By Mordechai Schmutter


The safest place to light your candles, fire-hazard-wise, is outside. Lubavitch holds it should also be atop a huge menorah so the whole neighborhood can keep an eye on it.

If you can’t light outside, for whatever reason, such as that you’re afraid of your neighbors who did not bother you two months ago when you were basically sleeping outside with your kids and who currently have their front lawns lit up like they’re trying to land a plane, then you can light near any window, unless it has window shades, on a table that is made out of anything except wood or plastic.

If all the tables in your house are made of a material that can catch fire, the best thing to do is to cover an entire table in foil, followed by a layer of cute placemats that your kids made in school.

Foil, foil, foil! Even the coins should be covered in foil.

Before lighting Chanukah candles, make sure your home has a working fire extinguisher. If you’re not sure your fire extinguisher works, use it once as a joke.

The safest way to have everyone light at once on one table when none of them can talk in the middle is to open the windows and have half the people do it while standing outside on ladders.

Kids using candles instead of oil is less about the pretty colors of the candles that last 20 minutes and more about how we don’t want little kids pouring giant bottles of oil into tiny cups.

If your kid’s teacher sends home a menorah that she had the kids make in school, make sure to use it, despite the fact that it’s not only made of wood, but the teacher also couldn’t spring for nuts that are actually big enough to hold the candles.

If, while you’re holding the candle, some wax drips on you, don’t shriek and throw it across the room. In fact, some people have wax poured onto them on purpose, and it only hurts for that first second. And then again when you pull it off, if there’s any hair there.

Your wife lights candles every Friday night with no problem, but you can’t light for eight nights of the year without this turning into a whole thing.

If somebody doesn’t help Bubby carry in the presents from the back room, she’s going to get tackled by kids on the way in.

Do not try to put a toy together yourself. If it says “Assembly required,” it means you’re going to need to hold an assembly to figure out how to put it together.

Whoever decided that the letters on the dreidel should be the same color as the dreidel has obviously never tried to play dreidel by candlelight. (“Is that a nun or a gimmel?” “You’re asking me? I can’t even tell with the lights on!”)

There is no bigger choking hazard than a dreidel. Actually, that’s not accurate. There are no big choking hazards. If it’s big, it’s not a choking hazard. Point is, dreidels are a choking hazard, which is why there are no dreidel-shaped sucking candies. You’d think there would be lollies, though.

If any of your coworkers are Syrian-Greek, don’t make a big deal about Chanukah at the office. Despite that they’re making a big deal about their holidays.

If you’re learning in a cave, make sure to have everyone wear headlamps, or you’ll ruin your eyes.

Don’t schedule a doctor’s appointment for Chanukah, or the doctor will develop serious opinions about your eating habits. “Why is your skin glistening?” “Oh, that? My kids spilled a gallon of oil.”

When you’re frying oily foods, make sure to wear shoes.

If you spill oil on the floor, put up a yellow sign that shows someone slipping, so people have something to grab on the way down. That spot on the floor will be slippery forever until you spill something sticky to balance it out.

That said, dropping a jelly doughnut is okay, because the jelly will help counteract the oil. Doughnuts are magic anyway, because they don’t have a five-second rule. If you dropped a doughnut eight days ago, it’s still OK to eat. Such is the neis of Chanukah.

The best way to cut through spilled oil, they say (if you don’t have jelly doughnuts), is to clean it with dish soap, which we’re pretty sure is also slippery. And then to hose the whole thing down with water.

You don’t actually have to eat oil all eight days of Chanukah. In fact, the moral of the Chanukah story is that a little bit of oil can go a long way. Whereas our philosophy is, “Kal va’chomer a lot of oil.”

Try to eat at least something healthy over Chanukah, such as apple sauce, jelly, or dark chocolate.

There is no such thing as “light sour cream.”

Before you eat a latke, make sure to dab it with a paper towel so no one will want to sit next to you.

The best materials to absorb oil are newspaper, kitty litter, and, in my experience, Shabbos shirts.

If frying latkes keep setting off the smoke alarm, move the alarm to somewhere with less smoke, such as the fireplace.

There is no good way to wash a food processor.

Latkes are toxic to dogs, as dogs can’t eat onions. Chocolate coins can be lethal to them as well. But all that stuff is perfectly healthy for humans.

Why do you have a dog in your house?

If something catches fire, make sure to remember the three steps: Stop, Drop, and Roll. (“Yuck! What are you doing to the latkes?” “They caught fire!”)

If you’re having a huge family Chanukah party, make sure everyone lights where they sleep. If they light where they eat, and they’re all eating together, the party is going to be extra-stressful, because you just know everyone’s going to bring their kids with them.

If you’re leaving the house while the candles are still lit, make sure to put them out, as if the candles aren’t safer with everyone out of the house than with everyone in the house.

Your neighbors’ pirsumei nisa notwithstanding, keep your eyes on the road.

Don’t schedule more than eight Chanukah parties for yourself. It goes: mother’s side, father’s side, mother’s mother’s side, mother’s father’s side, father’s mother’s side, father’s father’s side, shul party, and “Oh, no, it’s the eighth night and we haven’t played dreidel with the kids yet.”

If you’re making food for a Chanukah party, make sure to post allergen signs that say things like, “There are no nuts in the doughnuts.” Unless you decided to make a peanut-butter-and-jelly doughnut, which probably sounds worse than it is.

If you’re having bagels at your party, you run the risk of people cutting themselves while trying to get the bagels open. To prevent this, put out only plastic knives.

Chanukah games, such as “Pin the Candle on the Menorah” are fun and all, but before you blindfold a child and hand him a pin, make sure all the onlookers have had their tetanus shots. (On a side note, this game doesn’t exactly teach the importance of fire safety.)

There’s no good way to tell if a Sterno is still lit. Your best bet is to peer across the top of it and see if everything is out of focus.

If you want to serve something healthy at your party, you can serve Greek salad. If you’re not sure what’s in a Greek salad, just start throwing things in that you think are Greek—yogurt, baklava, bed sheets—and if someone says, “Why is this in here?” you can say, “It’s Greek!” and no one will question it. Who’s going to argue with you? How many Greeks are you having at your party, exactly?

If your Syrian-Greek coworker shows up and tries to stop the party, you can fend him off with the fire extinguisher.

In all seriousness, though, Chanukah safety is a serious matter, as opposed to, say, Purim, when Chanukah safety is not a serious matter. At that point we’re more focused on Purim safety. (We have very short attention spans.) But these safety guidelines apply any time, really, such as when you’re frying latkes for another holiday when latkes are a really good idea, such as Pesach. So make sure that, in any case, you take all the proper precautions to make sure that Chanukah is as happy as can be. But not so happy that you have to worry about Purim safety.

Have a happy Chanukah!

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of five books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to


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