Chanukah is a festive, joyous time with lots of interesting minhagim. Especially since some of them are probably not technically minhagim.
But our kids wouldn’t know it. There are some things that we do every year because we have our routines, but as far as our kids know, they’re our minhagim, and some day they’re going to pass them on to their kids:
“We have a minhag to eat apple sauce,” they’re going to say. “But I can’t find the source.”
So you should really take the time to talk to your kids about it, before they get so busy with whatever you bought them that they tune you out. Seeing as my kids have already tuned me out (I speak from experience), here are some things that we do that my kids probably think are our minhagim:
- I have a minhag to look up what English date Chanukah falls on approximately 13 to 14 times per year, and then immediately forget each time.
- In my house, the minhag is that if you’re over bar mitzvah, you light with oil, and if you’re under bar mitzvah, you light with candles. I don’t know why people under bar mitzvah can’t light with oil. But I think that’s how they did it in Europe.
- My wife has a minhag to take pictures of us lighting the candles every single night. Some years we don’t even take pictures of us in Purim costumes, but we have eight pictures of us lighting the menorah.
- I have a minhag to stop in middle of Maoz Tzur to relight my wicks. My wife gets a picture of this too.
- We have a minhag that every time someone asks how many candles we’re lighting that night, someone says, “Last night was three.”
- I have a minhag to get to the store and immediately forget what size wicks I usually buy, and then to go home and bring back one little glass from my menorah so I could measure it up. I think I use size eight, which should be easy enough to remember. Unless it’s size ten. Twelve?
- I have a minhag to rearrange all the living room furniture so we can light near the window, and then not rearrange it back until we clean for Pesach.
- One of my kids has a minhag to start lighting from the wrong candle, despite everyone around him lighting correctly at the same time right next to him. And it’s a different kid every year.
- I have a minhag, passed down from my ancestors, to join hands and dance for Maoz Tzur, the result being that no one in my family gets all of the words right, as we’ve never seen them printed inside. Everything we know about the song is by word of mouth and years of a spotty game of Telephone. For years, I thought that instead of “Chasof zeroa kadshecha – expose your holy arm,” it was “Chashoch zeroa kadshecha,” which I guess means, “Your holy arm is dark.”
- Nowadays, my wife has a minhag, since she married me, to insist that we sit down and read it from a sefer. It’s been very educational. We should definitely start doing this for “Ohd Yishama” too. “Ohz Yishama”?
- My wife has a minhag to open the blinds on our windows just enough that people can see us lighting our menorahs, but not enough that we can see if people are seeing us lighting our menorahs. From the street, it’s just a headless menorah-lighting ceremony.
- Everyone’s kindergarten teachers have a minhag to have the kids make their own menorahs, because that sounds safe. Why not have them make something else, such as – I don’t know – a dreidel? Or their own presents.
- I have a minhag to ask my kids what they want for Chanukah, because even though they should appreciate whatever we give them, we appreciate knowing what we’re looking for when we get to the store.
- At some point over Chanukah, we have a minhag to listen to some kind of song that rhymes nights with lights and eight with celebrate. As opposed to one that rhymes candles with vandals, neis with chase, oil with aluminum foil, doughnuts with cold cuts, or Maoz Tzur with last night was four.
- I have a minhag to pull out last year’s chocolate coins at some point and say, “I don’t know if these are still good, but I found them in back of the closet.” Then I buy more, for the next Chanukah.
- I have a minhag to have an annual argument with my sister about whether Chanukah presents are “goyish”. Because we’re both big experts on all things goyish. When we were growing up, our parents had a minhag to give us Chanukah presents, and I had no idea that my sister was hating it all those years, nebech. I eventually stopped the arguing minhag, though, because I don’t want to give her kids presents that badly.
- We have a minhag to take out all the dreidels that we own on the first night of Chanukah and then to forget to play with them until the ninth night. “Quick, let’s get it in before the zman!”
- We have a minhag to eat more potatoes on Chanukah than we do on Pesach. But no one complains.
- I have a minhag to pass up jelly donuts for custard donuts. What even is custard? Is it like sweet mayonnaise?
- We have a minhag to accumulate dreidels like there’s going to be a shortage. We are never going to have the amount of people in our house that would necessitate the use of this many dreidels. But if the Greeks ever come back, we’re going to be prepared.
- We have a minhag to pat our latkes with paper towels before we eat them.
- I have a minhag to double the latke recipe every year and then to have more than half of what I made left over.
- My kids have a minhag to remember liking latkes a lot more than they actually like latkes.
- I have a minhag to choose the doughnuts with the frosting on top instead of the ones with the dandruff.
- My doctor has a minhag to schedule blood tests for me on Chanukah, and then to say that I really need to cut down on the fried foods.
- We have a minhag that if we have a Chanukah party to go to, our candles take forever to go out. But if we don’t, I have to relight them during Maoz Tzur.
- At Chanukah parties, we have a minhag to eat ziti.
- My mother has a minhag to give each of her married kids a cookbook for Chanukah. And we have a minhag not to take it as an insult.
- We have a minhag to do a kids’ grab bag at these parties with a $2 price ceiling. My kids have a minhag to always put in a whoopee cushion and to always get out gum.
- Many grandparents have a minhag to give out two-dollar bills, which most cashiers who don’t have Jewish grandparents do not recognize as currency. But it’s something cool and novel that you can get for only $2, and the bank is more than happy to have someone take it off their hands.
- If we go out at night after our candles are out, we have a minhag to point out every menorah we see and say, “Theirs aren’t out yet.”
- At our family Chanukah party every year, we have a minhag to play a game where you have to guess how many jellybeans are in a jar. The point of games at a Chanukah party is to take up time and have everyone bond, and this game does neither. But it’s the only way someone will get to go home with a massive amount of jelly beans every year, short of a 2-hour game of dreidel.
- I have a minhag to have no clue how to pronounce the name of the general that Yehudis beheaded. Eleporni? Halifornes? Holofernes? So whenever I’m discussing the story out loud, I just say “the general.”
- My students have a minhag to argue against having secular studies on Chanukah. They insist that this is exactly what the Greeks wanted us to do – to have secular studies in the afternoons. Instead, they want to play basketball.
- Our kids’ school has a minhag to give off for Shabbos Chanukah only, even though my kids never have school on Shabbos anyway. Some years they also give Sunday.
- We have a minhag to go ice skating on the Sunday of Chanukah, even though ice skating rinks now exist all year long.
- We have a minhag to argue about the rules for dreidel every year – particularly what to do after the first person gets a gimmel. Is the game now over? Does the house have to open a new bag of chocolate chips?
- I have a minhag to wonder, at least once per Chanukah, who actually makes dreidels out of clay. And also if that song would have been more exciting if they’d written it after the dreidel was dry and ready.
- I have a minhag to still be finding dreidels under my furniture come Pesach.
- I have a minhag to start a diet right after Chanukah, until I remember that I still have latkes in the fridge.