When I spent a year in Munich, I tried to throw a Hanukkah party for my study abroad group. It turned out to be a comedy of errors, from running all over the city trying unsuccessfully to find dreidels (I even spoke Hebrew at the synagogue!) to buying really plastic-y tasting gelt. The night ended up being very memorable, because Jeff MacGyvered dreidels out of tea light tins, and salmon was really cheap, so I made a delicious feast for everyone.

This time when I decided to throw a Hanukkah party in a, shall we say, even less Jewish-friendly country than Germany, I knew I had to prepare in advance. I brought my menorah with us when we moved, because I could pass it off as a candelabra if we were stopped and questioned at customs. I ordered dreidels and candles from Amazon, and I had seen chocolate coins in the grocery stores here, so I knew I could get those with no problem. Side note: why is it that gold-wrapped chocolate coins are a thing all over the world? What do non-Jews use them for?

I asked around to see who would be interested in coming over to join us for latkes and sufganiyot and got a good response. Everyone brought along a dish to share, including two kugels. Dueling kugels!

Apparently I sing to corn salad or sugar cookies?

Apparently I sing to corn salad and/or sugar cookies?

The kiddos played in the living room (which has since been rearranged) and in the girls’ bedroom:


Unrelated to Hanukkah, I started painting our cardboard play kitchen. I decided on a soft blue for the refrigerator to make it look like a Smeg.



While I started frying the latkes:


I gotta say, they did NOT TURN OUT WELL. Harumph. I do not know what the problem was. The oil took forever to get hot enough, but I did wait until I thought it was the right temperature. Even still, they did not brown at the normal speed and I think they were totally raw in the middle when I served them. Friends, I apologize! I think it’s because I didn’t have my mom’s recipe. This is a shame, because there were several people celebrating Hanukkah for the first time. Also, Jeff, I’m sorry to say this (not that you read the blog, but just in case), but the sufganiyot were not great, because they cannot or should not be fried in advance. Nothing can be fried in advance and still taste right. Oh well.

At least our made-up sufganiyot game went well. A couple of years ago – I don’t actually remember when or how it originally started – Jeff decided to put mustard in one of the donuts instead of jam. I made the rule that whoever bites into the mustard-filled donut gets a special prize, but only if they eat the whole thing. We’ve done it every year since then, to much hilarity. This year, Omar, the husband of Yasmin, my friend in Community Life, got the mustard and won a cd that I found: Barbra Streisand sings Christmas songs. A very special prize for a Muslim man to win at a Hanukkah party!

Introducing Yasmin:


A little bit about Yasmin and Omar: she is Egyptian, but grew up in Japan, and her parents own two sushi restaurants here in Abu Dhabi. Omar is also Egyptian, but grew up in Stuttgart. They are incredibly warm and outgoing and funny. And stylish. I do not know why I did not get a picture of Omar’s paisley shirt!

And yes, Beka was back visiting us again! She cannot stay away! (Aka, Yemen cannot get its constitution drafted.)

I prepared to teach everyone how to play dreidel, but I should have known that it’s too hectic at a party to sit down and play this game that can go on for hours! But I made cute little signs with the girls:


I grabbed an old yellow finger painting of May's to draw on

I grabbed an old yellow finger painting of May’s to draw on


I cut up old watercolors of Adele’s and construction paper to make the four letters


I found them so beautiful that I’m going to hang them in the girls’ bedroom

Instead of playing dreidel after dinner, we just played:

This is probably not a good idea

This is probably not a good idea


I forgot to mention that this party was held on the first night of Hanukkah. The last night is usually the best night to have friends over, especially friends who are new to Jewish holidays, because the menorah is so beautiful when it is full of burning candles, but we were going to be in Germany then, so the first night was the only possibility.


The shamash burns out

(And that smiling face behind the menorah is Kathi, also from Community LIfe. She takes us out for Coffee Mornings every Tuesday.)


One thought on “Hanukkah

  1. This is an amazing story! You are a wonderful custodian of the Jewish traditions and faith and it is incredible how you have overcome so many obstacles to keep them alive and well. All your ancestors are so proud of you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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