You can buy a Hanukiyah (we even have some recommendations), but if you’re crafty or have kids who love to get their hands dirty with paint, glue, glitter, and markers, try making these incredibly cheap hanukiyot at home. It’s a great way to get ready for the holiday, and ensure that everyone in your family has their own personalized Hanukiyah.
What does your hanukiyah need? According to Jewish law you need space for eight candles or oil cups, and they need to be even (i.e. none should be taller or shorter than the others). You can buy lots of hanukiyot with uneven candle slots, and that’s cool, but I tried to make mine even. You also probably want a spot for a ninth candle, the shamash, which is generally used to light the other candles, (to my surprise, a shamash is not mandatory according to Jewish law). The shamash should either be higher or lower or otherwise set apart from the other candles.
My DIY hanukiyot require a quick trip to the hardware store, and a little dig in the recycling bin.
1. The Builder’s Hanukiyah
What you need:
2 packages of 4 wingnuts ($2.36)
12 pack of short wooden garden fence posts ($3.97)
16 washers (8 each of 2 different sizes) ($5.00)
Use a garden fence post as the base. Glue down four washers in a row using the wood glue. Then glue down a wingnut. Glue four washers on the other side of the wingnut. Feel free to get out the glitter, markers or paints to decorate the posts.
To use: Melt candles into the middle of the washers, and put the shamash in the wingnut.
This is infinitely modifiable. You can use nuts instead of washers, or stack them on top of each other. Let the kids choose the size of nuts, wingnuts, and washers they want—they’re typically 10-20 cents each, and any hardware store will have dozens of options. I chose to use a short wooden garden post as my base, but any piece of wood will do. You probably want one that’s at least 8″ long. If you feel like going really hardcore, you can coat the whole thing with glue and then dip it in glitter to get a very sparkly menorah.
2. The Paint Sample Menorah (pictured above)
What you need:
9 toilet paper rolls
9 color sample cards from your local paint or hardware store (let the kids pick their favorites)
9 tea lights (100 pk for $9.40 on amazon)
optional: 16 spools of thread to elevate the candle ($5 at the dollar store)
Total: $9.40, or free if you already have tea lights, $14.40 if you use the spools of thread
Have the kids pick their favorite color paint sample cards. Each kid gets nine toilet paper rolls, or if you don’t have enough rolls cut each roll into two or three rings of equal height. Staple the paint sample cards to the tp rolls (don’t worry if the sameple cards don’t go all the way around the rolls—you can set it up so no one sees the back). Make one roll much taller or shorter than the others to act as the shamash.
If you didn’t trim the toilet paper rolls use spools of thread or other tea lights under the tea lights so that the candle is even with the top of the roll.
You can staple the rolls all together if you want, but it’s not strictly necessary.
Optional: Use a thick needle to poke holes in the rolls after you’ve already stapled the paint samples onto them. Then have the candles come just over halfway up the rolls, and be very careful when you light them. The results are very pretty hurricane lantern style menorah.
3. The Food Coloring Menorah
What you need:
9 glasses, different sizes are fine
Total: Free if you own food coloring and already bought tea lights.
Arrange the glasses in a row with the largest or smallest glass either on the side or in the middle. Pour water into each glass so that the water line is even across eight glasses, and the ninth glass has either a higher or lower water line.
Let the kids use food coloring to color the water however they want. When they’re done, carefully drop tea candles in each glass.
Save the empty beer bottles from Thanksgiving, and use them to make a hanukiyah the next day. A wine bottle makes an excellent shamash.