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Hanukkah Guide for Gentiles

Invited to a Hanukkah Celebration but not Jewish? I've been in your shoes and while I was certainly intimidated by the thought, I made it through and can share my tips and helpful hints to help you be the ultimate respectful Hannukah guest.

Jews may have suffered for - what is it now? Three thousand years? - but they still know how to laugh and Hanukkah is a great time to celebrate their history and traditions with them.

Follow these simple tips to prevent an "oy gavelt!" moment at the Hanukkah celebration you're invited to.

The first thing you should know is the observance of the family you'll be joining. Are they Orthodox? Conservative? Reform? Knowing this will give you a much better idea of what you should and shouldn't expect.

Dress modestly - No Santa sweaters allowed! And, no, dreidel sweaters aren't allowed either.

Kosher or Not? Ask ahead of time if the meal will be a kosher one. This will give you a better idea of what to bring with you without insulting the host.

All kosher means is the family will not consume dairy and meat in the same meal. Most holiday dinners include meat, so avoid products that have dairy in them by default if you're not sure.

Careful with the bathroom light! Many Jews do not use electricity on the holidays and it's polite to respect that. If you accidently turn on the light, be sure to shut it off or it will probably remain on throughout the remainder of the holiday.

You're new to the celebration and your wise Jewish hosts don't expect a gentile to know the traditional holiday rituals. Sit back, relax and follow the leader.

Don't dig in immediately as prayers may be said or other rituals need to take place first.

And don't rush! This is a celebration so don't be surprised if the meal lasts for a few hours.

If you're curious about something, don't be afraid to ask. Just remember to be polite when posing questions.

One final note, if you're attending a celebration at an Orthodox home, the rules will probably be stricter and more traditional. Greet all the guests, but keep in mind that members of the opposite sex may not shake hands as these Jews are only allowed to touch members of the opposite gender if they're a spouse or a very young child.

While it's natural to feel intimidated by the unknown, realize that you've been invited to partake in a special celebration by people who care enough about you to extend the invite. Go into the Hanukkah celebration with an open mind, show respect and be ready to partake in the traditions, and you'll have a great time!

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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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