Hi and happy week-after-Thanksgiving, EHD readers! I’m VERY excited to be here today to talk about all things Hanukkah: why celebrating it matters more than ever in 2020, why celebrating anything matters right now, and—this is EHD, after all!—how to make your celebration look as wonderful as it feels.
(Side note: I know not everyone out there celebrates Hanukkah. But I hope you’ll stick around either way! No matter your background, I think that what I’m going to say will likely resonate with you, too.)
Alright, let’s get to it. So…first of all, who am I, and what qualifications do I have to speak on this topic? Well, by day, I’m an editor; by night, I run a Jewish lifestyle blog, aptly titled RebekahLowin.com (find it on Instagram here!). On the site, I share crafty, creative ideas for beautifying Jewish holidays—inspired home décor, pretty table settings, sophisticated DIYs, and new takes on old-school recipes. My personal thesis is simply that adding a layer of tangible beauty to any respectful, heartfelt celebration of these holidays is just one more way of elevating and honoring them.
As for the question about my qualifications, well…I just love the holiday. Always have. And the further we venture into 2020, the more I can’t imagine not giving it its full and proper due this month.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. It’s 2020. You’re just plain tired. The last thing on your mind right now is schlepping out a menorah, frying up a batch of potato pancakes, and singing songs about questionably-constructed clay dreidels. You’re more interested in simply making it through the next week without toppling over yourself.
Trust me: I get it. I truly do. But hear me out: In 2020, finding the oomph to light a menorah matters more than ever. Well, let me rephrase that: This year, celebrating anything matters more than ever—be it Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Christmas, or National Maple Syrup Day (that’s December 17, by the way, for the woefully uninitiated). As the days get shorter and our hours at home get longer, continuing to mark time with our favorite rituals, festivals, and holy days has become even more important. Especially when the ritual in question is a metaphor for the one thing we so desperately need more of right now: light.
Admittedly, I never thought too hard about the metaphor of Hanukkah as a child. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I knew the Hanukkah story by heart. I knew we were celebrating a miracle, and like most kids, I think I even recognized on some deep, instinctive level that there was something very beautiful and even profound about the whole thing. But I didn’t yet understand that Hanukkah—and all aspects of my Judaism, for that matter—was part of this intricate web of interconnectedness called life. That traditions and dusty stories are often about much more than days long ago.
Hanukkah, back then, was more like…a feeling. Just a snug, cozy feeling accompanied by a series of images. In my mind’s eye, I can still see it that way: crumpled-up foil wrappers from chocolate gelt, glorious messes of sticky-sweet sufganiyot, and the shock of cold apple sauce on top of my grandmother’s warm latkes (unlike the crispy recipes everyone seems to gravitate toward today, these ones were deliciously flat and pillowy, like actual pancakes). “Hanukkah” meant hearing my dad recite the sing-song blessings over the candles in Hebrew, then watching him turn to chat with my grandparents in his familiar but foreign Yiddish. Most of all, Hanukkah meant packing close together with my many siblings in our family kitchen, waiting patiently for our turn to wield the shamesh and light eight nights’ worth of candles—then watch them flicker and silently burn in front of our dark kitchen windows.
Only years later did it start to click for me—the deeper meaning embedded in those colorful, melty candles. I began to understand something that I’m still in the process of understanding: that those candles were placed there to teach my siblings and I about far more than just a one-time miracle from thousands of years ago. That they also represented the daily, if not hourly, if not perpetual miracle that is a glimpse of beauty in a sometimes dark world. I’ve since thought about how brightly each flame shone against the backdrop of that deep, black, suburban night; how it was, in fact, their reflection in that window that made them doubly mesmerizing, doubly wonderful to stare at. Beauty, the candles continue to teach us from their annual perch on our windowsills, is easier to see in relief.
2020 hurt. There’s just no way around that. For so many, this was a year of total devastation and destruction. But there’s something familiar here: another deep, dark backdrop. A new night sky. And embedded within it is the same invitation: to light our proverbial candles. To place our menorahs back on the windowsill of this dark time. To light our lights, knowing that they might only be a pinprick in all that darkness, but as the stars teach us, one pinprick of light is sometimes enough to guide a person all the way home.
Okay. That’s quite enough philosophizing for one day. Now you know why we should continue celebrating; next, let’s talk about how. After all, lighting candles is only one of the many tangible ways we can bring the glow of Hanukkah into our homes at this time of year. Below, you’ll find a few more ideas to help you out—from shiny menorahs to stunning blue vases and beyond.
