As the cold settles in, and night falls so early, we tend to draw in to ourselves and our cozy homes, getting caught up in our to-do lists and responsibilities.

Thankfully, Chanukah can be a welcome oasis from the pressure of day-to-day life. A time to relax and celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, Chanukah is the perfect time to host a casual get-together for close friends. You don’t have to be jealous of those amazing family Chanukah parties of your friends’. This year, host your own!

Block off a date, and get work done ahead of time, so you can enjoy yourself the night of the party. Then call—do not text—those friends in your life whom you love the most but hang out with the least. Just let them know that you miss them and want to get together.

So how do you prepare? First off, enlist a friend to set up and cook with you the night of the party. Also, designate people to bring paperware, drinks, salads or desserts. Then plan your menu!

For pseudo-authentic Chanukah food that tastes amazing, use “fake it—don’t make it” kinds of recipes, which prove that you do not need to be Susie Fishbein to plan a great party.

For amazing “homemade” doughnuts, all you have to do is buy a frozen challah dough from the freezer section of the supermarket. Let the dough defrost and rise according to the directions on the package. Then pinch off little balls of dough and fry them in hot oil. (If this is your first time frying, you might want to read some tips.) Once they are golden and crisp on the outside, roll them in powdered sugar, slit with a knife, and fill with jelly. For a variation, you can roll them in granulated sugar and fill them with lemon custard from a can. Doughnuts are obviously best fresh from the pan, but are still oh-so-impressive at room temperature.

For latkes, the easiest way to do it is buy frozen ones and pan-fry them. (You can also bake them, but they won’t taste half as good!) You will probably want to make them in advance and stick them in the oven until the party starts. If you are feeling really ambitious, you can make them from scratch, with this great crispy latkes recipe. If you are like me and love everything sweet, you’ll love to make the sweet potato latke recipe included below.

I do not like to spend a lot of time or money on the decor of my parties, and find that a welcome sign on the door and some funky plasticware goes a long way towards setting a fun atmosphere. On the night of the party, make sure you are ready far in advance. Finish with the food, set the table, and then leave yourself ample time to shower, pamper, and be downstairs ready to greet your friends when the time comes. This sounds like a given, but it is not; I have arrived many times at people’s houses for, say, Friday night dinner when they are running around setting up. When you look and feel ready to greet your guests, they will be so much more comfortable and relaxed—because you cannot have a relaxing evening without a relaxed hostess.

When you have greeted your guests warmly and they begin to settle down, you begin the menorah lighting. Print out the songs you plan on singing in Hebrew, with translation and/or transliteration to suit your crowd. After you light the candles put your arms around your friends and sing some classic Chanukah songs. Did you know it is a mitzvah to watch the Chanukah candles after you have lit them? Who knew?

Once the candles burn out, and everyone has that warm fuzzy feeling that settles in after doing a mitzvah beautifully, it is time for the food to make its debut. I’m sure everyone will love those doughnuts and latkes! Hot cocoa with marshmallows would also be a great winter treat.

When you and your guests have full bellies and are ready for some fun, break out the dreidels! Keep the stakes high, with Chanukah gelt as the commodity. You can also offer a motivation for winning—something special, like a picture of all the friends in a frame. Learn the rules of the game here. There are many different versions of the dreidel game, and people will love to show off their “I can spin the dreidel upside down” tricks.

No party is complete without music. Select some tunes that really capture the theme of the holiday and will garner a great atmosphere for your party.

The party will eventually wind down, and you and your friends will probably return to the steady continuum of life. Don’t forget to nourish your friendships like you would nourish a flame—always adding oil. So, as the night ends, let your friends know how much you love and appreciate them. Wrap a hot latke in a napkin for the cold road, and give them a warm hug. Enjoy your Chanukah!

Sweet Potato Latkes with Cinnamon


  • ¼ cup of flour
  • 15-oz. can of pumpkin or sweet potato puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon (or to taste)
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. cloves
  • ¼ tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp allspice


Mix pureed sweet potato or pumpkin with flour, spices (I made these very spicy, but you can lessen the spice for a more mild flavor) and sugar. Drop spoonfuls (carefully—oil can really burn) into preheated oil. Fry each side for about three minutes, or until light brown. Lightly lift out of the hot oil with a slotted spatula, and place on a pan or tray lined with paper towels. The latkes can then be eaten right away, or kept in a 300-degree oven to stay warm.