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

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 “Get Togethers” section to help you share the holiday with your friends and family.

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

Books

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
 

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.

Experiences
Visit a museum, get your sillies out at a trampoline park, go to the movies or take a class and learn a skill together as a family.

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? Organize a book swap with friends or let each child pick a special, new-to-them book at a local charity shop or library book sale.

Recipes

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 Togethers With Friends

If you live somewhere cold and dark during the winter, it can feel like you never get out to see friends and community – so invite them in! Bonus points? When you host a gathering, you don’t have to wrangle your children into car seats. Here are eight fun ideas for getting together with friends during the Festival of Lights.

Cookie exchange
You can either bake all together, or each family brings a favorite cookie or treat. Then you all pack up goodie bags with each other, trading your favorites. It’s easy, fun, and a great excuse to try making stained glass Hanukkah cookies.

Game night
During Hanukkah, a typical game night can also transform into an epic dreidel tournament of champions, complete with chocolate gelt. Or, bring back a few, silly camp games from your child-hood if you’ve got the space.

Movie night
Set the kids up with the Shaboom! Holiday video or another Hanukkah special while the grown-ups eat dinner and enjoy Hallmark’s new venture into Hanukkah-themed holiday tearjerkers.

Chopped Shabbat (Shabba-nukkah)
If one night of Hanukkah falls on Shabbat, invite company over for a “Chopped Shabbat.” It’s a great way to use up leftovers and a wonderful excuse to spend time together.

Good deeds gathering
Get together to make blankets or toys for shelter animals or sort donations for a local food pantry. Or make some casseroles and set up a meal train for a family in need of a little extra support this winter.

Babysitting exchange
This isn’t so much a get together as it is a gift for fellow parents. Take the kids for a night so that friends can enjoy an evening out. Then next week, swap. You can even get creative and use a calendar tool to set up a whole network of trusted caregivers together.

Exercise class
Burn off some energy and giggle a bunch with a group exercise activity. You can go to a studio or fitness center or just turn your living room into a makeshift gym with the help of some well placed towels and a streaming workout video.

Book swap
Organize a potluck dinner and invite everyone, kids and grown-ups alike, to bring along gently used picture books, novels, and guides. Swap while you nosh and then donate the extras to a local shelter, library, or other charity.

Related: 8 Ideas for Hanukkah Get Togethers

More

8 Ideas for Hanukkah Nights (And None of Them Are Presents)
8 More Ideas for Hanukkah Theme Nights
Sharing Hanukkah at School
The 2019 Quick Guide to Celebrating Hanukkah With Kids