5 Tips to Have an Epic Hanukkah Celebration While You're Away at School

Happy Hanukkah! It's time to light the menorah, fry up some delicious treats and try your luck at a game of dreidel. Due to this year's timing, many of us are probably unable to celebrate with our families this year. If you are stuck at school for all eight nights of my favorite Jewish holiday, don’t feel gelt-y! One of the best things about celebrating this holiday at school is that you can play with the traditions you were brought up with and update them to fit your life now. Follow these tips to have an awesome Hanukkah away from home:

1. Bake (eat) all the traditional fried foods!

If you're anything like me, you Maccabee-line right to the latkes at any holiday party. These fried potato pancakes are arguably one of the best perks of Hanukkah, but they can be a hassle to make. Chances are you don’t have access to a deep fryer in college, but even if you do, cooking these holiday treats in the oven is a bit easier. You can try your hand at cooking oven-fried latkes or baking a batch of sufganiyot. If cooking isn't really your thing, I highly recommend skipping the kitchen mess and ordering a bunch of doughnuts to celebrate with!

2. Take a break from finals to decorate!

One of the most fun aspects of the holidays is spending time making your home feel cozy and cheerful! The Festival of Lights offers up some unique decor options. You can go the traditional route with the blue, white and silver color scheme and as many Jewish stars and dreidels you can find, or you can put up tons of cute string lights and focus on making your space bright! Whatever you do will look amazing! 

3. Set up a menorah!

Being away from home doesn't mean you need to skip out on the nightly candle lighting. If you don’t have a menorah of your own, now is the perfect time to get one. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive; the one I’ve been lighting my entire life is just scrap wood that I decorated as a toddler. If you live in a dorm that won’t allow candles, you can also find a lot of great LED menorahs!

4. Get an "ugly" Hanukkah sweater.

Why should you waste money on a sweater that is objectively ugly? Because it's fun, okay?! Hear me out: I own not one, but two "ugly" Hanukkah sweaters and I cherish them! They're hilarious and cozy and they both light up. It's not often that you have an excuse to wear clothing that comes with batteries as an adult. Cuddling up in a ridiculous sweater is a surefire way to put a smile on your face.

5. Teach your friends the dreidel game!

Now that you've gone to all the trouble of procuring food, decorating and getting all dressed up, you might as well invite some friends over to enjoy the holiday! Who doesn't love a game where you can win chocolate coins? Well don't tell bubbe, but if the prospect of gelt is no longer enticing to your crew, you can update the game for a 21+ crowd. Get dreidel drunk with these rules:

  • Host or the person in the most ridiculous Hanukkah outfit gets to spin first!

  • If נ, aka nun,  is facing up, you drink nothing. This is the same as the regular rules, and trust me, after several rounds of vodka and latkes you will be much happier to see this letter than you were as a child.

  • If ש, aka shin,‎ is facing up, you drink. Shin typically means you put some of your winnings in, in this version you pour some into a drink for yourself!

  • If ה‎, aka hey, is facing up, you pick someone to drink. Hey usually means you get half the pot, here it means you get to shout “Hey ------ drink up!”

  • If ג‎, aka gimel, is facing up, everybody drinks! Gimel is the winning side in every version of the game, instead of getting a handful of chocolate you get to get all your friends drunk! Don’t forget to have everyone shout "gimel!" and clink glasses before downing your drinks! 

Make the most of the holiday! Whether you have time to throw an entire party or have just a few minutes to spare to light the candles between finals, you deserve to celebrate.

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