5 meaningful ways to celebrate Hanukkah in Chicago

Hanukkah is about menorahs and latkes and the gifts. Oh, the gifts! Eight nights of presents put Christmas to shame.

But what is forgotten sometimes in this culturally significant holiday is how to celebrate in a meaningful way. Amidst the pomp and circumstance, these are ways Chicagoans can learn more about the story and importance of the holiday.


There’s no better place to shop for Hanukkah gear that goes beyond the menorah than the Spertus Museum Gift Shop. This shop has Hanukkah card games that not only come with traditional games (think Go Fish) but also a 32-page booklet with a latke recipe, Hebrew language basics and the story of Hanukkah. Spertus also offers patrons books such as “Happy Hanukkah Corduroy” based off of the popular book character and Sammy’s First Hanukkah, an allegorical tale about spinning the popular dreidel.


If you need a night out and/or your kids need a lesson on traditional Hanukkah cooking, look no further than The Kids’ Table’s special Hanukkah workshops in Wicker Park and Lakeview. With build-your-own pizza, dreidel cookie and sweet potato latke lessons, kids can enjoy the merits of simple Hanukkah cooking with owner Elena Marre’s masterful recipes. Plus, a hand menorah craft is included.


Tzedakah is at the core of Judaism and is the act of doing right just by giving. There are many ways to give Tzedakah, and JUF’s Chanukah Coat Club is a way to give back to the needy during Chicago’s harsh winter. For a donation of $18, the coat club will give a warm, new coat to a local child. You can make the donation in honor of a loved one, too. Payment for the coat club is due by Dec. 31.


Hanukkah is the perfect time to volunteer as a family and show your child how to celebrate beyond unwrapping presents. For the PJ Gives Back Holiday Giving event on Dec. 13 from 2-3:30 p.m. at Anshe Emet Synagogue, families will have the opportunity to participate in a hands-on volunteer experience by making care packages for kids at Mount Sinai Hospital. There will also be a community candle lighting and an interactive story with writer and storyteller Aubrey Davis. Families are encouraged to bring a coloring book to donate as well. The cost to participate is $10 per family.


A good way to introduce Hanukkah traditions to your tot is at jBaby Chicago’s Dreidels and Donuts event, which includes a tot concert with your favorite Hanukkah songs, crafts and light snacks. There will also be a Havdalah service to close out Shabbat and a symbolic Menorah lighting. The Dreidels and Donuts event is Dec. 5 from 4:30-6 p.m. at Bubbles Academy.

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