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Celebrate Hanukkah with a festive gathering

Hanukkah begins December 1, leaving individuals a little more than a month to prepare for the Festival of Lights. Of course, it is an eight day event, and no one is expecting you to throw a party for each night, but for the final evening one can organize a magical event.

The first and last nights tend to be the ones that most people celebrate with large gatherings. The first night marks the lighting of the menorah, and one can invite their family over to take part in the ceremony. You can then begin to distribute gifts to the children, the first of many that will be received.

If one comes from a large family, one may want to think about divvying up the nights among members and holding a celebration for each night at their homes.

Once logistical details have been settled, one should begin by sending out party invitations to their family inviting them over to celebrate Hanukkah. Invitations can feature traditional symbols associated with Judaism such as the Star of David or the menorah. Some may even feature Hebrew characters that are often seen on dreidels.

Now that you've sent out the invites it is time to think about decorations and the menu. One obvious decoration is the menorah of course. This should be placed in a central location where everyone can gather for its lighting each night. Other decorations may include a large banner saying Happy Hanukkah. You can also hang fun decorations that feature dreidels and the Star of David. Stick with traditional colors like blue, white and gold. Some bolder colors can be used, but this is a family gathering that honors the triumph of light over dark and the lighting of the menorah in the Holy Temple with a single days worth of oil, which lasted for eight days of course.

Food is also an important feature. Many items served during the religious holiday are cooked with oil, once again signifying the importance of the liquid in keeping the temple lit for eight days. Potato latkes and donuts fried in oil are just a few treats that are served during Hanukkah. There are countless recipes for both dishes, some incorporating fruit. It is also custom to eat dairy products like cheese. And since you'll be eating plenty of food, be sure to have Hanukkah themed paper good on hand such as plates, napkins and cups.

To keep the children entertained have plenty of dreidels and little prizes like chocolate coins for them win. It is custom for kids to receive gelt, money, and the chocolate gelt makes for a perfect touch on a tradition.

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