Hanukkah Traditions on the Table

NOV 13, 2020 updated Jul 13, 2021

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Known as the “Festival of Lights,” there is a great deal of cultural meaning and observational ritual to the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. For many families all over the world, holiday celebrations may look different this year with virtual visitors and household festivities. See how Spoonflower’s Head of Human Resources, Marlo, will be celebrating Hanukkah at home with her family and kids—latkes required!

Marlo: Hanukkah will be similar to how we have celebrated the other holidays this year, like Passover and Rosh Hashanah. Celebrations have been limited to our immediate family and it will be that way for Hanukkah as well. It is different, but not in a negative way. Although we won’t be able to get together with friends, having it be just us is good. It means I can hang out more with my kids rather than worrying about hosting a large group of people. Both are good ways to celebrate, but I have enjoyed the closeness that has come this year from it being just us.

Growing up, we had a mix of the traditional ritual observations and also some weird ones that I think were unique to my family. We lit the Hanukkiah (the menorah that was specifically for Hanukkah) each night, ate potato latkes with applesauce and sour cream and had deep fried powdered jelly donuts called sufganiyot for dessert. It was a pretty heavily fried dinner. I also remember there being a short green Hanukkah Bush that would sit in our living room watching over the presents. I don’t know how the Hanukkah Bush tradition started but now, thinking back on it as an adult, I wonder if the Hanukkah Bush might have just been the product of my parent’s strange sense of humor. None of my friends had Hanukkah Bushes.

I didn’t end up having a Hanukkah Bush as an adult, but I have fun memories of it. My guess is that my son Sam will lean in heavily with the jelly donuts and I can see my daughter Sophie posting beautifully staged photos of latkes and candles to her food Instagram account. Regardless, the overall tradition of gathering as a family is one that I hope they will both want to maintain.

When it comes to setting the table for Hanukkah, I like the candlelight to be the main focus, so I typically keep the table settings to just white, blue and silver and use brightly colored candles. I have an off-white, slightly fancy tablecloth my stepmother gave me years ago at my bat mitzvah and I use that for all holidays.

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Once the table is set, it’s time for the main meal featuring dishes from Marlo’s childhood.

Potato latkes, fried jelly donuts (sufganiyot) and brisket is what you’ll find on our table. After getting over my fear of making (and possibly ruining) latkes, we now have them every year, along with sufganiyot. It’s the same beige dinner that I had as a kid. One year we deep fried the donuts ourselves and that was enough for me. Now we get donuts from Durham’s Monuts.

Although Hanukkah is a relatively minor Jewish holiday in terms of religious significance, there is a great deal of cultural meaning and observational ritual to it. Jewish holidays follow the lunar calendar so the actual dates of the holidays change each year, but Hanukkah typically lands somewhere in December. Because of its proximity to Christmas, robust Hanukkah celebrations have allowed my kids to feel included in the celebratory sentiment and ritual that is pervasive around this time. That, plus Hanukkah delivers a story of miracles that is pretty amazing.

Whether it’s a solo celebration or an intimate gathering with your closest friends, get inspired to set the scene with six table setting combinations featuring calming shades of blue, gold and white.

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  • Marlo thank you for sharing your beautiful story and holiday traditions. I remember as a young boy my father showing me how to make the latkes, one of my favorite memories.

    • David,

      We’re so glad you enjoyed reading about Marlo’s traditions and thank you for sharing yours. So many great memories at the dinner table and in the kitchen!

      Take care,