Hi again, EHD readers! I can’t believe it’s been a year since I last popped over here to chat with you about Hanukkah. Whaaat?! Time is wild. But it’s true—a whole year has passed, which means we’re once again just days away from this year’s holiday. The team was kind enough to invite me back to offer up some updated-for-2021 Hanukkah décor ideas, and I’m so excited to share them with you in just a moment.
(Quick aside: If Hanukkah’s not your holiday, don’t jump ship just yet! As I mentioned last year, this post is for you as well. I hope you’ll stick around, because I think you’ll get something out of this, too.)
But I’m getting ahead of myself—some introductions are in order. So, hi! I’m Rebekah. By day, I’m an editor; by night, I run a Jewish-focused lifestyle blog, RebekahLowin.com (come say hi on Instagram here—we’re knee-deep in Hanukkah inspo right now and it’s a party). On my site, I share sophisticated, creative ideas for beautifying Jewish holidays—inspired home décor, pretty table settings, unconventional DIYs, and new takes on old-school recipes. In many ways, it’s become the inspiration hub I often wished I had access to when I was younger. Which makes me pretty dang proud.
But…why bother with all of that? Why dedicate my free time to setting tables and taking pretty pictures of the result? It’s a great question—thank you, invisible reader. And my answer is simple: To me, beauty and meaning go hand in hand. More specifically—especially as it relates to Jewish holidays—beauty and memory go hand in hand. And memory, after all, is at the heart of Hanukkah.
I look at my 29-year-old Hanukkah menorah, and I don’t just see a menorah. I see my many siblings packed together by the windowsill of a dimly-lit kitchen, excitedly whispering as we wait for our turn to light the candles. I pick up one of my mother’s ceramic platters, and I see piles of (shamelessly store-bought) sufganiyot, a mess of confectioner’s sugar and jelly on a black sweater, the sound of my dad and grandfather joking in Yiddish nearby. I turn a candle over in my hand, and I can already see its light reflecting in those dark kitchen windows, flickering and waning silently as we skip out of the room to end the night with a movie.
There’s so much embedded in those heirlooms—fragments of decades-old laughter, visions of crumpled-up gelt wrappers, the taste of extra-cold apple sauce on an extra-hot latke (the BEST) (don’t even try coming for me with those sour cream takes; I won’t stand for it). Suffice it to say, these objects carry much, much more than just an 8-day-long purpose; they carry most of our family memories, too. It’s right there in all of the classic Hanukkah songs we learned as kids: “One for each night, they shed a sweet light / to remind us of days long ago.”
We’re all design lovers here. We know that design is about so much more than placing an object here or there. That tangible things often give way to something so much bigger—something holy, even. And that’s really why I still get excited about decorating for Hanukkah. Not just because beautifying a space or a table or a windowsill makes my heart sing—though it does, and that’s certainly a big piece of it. Trust me, my heart sings a five-act OPERA looking at a pretty menorah! But I mostly get excited because hidden within this Hanukkah are all of the Hanukkahs of years past—Hanukkahs celebrated by close relatives, distant relatives, ancestors from thousands of years ago, and total strangers to whom I may never even know I’m connected.
It’s about more than just schlepping out a menorah and plopping it on a windowsill. It has to be.
There’s a really beautiful Elie Wiesel quote that I think feels relevant here. He once said that “there is divine beauty in learning… To learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth. Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps.” Beautiful, right? I think the same can be said about heirlooms. These objects, like the words in an ancient book—or a book of any kind, really—remind us that someone else was once here in our place. And I don’t know about you, but I find that incredibly comforting. Safeguarding and maintaining a library of well-loved heirlooms is the ultimate way to feel connected to what’s come before and what is yet to come. It’s a way of making memories tangible. One of the only ways.
I think that’s why many families hesitate to purchase new menorahs and other Judaica pieces. So much of Jewish culture is based on memory, history, and ideas passed down “l’dor va-dor” (“from generation to generation”), and it can feel quite literally sacrilegious to stop using those items in favor of something shinier and sparklier and more modern. But the way I see it, the newer pieces don’t have to replace the antiques! And wait a sec—who says you have to opt for a thoroughly modern, shiny design, anyway? Helloooo, flea market finds! (By the way, Facebook Marketplace is exploding with Judaica these days. I’m a big fan.)
If anything, growing your existing collection is a nice way of highlighting the importance of those older, more time-town pieces. It’s also an excellent opportunity to support Jewish small businesses and celebrate Jewish artists.
Win-win all-around, really.
