Celebrating Hanukkah: Our Tradition of Family & Friends

As I shared before in my blog about Passover, I have always enjoyed the rituals, camaraderie and sense of belonging to a community that comes with Jewish Holiday celebrations. Early on in our marriage, my husband and I were lucky enough to find a group of couple friends who, like us, had one member who was Jewish; and we started celebrating Passover and Hanukkah with this group. My life-long best friend Carrie is among this group, but others are friends we’ve made along the way.  

As children were born and families grew, so did our annual celebrations. Over the years, even some of our non-Jewish friends have joined in on what has become our most fun and anticipated party of the year. For a while the the parties were HUGE, but as some families moved away, our group shrunk … and now we are typically about 15.

With Hanukkah, we’ve always taken turns hosting the party, with each of us contributing to the meal. Before we eat, my friend Carrie’s husband Marty (or Uncle Marty, as we call him) leads us all as we sing the prayers and light the menorah (watch this cute video). Then we all gather around a big table for a meal, filled not only with delicious food but also tons of love and laughter. Sometimes the noise level gets so high, but I love it. The whole thing just warms my heart and brings up so many wonderful memories of Hanukkahs past. 

Today, all of the kids, who grew up celebrating together, are now grown and are off at school or beyond; but we continue to make the effort every year to come together for these celebrations. Everyone is so busy, but we make a commitment to make this happen – no matter what.

I thought I would share with you some of the recipes that are part of our celebrations. 

First, there’s the brisket. I remember my first attempt at making brisket. I found this elaborate recipe in Bon Appetit and was so excited to try it. After all that work it broke apart and was terrible. So the next time t I went right to the source – my mother-in-law Judy. She shared her simple, fool-proof recipe that is fabulous (find the recipe here), and every year it gets rave reviews!

Then I make these Honey Carrots using a recipe that Carrie shared with me years ago.

Next up are Carrie’s latkes, which she makes because I try not to go near hot grease. But these are so delicious … topped with sour cream and applesauce – YUM!

Then our friend Sophie usually makes the Magnolia Bakery banana pudding, which is amazing.

This year it was my turn to host, so night before last 15 friends and family gathered at my house for Hanukkah dinner. We sang, we laughed, we ate, and, as usual, we had the best time. And as everyone left, I once again thought of how grateful I am for these people, and for the celebrations we’ve shared over the years. They have made for the best memories for our families.

Happy Holidays to each of you … and may your new year be filled with love and happiness. 


  1. Kayla Sheaffer

    Dear MB…It took me almost 8mos to break out of 4 different hospitals with a bum foot(that still needs a painful graft after New Years😢)…but I did it! I looked at my Drs and Nurses and said “If you aren’t ready for surgery then I have 7yr old twin nephews who encompass my heart that want to visit me for only 3 days and a charity event in Hollywood with my favorite actress and actor that is important to me…I will return after the holidays and face my skin graft and return home in two months to face Stage 3 Endometrial Cancer.”

    I made this moment come to fruition when my friends helped get me to OWSS and support you and Stephen and great people like Michael Sonntag who was INSTRUMENTAL in getting me there and making me feel comfortable…Then I met my next goal when my nephews Kieren & Aieden collapsed into my arms and my moms arms for 3 days last month…That rejenvenated my soul…I felt all warm and mushy inside having made those goals become reality…Everything came to a halt with my sister’s health crisis last week in Norway where she had traveled for business and ended up recieving life saving colon surgery…

    Seeing you and your beautiful family singing and lighting the menorrah I dgot choked up realizing how close Ive been to tragedy this year with myself and how close my mom and my nephews were to loosing someone we love…I needed that cry and I thank you for it…After all Hannakkah is about rededicating and rising up against all odds and rejoicing…

    I will rededicate to my health as I face a new year of many challenges…I will rejoice that my sister made it safely to the USA from Norway last night…And I WILL conquer my skin graft and confront my cancer because enjoying moments with my family…like you so kindly shared here, is worth EvErYtHiNg…Happy Hannakkah to you all!Miss sweet Uncle Marty’s music…xo

    • Kayla Sheaffer

      Omg…Holiday miracle! First post I ever got to leave worked! Error messages and cell phone issues have kept me from Plankin’ it up sister! Going back to plank all of them and reread the inspiring year and a half of Plank posting!xo

  2. Stacey AKA BraveWidowMama

    Mary Beth,
    Thanks for the window into your family’s lovely Hanukkah traditions. I love the way that you celebrate your holidays with a mixture of Christmas and Hanukkah.

    I especially appreciate the brisket recipe as I have one that came in my last order from the ranch where I purchase all of the beef for my family. I can’t wait to try it once the prime rib Christmas hangover wears off!

    Merry Christmas and a Joyous Hanukkah to you and all of the Plankblog readers!

  3. Mary Beth,
    Thank you for sharing your family traditions with us. It’s so fun to see how everyone celebrates the holidays with their own traditions, and yet we all have some of the same traditions. The video was so cool to hear everyone singing the blessings of the first night of Hanukkah. (Your hanukkiah is beautiful, btw!!)
    It doesn’t matter if you celebrate with family, or friends that have become family, it’s the people who are there with you, that matter. That is what makes the memories and traditions stand out as the years fade away.
    I hope you and your family have a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and a Very Happy New Year!

  4. Rebecca Sundean-Czerwinski

    Mary Beth, What a lovely family! Your traditions are beautiful and very meaningful and I am glad you have kept to them. Like the lady above me, the pairing of you and Steve is a delight on DOOL! Please have a Blessed New Year and like I do also, keep your home a sanctuary of peace, safety and comfort from the rest of the world, we all need that.

  5. Christie

    MB, Thanks so much for sharing. Beautiful traditions made even more wonderful because you know the value of it all.
    It’s nice of you to share your holidays with us! …and, terrific SnK Twitter group plug on Home&Family!💖

  6. Such beautiful traditions to share with family and friends. Most of my family lives in Europe but I am very lucky to have great longterm friends that I share the holidays with and they have become my family. Have a wonderful holiday season and thank you for sharing your traditions with your fans♡

  7. Patricia Jeske-Starr

    Happy Holidays! My family is of mixed faith.. My husband and his family are Jewish and my family christian..we make it work we celebrate both!! And Happy Hanukkah! !

  8. Jan Dillon

    Thank you for sharing your special family celebrations and I hope you and your family have a joyous holiday season.

  9. Happy Holidays & Happy Hanukkah to you, your family & your friends Marybeth. Family & friends gathering for good times, good food, laughter, & love are always the best of times. May you make many beautiful memories with your family, friends, & loved ones that you can take into the new year with you! Thank you for always sharing so much of your life, your thoughts, & ideas with all of your fans. It means the world to all of us. With much love always, cheers to you beautiful Dollie! 🍷🍷

  10. Trisha Sauer

    The way you describe everything makes my heart happy! My family also gets together for a traditional Christmas. So glad people are carrying on traditions.

  11. nancy dillingham

    Sounds wonderful! Have a blessed holiday season and the best of the new year coming.
    Love you and Stephen on Days!

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