December is my favorite time of year and the month of sparkling lights. From Christmas decorations to the Hanukkah menorah candles the spirit of the season is evident no matter what you celebrate. The lights of the season become a symbol of hope. Many families are gathering the next 8 days with songs, prayer, good food, games and candle lighting. Here is a round up of some of the best ways to celebrate Hanukkah with family and friends throughout the Hudson Valley.
Tell us in the comments: How are you celebrating?
1. Many communities are gathering this week with songs, latkes, games, lighting the menorah and more. Join neighbors and friends for the fun festivities, most events are open to everyone.There are many Hanukkah celebrations on the calendar. If you don’t see one near your check your town or library websites too:
12/17- Wappingers Falls
2. Visit the 6′ ice menorah sculpture at the Galleria at Crystal Run on Sunday when the County Legislator and Mayor join the community to light the ice sculpture in a unique fire and ice celebration. The Fire & Ice Chanukkah Orange Celebration is open to everyone and fun for the entire family! Play games, make crafts, partake in activities for the kids. Satisfy your hunger at a potato latke bar with all the fixings, an ice slush stand and more!
3. Experience the tallest menorah in the Hudson Valley! Each night the candles are lit at the civic center plaza in Poughkeepsie. All are welcome to enjoy the celebration and enjoy songs, hot latkes, doughnuts, hot cider and chocolate gelt!
4. A unique Hanukkah festival for the entire family! Visit the Poughkeepsie Galleria on Sunday 12/21 for Glow Chanukkah Glow. Experience the menorah lights glowing in the dark with crafts, activities for the kids and performances. Enjoy an electric light up comedy and juggling show, live music and dancing, hot latkes, dreidel games and more!
5. Create with the kids! From homemade menorahs to dreidel spin art, the internet is filled with ideas the kids can make to celebrate. I love this easy paper plate menorah idea from pleasantestthing.com
6. Hanukkah is a time to celebrate the symbolic meaning of the victory of light over darkness. Yes, we light candles on the Menorah for 8 days to celebrate this enormous victory but you can get a little creative here too. Pack the family into the car and take a look at the beautiful light displays throughout the Hudson Valley. While decorating homes and trees with lights is more of a Christmas tradition here in America it dates all the way back to Thomas Edison’s and one of his many publicity stunts and is used throughout many parts of the world for different types of festivals. However, not only does the twinkle of the Christmas light date back to Thomas Edison’s era but before him miniature candles were used to light up Christmas trees and even before that in the dark cold winters of the 12th century people were recorded as the first to light a burning yule log as a symbol of the sun’s promise to return (Source).
7. Give and support. Hanukkah is a celebration of religious freedom. The 8 days of Hanukkah remember a time when people stood up to “bullies” and fought for that they wanted and believed in, they fought for themselves. A great way to celebrate is to give back. You can support Israel and Israelis through The Good People Fund, an organization that provides resources on charities in Israel. You don’t have to give money to support Israel, have your kids send cards and pictures to soldiers, or start a pen pal with another child there. I know this is stretching it a bit here, but you can take the idea of fighting for freedoms closer to home and more relevent to today’s culture by showing your support to organizations like Stomp Out Bullying which raise awareness of bullying prevention.
8. Celebrate your own history and culture. Hanukkah is a holiday that shows the importance of history. You don’t need to celebrate Hanukkah or be Jewish. Talk to relatives, do a little digging and create a family tree, family history album or just talk to your kids about your heritage and culture. I love these interview questions for Grandparents found on The House of Hendrix Blog or these Family Timeline Accordian Books from Imagination Soup the kids can make. The holiday time no matter what you celebrate is a wonderful time for taking a little look back into history with our kids.
9. One of my favorite things about the Hanukkah celebrations is the food! For me a wonderful potato latke this time of the year truly hits the spot. Whip up a batch for dinner tonight! If cooking isn’t quite your thing you might have to do a little searching for a true Kosher Deli or good potato Latke in the area but it isn’t impossible. New City Kosher Deli & Restaurant looks to be one of the few remaining in our area but with high ratings and great reviews it just might be worth the drive to Rockland County this week. If you are up for a cooking treat, here is a delicious Potato Latke recipe from FoodandWine.com.
- 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
- Sea salt
- 2 pounds baking potatoes
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup matzo meal
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Applesauce, crème fraîche, smoked salmon, salmon roe and dill sprigs, for serving
- In a medium saucepan, cover the Yukon Gold potatoes with cool water, season generously with salt and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well and immediately pass the potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl.
- Working quickly, peel and grate the baking potatoes on the large holes of a box grater into a medium bowl. Press with a clean kitchen towel to remove excess moisture. Add half of the grated potatoes to the riced potatoes.
- Transfer the remaining grated potatoes to the bowl of a food processor. Add the onion and pulse until the potatoes and onions are very finely chopped. Transfer to a fine-mesh sieve and press with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Add the potato-onion mixture to the large bowl. Stir in the eggs, matzo meal, white pepper and 2 teaspoons of salt.
- In a large, heavy skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until shimmering. Working in 3 batches, spoon 1/4 cup of the potato mixture into the oil for each latke; press slightly to flatten. Fry over moderate heat, turning once, until the latkes are golden and crisp on both sides, about 7 minutes. Drain the latkes on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve with applesauce, crème fraîche, smoked salmon, salmon roe and dill.
10. Spend time together. Whether you go out and celebrate, give gifts or cook, the true spirit of the season is about celebrating with your loved ones and making memories together. Don’t let the commercialization of the season let you loose sight of the the most important thing we can give our children this month, our time and love.
A very Happy Hanukkah to those celebrating tonight. May the festival of lights bring you much joy, compassion, hope and love.