s just tea lights in lieu of a menorah. Sending out digital or printed invites rather than just the Zoom link will make it feel more special, and don’t forget to make sure any family pets get their share of screen-time, too. 

Make your family’s traditional Hanukkah foods 

Making the holiday food your family normally would be chowing down on can make you feel less alone and simultaneously become a prime opportunity to test your culinary skills. I personally can’t wait to make a leaning tower of latkes, and you can opt for a family recipe, a classic, or try your hand at something new. I’m eyeing this apple and cheese-stuffed latkes option because life is too short to not try and include cheese whenever possible. 

Try different recipes each night

If your family is of the imbibing type, you can always have a drink or two before or after the candle lighting festivities. Throughout lockdown, I’ve been attempting to make signature cocktails from my favorite restaurants I can’t frequent at the moment, and you can attempt a similar quest with DIY drinks inspired by your family’s preferred restaurant—and of course, dry drinks count, too! Eight nights means eight opportunities to try your hand at eight respective drinks your family misses.

Alternatively, this 9-pack menorah built from cans of white wine is a self-described “Hanukkah miracle.” 

Holiday gift swap with friends

In lieu of a Secret Santa, why not do a holiday or Hanukkah gift swap with friends? These polymer clay bagels-with-schmear earrings are adorable and highly on-brand for the tribe, and I’d be remiss to not recommend “Guac Is Extra But So Am I: The Reluctant Adult’s Handbook,” which makes an excellent addition to any young adult’s library, if I do say so myself.  

DIY a menorah 

If you’ve got little kids you need to entertain or are feeling the siren call of crafting yourself, there are countless options to make a DIY menorah. This pasta menorah is a pretty unique and inexpensive option, and this reengineered Batman figurine is Gotham’s answer to the dark knight getting lit. 

Giving through gambling 

In the high-stakes world of dreidel competitions, why not spin so everyone can win and donate any and all proceeds to charity? Throw down the dreidel over Zoom (or in person if you’re sheltering in place with a few family members), and allow your competitive streak to run truly wild—it’s always acceptable to destroy your cousins on game night when it’s for charity. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Prop Styling: Stephanie Yeh

Binge-watch Hanukkah movies or inherently Jewish TV shows

Yes, there’s “Eight Crazy Nights,” but when it comes down to it, couldn’t all Adam Sandler movies count as a Hanukkah movie? (Yes, “Uncut Gems” and “Halloween Hubie” are both currently available on Netflix.) Other options include the “Rugrats” Chanukah special or “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” in its entirety. 

Strike oil, in the most soothing sense 

Just as the Maccabees suddenly found themselves with the miracle of oil—so can you by treating yourself to a soothing CBD oil or a misting diffuser of your choice. It’s been a stressful year so no one will blame you for gifting yourself a soothing oil diffuser, which is always a lovely and personalized addition to any space. I’m personally a fan of the Juniper Ridge forest-inspired scents because as much as I theoretically enjoy camping, it’s hard to beat enjoying an outdoors aesthetic from the comfort of your own bed.