Hanukkah is here, and this year, with the pandemic keeping us indoors and isolated, a lot of us have been in a DIY mood. We’ve been making our own sourdough starter, baking our own bread, maybe even taking on some long overdue home-improvement projects.
Before you start crafting, a brief warning: a DIY menorah requires an extra level of vigilance, a lot of tin foil, and possibly spray-on fire retardant. DIY menorahs can catch on fire (RIP my handmade dinosaur menorah of 2017) and/or melt, especially if you’re using wood (AKA the thing we use to make fires).
Preschool teachers: maybe don’t do your hanukiya-making project with wood materials? 😢 pic.twitter.com/oys9Bv8N3J
— Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg (@TheRaDR) December 27, 2019
Of course, it’s generally a good idea to not leave the room while your menorah is lit — that’s true whether your menorah is homemade or top-of-the-line.
Also, one thing to remember that if you want your menorah to be kosher (which, you do you, of course!), the shamash has to be either lower, or higher than the other candles, and all eight candles have to be on the same level.
So, now that we’ve had our quick safety talk and technical information, let’s talk about some fun ideas for making menorahs! These crafts all require very little in the way of buying or sourcing new materials or using any power tools. (A hot glue gun might help, however.) Let’s get to it:
OK, so you can make a menorah with literal nuts, like walnut or acorn shells. But metal nuts are even better — they’re less flammable, for one, and there are hex nuts that are the perfect size to hold a Hanukkah candle. Glue them to each other, glue a couple on top of each other for a shamash, and voila! You’ve got yourself a very modern menorah. You can put some metal washers underneath for extra flame resistance, and/or glue them onto the surface of your choice (say, some extra tiles you may have leftover from a home reno project). Hex nuts are a DIY menorah classic for a reason.
Bottle caps are another non-flammable option that make great Hanukkah candle holders — and, depending on the habits in your home, maybe more abundant than hex nuts. All you need to do is find a surface to glue them to — perhaps a mirror, or the top of a tin box — and find some way to elevate that shamash, and you’re golden, baby.
Bottlenecks are actually great for holding candles of all sizes! Just, you know, make sure that use glass bottles, and not plastic, because that’s going to be a disaster.
You can paint the bottles with cool (flame-resistant!) colors, or leave them be for a natural look. You can also use closed bottles — just melt the candle wax on the bottom of the candle and stick it directly on the top of the bottle cap. You can also use beer or soda cans (not bottles), as one brewery suggests. Very cool, very casual.
Light up the holiday season by building your own Beer Menorah!
Builders kit comes with two 4 packs of hanukkah beer, your choice 22oz bottle, two tasting glasses and candles!
Stop by the tasting room to get yours NOW!!#DIY #holidayspirit #buildyourownbeermenorah #getcrafty #beer pic.twitter.com/uLi9xxwbQw
— Shmaltz Brewing Co. (@ShmaltzBrewing) December 7, 2020
Fruit and veggies
Yes, you can totally make a menorah out of produce! There’s this elegant one from food photographer Erin Gleeson, which uses citrus fruit and a paring knife to make a very chill looking (and probably nice smelling) menorah.
Or you know. You could use a head of lettuce. It’s really up to you.
Get 9 doughnuts — elevate one for the shamash, and one for each candle, and bam: a seriously sweet menorah. (No, but really, how gorgeous is this doughnut menorah by YourJewishLife?) The only downside is doughnuts with wax really do not taste good… but, hey, we Jews have overcome far worse.
Got some stale baguette? Spare candy gumdrops? Apparently, you can create adorable menorahs with all these things.
You are going to want to be very careful with this one. Most toys do not play well with fire, so you’re either going to want to be strategic about this and put out the menorah (I know!) before the fire reaches their flammable extremities, or coat them with plenty of Fimo/tin foil/fire-retardant spray — and even all of those steps are not a guarantee.
All that being said, toy menorahs do look really, really cool. You can make them from action figures, Legos, toy dinosaurs, animals, even metal toy cars (which may be less flammable? I don’t know!).
We are on step one of making ridiculous/awesome hanukiyot. Fimo to hold the candles, will put in oven to harden and then glue back onto the dinosaurs/legos when they’re hard.
Lego candleholder bricks can then be built into various shape/style hanukiyot. pic.twitter.com/tXdp6fV2rz
— Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg (@TheRaDR) November 27, 2020
Jars and cups
Jars and cups made out of glass are perfect for menorahs! You can fill them with rocks, or you can just place cute tea lights inside. You can decorate them with glass paint, or glass beads, or any other nonflammable things that can decorate glass.
Or you know, just rest some big candles on the top of flipped over wineglasses (assuming they’re sturdy enough) and call it a (Hanukkah) night.
Rocks! Are not! Flammable! (As far! As I know!) Get some small rocks, or get one big rock! Glue on bottle caps or hex nuts — which, as we’ve mentioned, are great for holding candles. Rocks are our Hanukkah friends, my friends.
Make an adorable portable menorah out of a tin box, like an old Altoids container. You can glue some hex nuts inside and carry it to your socially distant outdoor Hanukkah gathering. Very good.
Ok, this pasta menorah from Gwyn McAllister is actually pretty brilliant. It uses a lasagna noodle as a base, and rigatoni as candle holders. You can even spray paint it for an extra magic look! (Bonus: Using the leftover noodles, make any kind of pasta dish your family enjoys. Hanukkah dinner is served!)
Aaaah, to make a menorah that’s ENTIRELY YOUR OWN CREATION! Your own little fire Frankenstein monster. This one is a great option, especially for tiny hands. (Do you know what is roughly the size of a Hanukah candle? The average kid finger!) Just poke nine holes in some clay that’s shaped however you fancy, and you’ve got a menorah. You can use air-dry clay, homemade playdough, or Fimo. Improvise on the spot, or plan out a magnificently complicated one (even a risque one!). The world is your menorah-oyster.
A bowl of dirt
I found this menorah on Instagram and was astounded by the genius simplicity of it all. Just fill a bowl with some soil and “plant” those candles in. Make sure you make a little mound for the shamash to be higher than the rest. Et voila. Wow. The human mind is truly a marvel.
Image via Juj Winn/Getty Images