Muse & Schmooze: Hanukkah is Coming to Town – Creative Ways to Celebrate

Hanukkah has been celebrated since 138 BCE, the year after the “miracle of the oil.” After more than 2,000 years of steady tradition, we will light the first candle of 2014 on Tuesday, Dec. 16. (Want to see how much you know about Hanukkah? Take this fun IQ quiz to find out!) Looking to add a new tradition or a little flair to this longstanding celebration and candle-lighting? Here are a few creative ideas:

Hanukkah is a time to eat fried foods, commemorating the miracle of the oil lasting eight days. Latkes abound, and in recent years there have been many recipes floating around that use a variety of different veggies (I highly recommend sweet potato and zucchini if you haven’t yet tried them!). Sufganiyot, or jelly donuts, are also a delicious way to commemorate the miracle if you’re looking for something sweet. As a girl who loves pickles, why not take a Southern twist and try fried pickles? Forget the half- or full-sour debate here; what it really comes down to is slices vs. spears—personally I prefer slices for more fried surface area! Last year’s Thanksgivukkah recipe for fried kosher dill pickle slices has me wishing for a plate right now.

From the candle blessings to “Ma’oz Tzur” (“Rock of Ages”), there’s a pretty standard lineup of Hanukkah classics. If you’re looking for a twist that brings a contemporary flair to the tradition, check out Barenaked Ladies’ “Hanukkah Blessings” on YouTube.

Plenty of families have the classic “to Christmas tree or not” debate. Got a tree and want to bring the Hanukkah pizazz? Make some dreidel ornaments! Take your classic plastic or wooden dreidels and give them a coat of silver or gold spray paint (if you don’t have any lying around, these are super inexpensive at pharmacies and supermarkets throughout the season). Top them with string loops (just tie them onto the handles), and your dreidels are ready to shine on the tree. I don’t have a Christmas tree, so I just may hang a few from the plants around my house!

Last week I mentioned how to make a simple DIY menorah out of a tree branch, clothespins or pasta. Here’s another super easy one if you’re into the mason-jar trend: Take nine jars and fill them with oil. Add a wick and you have a menorah that won’t take up cabinet space year-round! Find user-friendly instructions here.

Celebrate the second night of Hanukkah at the MFA! Aside from the array of traditional Hanukkah celebrations in town, you can also celebrate the holiday at one of the best artistic institutions in Boston. Be the first to hear excerpts of “The Seekers of Light,” Matti Kovler’s forthcoming opera; try the “8 Nights, 8 Windows,” the Oculus Rift-controlled menorah-inspired art installation; taste a variety of olive oils from Boston Olive Oil Company; make your own clay dreidel with The MEM Project; view a series of short films by the Boston Jewish Film Festival; and much more! The evening is brought to you by New Center NOW and CJP, in partnership with the MFA. Please join us (for free!) on Wednesday, Dec. 17, from 6-9:45 p.m.