The Easy Hanukkah Guide: Recipes, Gifts and Activities For Each Night

Family lighting menorah

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is coming up – and that means eight beautiful nights celebrating the miracle of the Maccabees, lighting the menorah, and, well, figuring out what to do to build your family’s own special traditions.

If it feels like Hanukkah snuck right up on you, or you’re trying out leading a night of celebrating on your own for the first time, this holiday “cheat sheet” supplies parents and kids with a story book to read each night of Hanukkah, a gift idea to make or exchange, a recipe to cook together, and more. You’ll also find a virtualGet Togethers” section to help you share the holiday from afar.

Need a crash course in Hanukkah traditions and history? Visit the PJ Library Hanukkah hub.


There are so many wonderful Hanukkah picture books to choose from! You can view all PJ Library Hanukkah selections in the Books section of our website. Here are eight stories that work well for mixed age groups and that your family will enjoy reading again and again.

Hanukkah Hamster
by Michelle Markel

Meet the Latkes
by Alan Silberberg

A Hanukkah With Mazel
by Joel Stein

Eight Winter Nights
by Laura Melmed

Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas
by Pamela Ehrenberg

Hanukkah Moon
by Deborah DaCosta

Related: Hanukkah Books for Interfaith Families

Gift Ideas

Hanukkah gifts don’t have to be flashy or expensive (although it’s fine if that’s your style). If you’re stuck between a pack of socks or a giant stuffed animal, try one of these suggestions:

Handmade cards
Gifts don’t have to be store bought to be special. Organize a family craft night and create special cards to exchange with each other or mail to friends and family.

LEGO bricks
Did you know that you can make all sorts of amazing things with LEGO and Duplo blocks, including dreidels? They’re a perfect gift for your budding engineers and for a Hanukkah build-a-dreidel night.

Plan a future vacation together, plot out an RV trip, or login and enjoy a virtual class together.

Give the kids control
Find little ways that each child can be “head of the household” for a moment. For example, offer each child a chance to plan dinner for a future night. Whatever they say (within reason) goes: waffles and ice cream, breakfast pizza, chips and dip, great aunt Martha’s cod kugel – the possibilities are endless.

A gift that gives
Support a local business, buy handmade, or contribute your time and energy to a local charity.

A tzedakah box
In addition to your PJ Library tzedakah box, you can also decorate a custom tzedakah box as a family, or purchase a special keepsake box from a local maker or artist. Dedicate the new box to a cause near and dear to your child’s heart and save up for a full year.

Games and puzzles
Buy (or borrow) something that you can enjoy together as a family. Or create your own games using the PJ Library Story Blocks printable.

Books Would a PJ Library gift guide be complete without books? 


One Hanukkah tradition that’s easy to embrace is eating foods fried in oil to pay homage to the miracle of the oil in the original Hanukkah story. The recipes below are fun to make with your family, easy to prep, and put new spins on holiday classics. Some are healthy and some are a little extra indulgent – try a new one each night of Hanukkah.
Easy Chicken Stir Fry
Hidden Veggie Latkes
Oven Fried Zucchini Sticks
Nutella Pocket
Stained Glass Cookies
Sufganiyot Donut Holes
Un-fried Chicken Fingers
Veggie Fried Rice

Activities to Do as a Family

Eight easy to prep and fun activities to try each night of Hanukkah.

Upcycle crayons into candles
Share the light with charitable goodie bags
Build a glowing pathway
Make an oil menorah
Go stargazing
Turn aluminum foil into menorah-art
Make salt dough candle holders
Unplug for the night

Related: Printable Hanukkah Recipe and Activity Cards

Get Together (Virtually) With Friends

Sure, the 2020 holidays have all been a bit different -- but that doesn't mean you have to give up on making special memories or starting new traditions, with your loved ones. Here are eight fun ideas for getting together (virtually, or at a safe distance) with friends during the Festival of Lights.

Cookie Recipe Swap and Taste Test
Email or start a shared document with your family's favorite (or top secret) cookie recipes and try a new one out each night. You can compare notes, offer tips, and by the end you will all have an abundance of sweet memories and a mini cookbook to share for the next in-person cookie exchange in 2021..

Game Time
During Hanukkah, a typical game night can also transform into an epic tournament. Apps like Caribu, Kahoot, and House Party* make it easy to play games and communicate in real-time, even when you're in different time zones. (And bonus, you can find PJ Library books available through Caribu as well).
*While Caribu and Kahoot are made with kids in mind, House Party should be used under parental supervision.

Watch Party
Make use of a streaming together service to virtually watch a Hanukkah movie or special together.

Surprise, It's Shabbat! (Shabba-nukkah)
If one night of Hanukkah falls on Shabbat, surprise friends with a gift certificate to a favorite local restaurant or a dropped off meal to enjoy. 

Good Deeds Brainstorm
Use a shared chat or messenger thread to pick a cause or good deed to do each week. Perhaps those in the group who can, help out with grocery shopping for a neighbor, or pool resources to donate to a food pantry, or set up a drop-off meal train for a family in need of a little extra support this winter.

Exercise class
Burn off some energy and giggle a bunch with a (virtual) group exercise activity. It's easy to find free fitness classes via Zoom and social media. You can also support a local business by "dropping in" to a virtual donation-based class.

Book Swap
Pack up surprise bags of favorite books and gently used picture books, novels, and guides. Arrange porch-drop off times and surprise your friends and loved ones with new-to-them books.

Finally Do The Thing Night
Did you buy a paint by numbers kit at the start of quarantine? An exercise bike? A how-to-macrame book? Now is the time to learn how to use that thing. Set up a Facetime with another family and resolve to each try out something--a board game, a puzzle, a recipe even -- that's been sitting, untouched, for months. Everyone will get a lot of laughs out of the night, and you'll finally get some use out of that pizza stone.


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