Hanukkah offers lights, dreidels and even inflatable menorahs

Karen Kogan remembers decorating for the holiday. She and her brother would put homemade crafts in the window and hang banners in the dining room. On the kitchen table, dreidels would spin and pieces of gelt would be strewn on the table.

"It's fun to decorate for Hanukkah, especially if you're a little kid," said Kogan, a buyer for The Jewish Source, a catalog and online store stocked with all things Jewish.

Hanukkah marks an important time of rededication in the Jewish faith, said Rabbi Yossi Lerman, leader of the Chabad Enrichment Center. While the Jewish holiday may not be as omnipresent as Christmas, dressing up the home for Hanukkah is just as easy.

"Walk into any party store and you can find a lot of stuff to decorate with," Kogan said. "There are a lot of window decorations, paper goods and lights that can be used."

Some companies even offer giant, inflatable menorahs to put on the front lawn.

"It's kind of like the inflatable Santas, except for Jewish people," she said. "You don't have to be left out of the decorating fun just because you don't celebrate Christmas."

Menorahs, which hold the candles lit nightly during the Festival of Lights, are the essential piece for Hanukkah decorating, Lerman said.

"Lighting the menorah is like spreading our faith and God's love to the rest of the world," he said. "That's why it is placed somewhere visible, like a window."

There are plenty of options beyond traditional menorahs, such as the sculptural nesting menorah found on the online Inna Alesina design store. The modern aluminum menorah coils out into a flat candelabra. It's available at www.alesinadesign.com.

Dreidels are also a staple for the Jewish holiday. The spinning tops are not only a favorite children's game, but also serve as a reminder to look upwards to where the handle points.

"Sometimes life can send you spinning, just like the dreidels," Lerman said. "It's important for us in the Jewish faith to always look up and see that God will show you where to land."

Resembling museum-quality artwork, the blue and clear crystal dreidels from The Jewish Source are etched with Hebrew letters. The dreidels are available online at www.jewishsource.com.

Of course, food is a major part of the Jewish celebration. Latkes, a flat potato pancake, are a mainstay at the Hanukkah table. Fried in olive oil, another Hanukkah symbol, latkes are made from grated potatoes mixed with eggs, onions, matzo meal and seasonings.

To add a little pizzazz, fry latkes in flavored oils such as hot roasted pepper oil or garlic basil virgin olive oil, available from the Manischewitz brand. Try serving on the festive, ceramic menorah latkes platter, also available at www.jewishsource.com.

Chocolate, too, makes an appearance on the holiday, often in the form of gold foil-wrapped chocolate pieces called gelt. The candies represent the money often exchanged during Hanukkah.

"I give my children money for Hanukkah gifts, as do many Jewish families," Lerman said. "It's a learning opportunity. You teach your children to split up their money, part goes to savings, part to helping others and part to yourself."

Shaped like the Star of David, the Eight Nights of Hanukkah gift box, from Harry and David, is filled with kosher treats, including the gelt coins. Given as a gift or used to decorate a tabletop, the box is a simple way to celebrate the eight nights of the holiday. The gift box is available online at www.harryanddavid.com.