By Shelly Danz
As the chief party officer of Atlanta Party Connection, I usually plan mitzvah celebrations for hundreds of guests, but I also know how to throw more intimate Chanukah celebrations for family and friends. If you’re hosting at home this year, here are some tips for a festive Festival of Lights.
Don’t find yourself stressed and scrambling at the last minute. Plan ahead for a smooth event.
Ask for RSVPs to get a headcount, then work out how much of everything you’ll need, including food, drink and dining space. Think about where you’d like everyone to gather, and make sure those areas are ready for guests.
Place candles in your menorah, set tables, and lay out serving pieces and dishes to make meal setup quick and easy on the big day. Prepare any foods in advance that you can so that you won’t be stuck in the kitchen when guests arrive. (Psst: Latkes reheat beautifully in the oven while you schmooze.)
Enlisting friends or even a neighborhood teen who’d like to earn some extra cash can reduce your stress and allow you to fully enjoy the party. Ask the helpers to take coats, replenish food platters and drinks or ice, and help clean up afterward.
If friends or family members offer to bring something, let them know what you need. Keep track of what you’ve assigned so that multiple guests don’t bring the same item.
Set the Tone
Decorate your home with symbols of Chanukah, string lights, bowls of gelt and other touches you like. Try Pinterest for décor inspiration.
Signal to your guests that the party is in full swing when they arrive by playing Chanukah music (create a holiday playlist) and greeting them with an hors d’oeuvre or beverage.
Time the Fun
Create a guideline for how your celebration will unfold, whether you plan to eat first or play games or exchange gifts. Giving a timeframe for each activity (for example, arrivals and appetizers, 6 to 6:30 p.m.; dinner, 6:30 to 7 p.m.) and keeping an eye on the time will ensure that you get to all the activities you’ve planned.
Light Candles, Play Dreidel
Lighting candles during the holiday is essential, and it’s a lovely touch to have multiple menorahs so that each family can light one. You could even ask guests to bring their own so that you have plenty to go around.
And what’s a Chanukah party without a game of dreidel? Provide a good selection of dreidels plus gelt (real or chocolate) for the winnings. If you have a small group, everyone can play together. For larger gatherings, consider separate games at different tables. Have a dreidel-off between the winners of each group.
If you have very young or non-Jewish guests, keep the rules handy. (An easy-to-follow guide is at myjewishlearning.com/article/how-to-play-dreidel.)
Children often take home their dreidel winnings in a goody bag, but it sends a warm message to gift small party favors to all guests. You could give small Chanukah-themed chocolate treats, plastic or wooden dreidels, special menorah candles, or even a quickly printed photo of your guests from that evening.
Welcoming friends and family into your home is a wonderful way to show you care, at any time of the year. Relax and have fun, and your guests will too.
Shelly Danz is the founder and chief party officer of Atlanta Party Connection (atlantapartyconnection.com), the premier bar and bat mitzvah resource in the metro area, helping thousands of families to create their ideal celebrations. APC connects parents with top vendors, secures exclusive deals and discounts on services, provides party consulting, and produces a twice-yearly Bar & Bat Mitzvah Expo.