Eight Nights

By Shani Petroff

It’s easy to go overboard on the holidays. There are often celebrations, parties, and gatherings with friends, family, and co-workers. I definitely have my share of work and Christmas events, but I also celebrate Hanukkah. The Jewish holiday is eight nights, and I have to remind myself that just because it spans more than a week, that doesn’t mean I have to make every night about food!

There are other ways to celebrate with those around me.

Sure, I can enjoy some latkes or even a donut (I’ll just use some of my SmartPoints® Budget), but I don’t need to go overboard. There’s a vast variety of ways to get in some quality time with loved ones and make it feel like a celebration. Here are eight ideas in honor of the eight days (and many are fun things that can be done other times of the year as well!):

1. Songs & Stories. Growing up, my family would always sing holiday songs after lighting the menorah. This year, I tried that again. It was fun to try to remember all the words (I had to google a few) and share stories of holidays past. Over the years, I’ve lost people I’ve loved, but remembering them, talking about them, laughing over things we did together helped to keep them a part of the holiday. It also made me feel closer to those I was able to share my stories with.

2. Games. There’s the traditional Hanukkah game of dreidel. While that’s always a holiday staple, the list of things to play is endless. Over Thanksgiving, everyone I was with participated in a game that was similar to charades. We made total fools of ourselves and had a blast doing it. I forgot how much I like to just play. I wound up buying a bunch of board games for gifts this year. I think it’s a great way to get together with others, relax, and have fun.

3. Tourist in Town. Be a visitor in your own city . I live in NYC. There are so many things to do, but often I don’t check out “touristy” places unless I have out-of-town company. Well, this year I decided it was time to go to a place I’ve always passed but never stepped inside. So, in the middle of the week at 11:30 p.m., I went to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in Times Square. I’m not a huge fan of crowds and figured at that hour I’d be able to avoid one. I was right. At one point, my party was the only one in the place (other than the people who worked there). It closed at 1 a.m., and we wound up having a lot of laughs wandering around, taking pictures, and pretty much having free rein! (I had even found an online coupon so it wasn’t an expensive excursion, but was one I hadn’t experienced before.)

4. Holiday Markets. I am not a fan of crowds, but I do love holiday markets. So, I brave them in order to see all the little crafts, gifts, and baked goods. Sometimes I find a great gift and other times it sparks an idea for a project I’d like to work on. It’s something I can do solo but is also an activity that can be special to do with a friend.

5. Arts & Crafts. I’m not an artist, but I still love little craft projects. Whether it’s Shrinky Dinks, making slime, holiday cards, painting, or attempting stained-glass window ornaments, I love it all! I bought a bunch of art supplies (all kid-friendly), and I plan on testing out my artistic ability with my little niece and nephew in the coming days. We can make handcrafted gifts for the whole family!

6. Readathon. I just learned about Jólabókaflóð. It’s an Icelandic tradition where books are exchanged on Christmas Eve and then the evening is spent reading. I LOVE this (and not just because I write books, but because I love to read them as well). In fact, I love it so much—I don’t just want to do it on Christmas Eve. I want to do it on Hanukkah, and just about every holiday. I don’t think there’s ever a bad time to give a book (or take one out from the library; you can pick one for a friend and they can pick one for you), and it makes for a really nice, relaxing night!

7. Mini-Trip. With Hanukkah being eight days, there’s more time to go visit those you love. This year, I went to CT to visit my mom. It wasn’t a long trip, but long enough to spend some time together and do a little celebrating! This year, I’m lucky that I get to take a bigger trip, too, and fly to see my brother and his family.

8. Make Your Own Traditions. Holidays are what you make them. You can start your own traditions. I’ve read about one in which people write down things they love about others in their family, put the notes in a jar, and the next year they read it. I know some people who have a movie they watch every single year. Others who volunteer or take part in a yearly coat and/or toy drive. There’s so many wonderful things to do, and whatever you choose, I hope your holidays are amazing!

What are some nonfood-related ways in which you like to spend the holidays? You can find me on Connect @shani! I’d love to hear from you.

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