1. Gold Centerpiece Bowl | 2. Veru Platter | 3. Tapered Candles (set of 10) | 4. Oval Ceramic Dish | 5. Golden Geo Table Linen Napkin | 6. London Blue Hurricane Candle Holders | 7. Mercury Tealight Holder (set of 6) | 8. Gold Flatware | 9. Constellation Salad Plate | 10. Metallic Scalloped Reine Chargers (set of 4) | 11. Tempeste Platter | 12. Tealight Candles (set of 24) | 13. Sweater Weather Mug | 14. Aria Gold Napkin Ring | 15. Hanukkah Rectangular Platter | 16. Small Blue Studio Salad Bowl | 17. Constellation Coasters (set of 4) | 18. Mesh Bag Of Hanukkah Gelt (set of 5) | 19. Indigo Blue Cotton Slub Napkins With Fringe (set of 4) | 20. Gold Rimmed Glass Tealight Candleholders (set of 3) | 21. Marble & Brass Napkin Rings (set of 4) | 22. Ombre Blue Ceramic Plate Dinner Plate | 23. Lyngby Blue Glass Vases | 24. Gold Cake Knife
As is the case with most Jewish holidays, Hanukkah is very much a food holiday. And since this particular festival’s origins revolve around oil, there’s a big emphasis on fried food: latkes, of course, but also jelly doughnuts (“sufganiyot”). In the past few years, there have even been a few out-of-the-box additions to the menu (churros, anyone?). This is all to say that you’re likely to spend a lot of time at your dinner table during the eight-day celebration…and that’s really the only excuse we needed to hunt for some lovely new tabletop treasures. Even if you’re not planning on hosting anyone other than your immediate family members, there’s no reason why you can’t indulge in a few new napkin rings (#14 and #21), a beautiful platter (#4), or some inspired navy taper candles (#3).
Of course, you don’t need to relegate all that prettiness to the table alone…
AROUND THE HOUSE DECOR
1. Gold Happy Hanukkah Garland | 2. Marmol Radziner Dreidel | 3. Faux Eucalyptus | 4. Blue Apothecary Matches Jar | 5. Silver LED Fairy Lights | 6. Melchior Holiday Pillow | 7. Brass Vase | 8. Tassel Garland | 9. Hanukkah Watercolor Dreidels Wall Art | 10. Unlit Shimmering Dreidel Hanukkah Garland | 11. Burst Decorative Object | 12. Mini Led String Lights | 13. Blue Abstract Series, 1 | 14. Chunky Knit Throw Blanket | 15. Gold Cocktail Shaker
Traditionally, Hanukkah is associated with deep blues and sparkling golds (the same color as those shiny gelt wrappers). Of course, you don’t have to stick with these colors—as always, it’s really up to you which direction you’d like to take things in. If you want to have a pink Hanukkah, go for it. But here, we’ve stuck to the basics to bring you a selection of off-the-table décor that’s equal parts fresh and classic. Add a few gold faux flowers here and there (#3), liven things up with a shimmering banner (#10), or just toss a cozy cable knit throw onto your couch to up the blue factor without totally up-ending your space (#14). The simplest details can have a big, big impact.
Finally, it’s time to add the pièce de resistance—a beautiful menorah.
1. Trace Chanukiah | 2. Ascalon Menorah | 3. Modern Brass Candleholders (set of 9) | 4. Mid Century Modern Menorah | 5. SIN Stacked Menorah | 6. Blacksmith Handmade 9 Branch Iron Hanukkah Menorah | 7. Floral Menorah | 8. Handmade Ceramic “Shana” Menorah | 9. Typography Menorah | 10. Modern Hanukkah Menorah | 11. Blue & White Ceramic Hand Painted Petite Menorah | 12. Modern Silver Menorah | 13. Minimalist Hanukkah Menorah | 14. Marmol Radziner Menorah | 15. Olive Branch Collection Menorah
As mentioned earlier, the menorah really is the focal point of any Hanukkah celebration—and not just because it’s fun to light and stare at. It’s also the literal centerpiece of the Hanukkah story from way back when. After all, it was the menorah that housed the very small amount of oil that miraculously burned for eight whole days…and resulted in the celebration of Hanukkah as we know it today. Here, you’ll find a selection of menorahs that are every bit as beautiful as their origin story. They’re also surprisingly affordable: That floral menorah (#10) is just $30.
These also aren’t your great-aunt’s menorahs, mind you (not that there’s anything wrong with your menorah collection, Sasha; I LOVE YOU!!!). They’re sleek, updated, and thoroughly modern. Take the Studio Armadillo Ceramic Menorah (#13)—it’s stunning and offers a new take on the classic menorah shape and style. The Michael Aram Olive Branch Menorah (#15) is also a fabulous, decidedly different pick (and my personal favorite of the bunch). Whatever you choose, you really can’t go wrong here.
Phew! Well, I think that’s it for today. I sincerely hope these ideas got you in the mood to transform your home into a veritable Hanukkah wonderland, or at least to add one or two fun details to your entryway, tabletop, kitchen, or windowsill. The holiday, after all, is in just TK days…so now’s the time.
If you’re in the mood for more inspiration, you can always check out my blog or follow along on Instagram—it’s basically Hanukkah central on both of those platforms right now. I’ve got you covered with star-shaped cheese boards, latke platters, adorable Maccabee Cookie Boxes, tons of gift guides, Hanukkah quotes and poems, flower arrangement ideas, and my favorite post of the moment—this DIY tie-dye runner. Whether you’re celebrating the Festival of Lights this month or simply celebrating hot chocolate season (the BEST), I’m wishing you a beautiful, joyful month filled with all good things.
Design and Photos by Rebekah Lowin