July 24, 2024
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July 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chanukah is, hands-down, the best time to have an extended family get-together. It’s definitely easier than doing it over a three-day yom tov.

Perhaps you’re stuck planning this party, though, because everyone in the family calls you “the organized one,” because they’re afraid to say “bossy.”

So here are some tips to make the party as stress-free as possible.

Choosing a Time

Deciding what time to make your party is not easy, because everyone has to light their menorahs at home and then wait around until the candles go out, and then drive in, or fly in, or whatever. Another option is to make it during the day, so that everyone has to get home in time for lighting.

But there are still other options:

1. Have the Chanukah party on a day that no one has to light, such as Asarah B’Teves.

2. Just sleep all 800 people in your house that night, so everyone can light there. You’ll have so many menorahs going, you’ll be afraid to have a party.

3. Make it a breakfast party. It’s all milchigs anyway.

Meal or Buffet?

The Chanukah party, of course, has to have food, because there needs to be something to talk about when the conversation dies down. Yes, the main point of the get-together isn’t the food, but no one’s eating beforehand, no one’s coming unless there’s food, and everyone’s packing out right after bentching.

But, how do you serve your food? Do you sit all those people around a humongous table so that everyone can make conversation with exactly three people, whom, chances are, are their immediate relatives that they see all the time—most likely their kids? Maybe you should set up a kids’ table, and who knows what’s going on over there. Definitely not eating.

So, these days, a lot of people go with a buffet. A buffet provides all the fun of a kiddush without the part where you have to wait for the rabbi to stop saying “Good Shabbos” to everybody and come make kiddush already.

Foods You Can Serve

Latkes—are a nice, traditional fried food. Some people who are watching their weight might request that you bake the latkes, but they forget that the minhag is oil. It’s not potatoes.

Baked ziti—or fried ziti. You can use a different kind of noodle, but people are still going to call it “ziti.”

Quiche—There has to be quiche, and everyone has to remark on how good it is. As if the ziti just baked itself. Maybe they’re surprised.

“Yeah, I couldn’t believe it was good. Vegetable pie! Who knew?”

Chocolate coins—No one knows how these got started, but it probably has something to do with the minhag to give out Chanukah gelt. Originally, there were actual coins inside the chocolate, but the companies eventually found that it was a lot cheaper to just skip the coins. Especially as far as lawsuits.

Bagels—Bagels are a good food for any family gathering, because you can wash on them. Good luck figuring out how much ziti you have to eat in order to wash. Also, you have a choice of various fun spreads, such as tuna.

Setting It Up

The classy approach is to set things up on platters, or at least open the packaging of the food so people don’t have to do so with their teeth. For example, if you serve cheese or lox, you should do that thing where you arrange the slices in a circle so that every piece is overlapped by another, so there’s no top piece, and no one knows which piece they can take first.

For hot foods, of course, you have to have those raised foil pan heater things with the flammable jelly underneath that you have to light with a 3-foot match. Also, the minhag is to have a second pan underneath the first pan that you fill with water. No one knows why.

Arranging Your Buffet

The best tip, in making a buffet, is to arrange the foods organically so that no one has to backtrack and say “excuse me” and back up the line even further. You don’t want people to have to stand around in line waiting for the food. You want them to get their food quickly, eat it, and then spend the rest of the time standing around. In that order.

Like, for example, some people set it up so that the plates are at a random spot in middle of the table, so that people have to hold the first few items until they get a plate. So, for example, you don’t want to have it set up: cream cheese, bagel, knives, lox, plates, bagel guillotine.

Who’s Cooking?

The easiest way to do it is to have everyone bring some food, and, as a method of quality control (and quantity control), let them know that whatever’s not eaten is going back home with them. The nice thing about everyone bringing some of the food is that even if some people get there very late, there is still something left for them to eat—whatever they brought.

“Oh, the bagels are here. Finally. We finished the cream cheese.”


“On the latkes. The sour cream people aren’t here yet.”

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press, and Aish.com, among others. He also has four books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

By Mordechai Schmutter

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