Jewish tradition teaches us that even amid difficult times, we can also find moments of joy. For many, that means honoring the diversity and complexity of our identities as members of the LGBTQIA+ community and as Jews.
In honor of the eight nights of Hanukkah, here’s a list of eight ways to celebrate the Jewish festival of light in a very queer way:
Express your Pride: If you’re looking to infuse some queerness into your Hanukkah celebrations, there are plenty of easy ways to do so. You can buy a Pride-flag themed menorah, a rainbow dreidel or a “Hanukkah is flaming” poster. There’s even a queer rewrite of “The Dreidel Song” featuring verses like “Oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel/ With my moms I will play/ We’ll invite in our neighbor/ Who uses pronoun ‘they!’”
Get inspired by Jewish texts: Every week of the Jewish year we read a new portion of the Torah. The portion picked for Hanukkah tells the story of Joseph — yes that is the same character from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat — a story that both modern and ancient commentators have frequently read through a queer lens. Whether Joseph actually was queer, or he just enjoyed wearing flamboyant clothes, he stands out as a biblical figure who wasn’t afraid to embrace his true colorful self. That’s a queer hero if we ever saw one!
Support inclusion: Hanukkah provides an opportunity to support organizations that are fighting to make the Jewish community and broader society more inclusive of LGBTQIA+ people. A few of my favorite organizations to support include JQY, which helps queer teens in Orthodox communities, Keshet, which works to increase acceptance of queer Jews and their families, and the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, which supports queer Jerusalem residents of all backgrounds.
Celebrate queer love: Hanukkah is a great time to get together with your loved ones, through hosting a latkes tasting, lighting candles together or just hanging out. Whether celebrating with a significant other, family, friends or pets, the holiday is a perfect time to appreciate the special people in your life and celebrate queer love. Many cities also host public candle lightings and other fun Hanukkah events (here are a few happening in New York) if you are looking to meet new people.
Eat the rainbow: An oft-repeated saying that describes most Jewish holidays goes something along the lines of, “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.” This Hanukkah there are plenty of ways to celebrate the resilience of the Jewish people — through making queer-themed food. Check out these colorful latkes, make some traditional rainbow cookies or buy some gay donuts (fun fact: this blog makes a great case for why donuts are actually just “gay bagels”).
Be entertained: While the holiday movie category has been getting more queer storylines in recent years (hello “Happiest Season”), we are still missing a queer Hanukkah movie. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other fun things you can tune into, such as this video of drag queen Miz Cracker making latkes, a compilation of Hanukkah songs performed by the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus and this queer Hanukkah song.
Play dreidel with a twist: Typically, the game of dreidel is played with chocolate coins (also known as gelt), beans or other small objects. But for a more adult version, you can try the dreidel drinking game. This can be made queer by hosting the game at your local queer bar, or just inviting your some queer friends (and allies) over for fun. If you’re not a drinker, just replace the drink with your favorite non-alcoholic beverage.
Support queer businesses: Many people give presents to their loved ones on Hanukkah (in fact, some people give a small present on each of the eight nights). This year, consider buying your gifts from local queer owned businesses. Start by checking out these queer-owned businesses and bookstores across the country or queer-affirming Judaica brands.