While the Hanukkah parties won’t be happening, the tenets of the holiday – the fressing and the family and friends – still can

While the Hanukkah parties wont be happening this year, the tenets of the holiday the fressing and the family and friends still can.
Kesu01 /iStockPhoto / Getty Images
During the Jewish holiday of Passover, which commemorates the Israelites escape from slavery in ancient Egypt, one of the questions asked around the Seder table is, Why is this night different from all others? Well, move over matzo, because COVID Hanukkah is in the house.
For me, a typical Hanukkah consists of a couple of extended family gatherings in midtown Toronto condo party rooms full of latkes and noshes, the lighting of the menorah and good times catching up with second cousins. For my immediate family, it means the exchange of small gifts, more latkes, menorahs and dessert. But not this year.
While the Hanukkah parties wont be happening, the tenets of the holiday the fressing and the family and friends still can.
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This year, instead of the usual Hanukkah latke dinner, I helped organize my familys Hanukkah Zoom for our Secret Maccabee gift exchange. While pulling names from a hat and e-mailing each participant their secret recipients name, I came to realize that my family members were already approaching the holiday in their own unique ways.
My mom had just taped a latke-making demonstration for her synagogue as part of a Zoom presentation, my dad becoming a first-time cameraman. My younger brothers family organized for a bag of colourful dreidels to quarantine at their kids school before doing something theyd normally do in person read a book about Hanukkah for their little girls classmates. This year, theyve organized for the teachers to hand out the dreidels before a Google Classroom meet-up instead.
My older brother decided that rather than participating in our small gift exchange, hed donate money to the Daily BreadFood Bank. But in doing so, he isparticipating, since the concept of tzedakah (charitable giving) is a big part of Judaism and Hanukkah. In other words, a perfect Secret Maccabee gift. Meanwhile, my oldest brother will be working as he has throughout the pandemic, as an anesthesiologist in Ottawa. So, without realizing it, we had already found new ways to embrace the holiday.
Here are more ways to stay creatively connected during Hanukkah.
As with most Jewish holidays, Hanukkah is about the sharing of food and traditions. The miracle of Hanukkah is that while the ancient Israelites were rushing to rededicate the Second Temple, there was only enough oil to last one night, but the candles burned for eight. Because of this, we eat foods fried in oil, like potato latkes and doughnuts. Think of all of your favourite independent delis, dairies and doughnut shops, and place your orders for pickup or delivery. Who wouldnt be thrilled to receive doughnuts to their door?
Display the menorah in your front window so that all can see its candles shining brightly. Hanukkah is about a victory of light over darkness, fitting for these times.
Watch a movie online together. While there are literally hundreds of Christmas-themed films, there are just a handful featuring Hanukkah. Heres a little list to get you started: Fiddler on the Roof, An American Tail, Eight Crazy Nights and thats about it.
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Think about Hanukkah cards with a purpose; plant a tree in Israel with the Jewish National Fund. Donating to the United Jewish Appeal benefits community efforts like delivering kosher Meals on Wheels to the vulnerable in the community. And you can send out Hanukkah Tribute Cards that benefit the Jewish Family and Child Service.
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