Below, I’ve curated a little “someday heirlooms” shop to get you inspired about adopting one of these special items, bringing something different into your home, and beginning a new tradition. I hope each piece delights and inspires you the way it delighted me when I came across it. And even if you’re just window-shopping (hey, no judgment; that’s what I was doing here!), I hope you feel a little more excited about the upcoming holiday after browsing. Here goes:
1. Tree of Life Menorah | 2. Trace Chanukiah | 3. Tikal Wood Menorah Set | 4. Elephant Menorah | 5. SIN Stacked Menorah | 6. Blacksmith Handmade 9 Branch Iron Hanukkah Menorah | 7. Modern Menorah | 8. White Marble Menorah Candle Holder | 9. Oak Street Menorah | 10. Menorah | 11. Blue & White Ceramic Hand Painted Petite Menorah | 12. Stoneware Menorah | 13. Jewish Hanukkah Menorah Tree of Life Floral | 14. Marmol Radziner Menorah | 15. Black and White Pattern Menorah | 16. Modern Industrial Menorah | 17. Vermont Marble & Walnut Menorah | 18. Lucite Menorah
Okay, how gorgeous are these? A favorite would have to be that new Tree of Life Menorah from Target; it’s just such a nice, budget-friendly option and it’s downright elegant. Under $30? Yes, please. The White Marble Menorah is a fabulous modern option for anyone looking to go that route, and…alright, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the gorgeousness of that Blue and White Ceramic Hand-Painted Menorah. “Special” barely scratches the surface. The Via Maris Trace Hanukkah Menorah is a fabulous option from a new, small Jewish business.
1. Starry Night Salad Plate | 2. Navy Amundson Striped 100% Cotton Table Runner | 3. NoHo Glass (Set of 4) | 4. Blue And White Square Bijou Napkins (Set Of 4) | 5. Calder Double Old-Fashioned Glass | 6. Classic Hemstitch Border Tablecloth | 7. Insight Mug | 8. Caspian Blue Reactive Glaze Serving Bowl | 9. 20-Piece Champagne Flatware Set | 10. Stoneware Glazed Dinner Plates | 11. Linen-blend Napkins | 12. Agate Coaster | 13. Stoneware Tilley Mug | 14. French Striped Organic Cotton Tablecloth | 15. Mercer Denim Serving Bowl | 16. Boston Colored Lead Free Crystal Goblet (Set of 4) | 17. Chinoiserie Ceramic Coasters with Holder | 18. Brushed Gold Place Card Holders (Set of 4)
Here’s the thing about setting the table for Hanukkah: You absolutely don’t have to stick with the tried-and-true blues. But it’s certainly a nice place to start. Recently, I’ve been loving adding orange and pink touches to an all-blue base—it creates an excellent branching-off point from which to let your creativity roam free! The Navy Tablecloth or Striped Table Runner here would work beautifully, and I just love those Agate Coasters—technically, they’re called “Black Quartz” but I’m getting some indigo-purple vibes from that hue myself. Add some gorgeous mugs (you’ve got to try a gelt-y hot chocolate; it’s so good!) like these Insight Mugs, throw in some of those beautiful Starry Night Salad Plates, and all that’s left to add is a pretty centerpiece! Oh, and food. Lots of food. Can’t forget the food.
1. Embroidered Velvet Menorah Square Throw Pillow | 2. Walnut Dreidel | 3. London Blue Hurricane Candle Holders | 4. Hanukkah Menorah Candles | 5. Emmett Antique Brass Taper Candle Holder | 6. Silver Glitter Starburst | 7. Happy Hanukkah Brass Figural | 8. Gifting Box | 9. Blue Onyx Star Of David |10. Hexagon Decorative Tray | 11. Large Footed Brass Bowl | 12. Oversized Primalush Throw Blanket | 13. Leather Dreidel | 14. Silver Hanukkah Candles | 15. Star of David Brass Figural | 16. Dreidel Hanukkah Garland | 17. Terrafirma Catch-All Tray | 18. Brass Dreidel
Dreidels aren’t just for kids, you know! I have several in my apartment that have been passed down through the generations, and they’re so special to me. While I’m not sure they’d be the ones I’d whip out for a quick game, they do look gorgeous sitting on my bookshelf year after year. I must say I’m very intrigued by this Leather Dreidel. A gorgeous platter is also a fun way to switch out your coffee table or dining room décor once the holiday rolls around; this Terrafirma Catch-All Tray caught (heh!) my eye. Blue Taper Candles are such a fun and easy option (if you don’t melt them down too much, you can use them for years!) and I love these Foundations Metal Collection Vases for a pop of gold.
Okay, I don’t know about you, but I am in the Hanukkah MOOD now. Which is good, because it’s in just over a week. I hope you’re feeling just as inspired to transform your home and add to (or begin!) a Judaica collection—or just grab a few new tabletop items to spruce up your home in advance of the holiday. If you’re looking for more inspiration, you can always visit my blog or follow along on Instagram—Hanukkah is the name of the game for the next 10 days, and I’ve got tons of ideas to help you create a beautiful experience for yourself or your family. Really. Tons. We’re talking Hanukkah desserts, cocktails, crafts (including DIY menorah ideas), quotes, poems, tablescapes, even breakfast ideas. WHEW. If you do pop in, drop me a line! I love making new friends through all of those platforms and I’d love to hear from you.
In the meantime, I’m wishing you all the happiest, most special start to the holiday season—no matter who you are or what you celebrate. At the end of the day, we’re all after the same thing: bringing a little light and meaning to these shorter days. I hope you’re able to do exactly that in whatever way feels best to you, whether it’s going to town decorating your home or just sitting quietly and enjoying the chilly weather with a gigantic mug of hot chocolate and a zillion marshmallows. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from author Anita Diamant: “This is the season when people of all faiths and cultures are pushing back against the planetary darkness. We string bulbs, ignite bonfires, and light candles. And we sing.”
Unless Otherwise Stated Design and Photos by Rebekah Lowin