Chanukah is a unique Jewish holiday in that it spans 8 days but is not a yom tov. We can keep leading our busy lives all week and celebrate at night. While this is convenient as no one has to take additional days off work, and also less stressful, it means we don’t disconnect from our technology the way we do over a Shabbat or yom tov. But what if, every night, for the week of Chanukah from 5-7PM, we put down our phones and have a makeshift yom tov?
The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication” – because the Macabees defeated one of the greatest armies at that time, the Greeks, and rededicated the Temple. We propose you dedicate each night to a different set of people or activities. Here we provide just a few suggestions and encourage you all to use this time to connect, create new traditions and memories, and light up the world literally and spiritually.
Christmas and Chanukah have one thing in common—presents! It’s easy to get caught up in all the shopping so for this first night remember there are others, both Jewish and not, that are less fortunate than you may be. Donate toys to shelters and collections or make monetary donations to organizations (such as Chabad of Tribeca’s Annual Toy Drive, and many others) that mean something to you.
If you have children, nieces and nephews, or your friends have children, you can share a gift and maybe make it non-electronic; a book, a new dreidel, or print out these ketubah designs which we’ve recreated into Chanukah cards to be colored in by the children in your life (and you can too!). Also print out our fun Chanukah themed bookmarks and using a (safety) scissors; cut them out, fold and place in your favourite book!
Can you ever thank your parents enough? If they are local, you can make this a night to invite them over, take over the hosting duties, give them a gift even if it’s small. If they are far, we’ll make this the technological exception, and set up your phone or iPad to FaceTime them and all light the menorah together.
Whether you invite friends or keep it for immediate family, celebrate with the best way Jews know how – food! Why not use that oil and fry up a big batch of latkes? Jamie Geller has 8 variations of sweet potato latke recipes, or of course a great classic latke recipe. Making this into a group activity—one person peels, one person drains and so on—not only relieves stress on one person, but makes for a fun night in!
Get some chocolate gelt and those dreidels out and make it a poker table where the stakes are low! If kids are present, wait till they go to bed to make it a real casino night.
Find a local Jewish bakery and get a variety of these fried donuts. If you’re lucky you’ll find more than just strawberry filling – today you can find berries of all kinds, nutella to champagne! Or take it one step further and make your own! Delish has excellent sufganiyot recipes but also recipes for some great treats inspired by sufganiyot.
How lucky you are, and what a miracle it is to have found this special person! Sure, there are ups and downs in marriage—but take tonight to put down your phones and connect, talk, reflect on the past year together, and share treasured Chanukah memories from years gone by.
Take a moment to reflect on and appreciate the miracles in your own life. This can be a good time to feel grounded and grateful for what (and who!) you have.
Putting down electronics and engaging with each other can make this season more meaningful and help us connect with ourselves, our traditions, and our families. Chanukah is a priceless opportunity for making lasting memories, so why waste it tapping on a screen? You could be tapping someone on the shoulder and sparking a conversation.
Chabad.org has a full guide to the Festival of Lights that’s great if you need a refresher or if you’re introducing someone to Chanukah. If you’re looking for more ideas about how to keep electronics down and your family busy, HP created a campaign with ideas for 250 hours of non-electronic activities, and you should certainly check out Between Carpool’s Drop the Phone campaign.