How Do I Decorate for Hanukkah Without Copying Christmas?

It’s not easy trying to compete with Yuletide bling.

How Do I Decorate for Hanukkah Without Copying Christmas?

Credit…Nadia Pillon

How Do I Decorate for Hanukkah Without Copying Christmas?

Q: We’re a Jewish family living in the New York City suburbs. Every December, our neighborhood is abuzz with lights, wreaths and galloping lawn ornaments. To say that our children notice would be an understatement. They don’t long for Santa — they get their fill of presents at Hanukkah — but they do envy the display. My daughter wants some flair! So what do we do? How do we decorate our home for Hanukkah in a way that doesn’t make it feel like Jewish Christmas? Is this even possible?

A: It’s not easy trying to keep up with the Christmas bling. I was in Target last weekend and it was wall-to-wall red and green. The few Hanukkah decorations — a meager assemblage of plastic menorahs and gelt — were relegated to a no man’s land between toys and men’s sportswear.

Hanukkah is not a major Jewish holiday, and yet it’s out there competing with a holiday starring a beloved grandpa who rides on a magical flying sled. “The idea that there should be as many decorations is actually not fair to Hanukkah,” said Shira Caplan, an interior designer in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., who is Jewish. “We have these preconceived notions that they’re equal holidays and they’re not.”

Still, that doesn’t mean your only options are either to make Hanukkah into a Jewish Christmas or ignore it. “I believe in making everything festive. Life is too short not to take advantage of the flair,” Ms. Caplan said. “Teach your children that yes, we are different, but we can still decorate and do it in a way that is comfortable for us.”

In other words, don’t plant an eight-foot-tall inflatable dreidel on your front lawn just to compete with your neighbors’ glowing reindeer. Start with traditions that feel comfortable. Put a menorah in the front window. Fill glass bowls with blue and white glass globes. Set out a bowl of dreidels so the children, and grown-ups, can play.

If you want something that sparkles, you might fashion a Star of David out of a string of white lights and hang it on the wall. Pottery Barn sells Hanukkah décor, including decorative plates and faux blue-and-white hydrangeas. Type “Hanukkah tasteful not tacky” into Pinterest and you get oodles of ideas for decorative cookies, clever ways to use gelt and Hanukkah garlands.

With the blessing of her Modern Orthodox rabbi, Danielle Crittenden Frum, co-host of the podcast Femsplainers, has fully embraced the festive spirit. She strings twinkly blue lights outside her house and hangs a birch Star of David on a portico. Ms. Frum, who founded Fig Tree & Vine, an e-commerce and lifestyle site for affluent Jews that folded in 2017, fills her house with decorative menorahs and dreidels, like those sold on Ms. Frum likes to embrace the international flavor of Judaism in her décor. “On the East Coast, I like to do this wintry wonderland,” she said. “But if I lived on the West Coast, I’d go Sephardic — I’d go lanterns and pillows. You can pick your Jewish theme.”

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